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Is the Burqa Objectively Immoral?

Posted on July 16 2010 7:00 pm

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At the heart of the debate over the French ban of the burqa is the question of objective morality and government’s duty to promote it through legislation.  Is there a standard of right and wrong that is true, conformed to human nature, and others that are reprehensible, that pervert human beings instead of allowing them to strive for objective goodness?

The Burqa Ban involves both the right of the individual to follow prescriptions imposed by the religion of his or her choice, and the right of the government to maintain a culture  favorable to values it espouses – in this case, maintaining a public sphere in which men and women are at liberty to exist and act without distinctions based on gender.

Amnesty International issued the following statement concerning the French decision to ban the burqa:

“Amnesty International has condemned an overwhelming vote by the lower house of the French parliament to ban the wearing of full-face veils in public. The human-rights organization said in a written statement that the move, which passed in the lower house on a 336-1 vote and was sent on to the French Senate, impinged on Muslim women’s freedom of religion and expression.”

“As a general rule, the rights to freedom of religion and expression entail that all people should be free to choose what – and what not – to wear. These rights cannot be restricted simply because some – even a majority – find a form of dress objectionable or offensive. States are obliged under international law to protect women against pressure and threats to wear full-face veils. However, comprehensive bans are not the way to do this.”

Because the entire discussion has focused on the veiling of women, something pathetically easy to dismiss as trivial, it has avoided the central problem of Islamic morality, the standard by which Islam judges the character of individual human actions. What is more critical than the foundational ideology of the laws governing relations in a society? The Ban-War encapsulates the radical opposition between two different ideas about which human actions are good and which are evil, as well as the duty of government to determine which idea will be applied to its citizens, and allowed to inform its culture.

Those who oppose the Ban on the basis that doing so violates religious freedom, must, if they are intellectually honest and logical, also step aside when the Muslim community stones or lashes “its” women for being gang-raped, for kissing a boyfriend, or for sitting at an internet café next to a man to whom they are unrelated. Amnesty International must stand aside while 60 year-old pedophiles marry and have sex with nine year old children. Those condemning the French legislation must march in favor of Muslim husbands’right to beat their wives with civil impunity.

These crimes against women are permitted, even required in given circumstances, by the Quran, by Sharia Law. They emanate from the same concept of women, are codified in the same Law that requires Hijab, the burqa. According to Islam, women are created only to serve husbands and bear children. The public domain is the exclusive sphere of action for men,  and women enter it only to accomplish duties to their husbands. When doing so, they are responsible to conceal their presence as much as possible. Women are radically contingent beings with no right to non-domestic, non-male centric aspirations of their own.

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