Contention: France’s decision to restrict the wearing of religious symbols is unjustified.
In December of last year, French President Jacques Chirac proposed a law to ban all conspicuous signs of religious belief from 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 intended 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 dangerous in the tolerant world we supposedly live in. France’s recent decision to ban conspicuous religious symbols 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 religions within its communities. In fact, the greater part of the population is devout, including Catholics, Jews, and even a large number of Sikhs. How can a country with only a minority of atheists be prejudiced against those who wish to express their beliefs? Allowing such a ridiculous proposition, where those who are affected greatly outnumber those who aren’t, is absurd. The government is discriminating against the majority of its population.
Both the hijab and burqa are worn by personal choice, contrary to public belief. 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. While a small minority of Muslim women are forced to wear these gowns outside of the Middle East, many Muslim women 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 sexual level. Tolerance within society is necessary, even for practices that may seem alien to non-Muslims.
Islamic beliefs are based on entering into a condition of peace and security with their god, Allah, through allegiance and surrender to Him. In doing so, women are to draw their head veils over their necks and bosoms, and to reveal their adornments only to their own husbands” (Koran, An Nur 24:30-31). How can one be expected not to show their faith towards their own religion when it is written in the law that governs their beliefs?
Society’s interpretation of the veil is based on the little knowledge they have of Islam. Although it may be seen to symbolize the oppression of Muslim women 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 person’s right of freedom of expression.
What kind of society will we be living in if we cannot freely express our views and faiths publicly?