Contention: Frances decision to restrict the wearing of religious symbols
In December last year, French President Jacques Chirac proposed a law to
ban all conspicuous signs of religious belief form state schools and public
buildings. This ban would include the wearing of Muslim headscarves,
Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses. The government-sponsored
commission had recommended that new laws were needed to protect secularism
in France. Although the bans are to include Jewish and Christian religious
symbols, much attention has been given to the proposed banning of the
Muslim hijab and burqa. Today I will explain why France’s decision to
restrict the wearing of religious symbols is unjustified.
From the beginning of time society has consisted of people who wore
different garments and accessories as an expression of their individuality
and religious beliefs. In today’s world this freedom of expression is
being frowned upon and considered to be dangerous in the tolerant world we
supposedly live in. France’s recent decision to ban conspicuous religious
symbols is exactly the kind of action that discriminates against all
religious groups who wear badges of identity.
By banning these religious items, the French are discriminating against all
religious groups, not just Muslims. France is well known for its many
different cultures and religious within its communities. In fact the
greater part of the population is of a devout faith, from Catholics to Jews
and even a large number of Sikhs. So how can this country with only a
minority of atheists be prejudice against those who wish to express their
beliefs? To allow such a ridiculous proposition such as this where those
who are affected greatly outnumber those that aren’t, is absurd. The
government is discriminating against the majority of their population.
Both the hijab and burqa, contrary to the public’s beliefs are worn through
personal choice. The hijab is a traditional Islamic gown and headscarf
that covers a woman’s body from the neck down to the toe, leaving her face
and hands visible. The burqa is a similar gown, but it also covers the
face and hands. There is no denying that a small minority of Muslim women
is actually forced to wear either of these gowns outside of the Middle
East. But many Muslim women say that they choose to wear the hijab or
burqa because they feel it protects their modesty and encourages men to
engage with them on an intellectual, rather than a sexual level.
Though Islamic practices may seem alien to non-Muslims, a degree of
tolerant within society is needed. Islamic beliefs are based upon entering
into a condition of peace and security with their god Allah through
allegiance and surrender to him. In doing so woman are to “draw their head-
veils over their necks and bosoms, and to reveal their adornments expect to
their own husbands” (Koran, An Nur 24: 30-31). How can one be expected to
not show their faith towards their own religion, when it is written in the
law that governs their beliefs?
Societies interpretation of the veil is based upon the little knowledge
they have of Islam. Though it may be seen to symbolize the oppression of
Muslim woman and girls, this is incorrect. For a woman of Islam it is a
testament to her faith that she should not show her beauty or adornments.
As a chaste, modest, pure woman, she does not want her sexuality to enter
into interactions with men in the smallest degree. A woman who covers
herself is concealing her sexuality but allowing her femininity to be
brought out. A veiled Muslim woman is simply sending the message that
society difference is tolerated and a person’s religious beliefs should not
disadvantage her in any way.
If we allow this proposal to pass through, we’ll be introducing a way of
living that can be associated with that of the radical Taliban. Placing
restrictions and rules on what one can or cannot wear, as the French
government did, is a deprivation of a persons right of freedom of
expression. What kind of a society will we be living in where we cannot
freely express our views and faiths publicly?