Aug. 14, 2016
I have written before about burqas and how they make me uncomfortable. The burqa tests two liberal values – that you should be free to wear whatever you like, and that men and women are equal – and leaves us lost. In Germany, senior ministers are now calling for a ban on the burqa. It’s an understandable ticket to run on, especially with an election looming in a country petrified of more Islamic terror. In France, a second Riviera resort has announced a ban on ‘burkinis’ to help calm tensions.
But banning the burqa – or the burkini – seems illiberal. No woman should be told what to wear – and what not to wear – and equally, religious freedom should be protected. I may not like the burqa but I distrust the idea of banning it.
That said, I was intrigued to see photos which have emerged of women in the liberated Syrian city of Manbij burning the sombre outfits, including what appears to be a burqa, which they had been forced to wear under Isis control. Some of the women smoke cigarettes, and the photos show men cutting off their beards. It is a potent symbol of their freedom. In our soft, liberal country, we see the burqa as an indicator of how diverse a country Britain has become. These photos are a reminder that strict Islamic dress can be used as a tool of oppression. Given the chance, I wonder how many British women would also like to burn their burqas?