Wednesday 15 September 2010


The French senate just approved a ban on any veils covering the face, including the burqa – the full body covering as worn by some Muslim women (Muslims which make up 6% of France mind you). The law passed by a huge majority making France the first European country to pass such a law, and according to a poll, the people of France backed the ban four to one.  I have to say hearing this left me a bit speechless.

It is hard to believe we live in a day and age where something like this could happen. Then again, I can’t say that I’m surprised at all as I am a big believer that we are heading into George Orwell territory fast and furiously (in fact, I think we're already there). Whether or not you support such a move or are dead set against it, it has set a monumental precedent. And the message: the government has full power to tell its people what it can and cannot wear. Which, as far as I’m concerned is one step closer to a fascist state. And no, I’m not being dramatic.

The French government’s justification is that essentially the burqa is damaging to the dignity of women, the community, and helps enforce inequality between the sexes, even if it is worn voluntarily. And if this law is defied, it can be met with a substantial fine and/or imprisonment. On first blush I must admit that I wasn't so aware governments cared about inequality between men and women, cause as far as I can tell this has been occurring for years upon years, be it in pay, treatment in the workplace, domestic abuse situations, hell, just being pregnant puts us at a disadvantage....sorry, I digress.

Staying on point, I’m not a supporter of the actual wearing of a burqa; I can’t say as a woman I understand it – submission is really not something I’m good at, and I always hated my school uniform (and not only that, but the damn thing looks so hot especially in mid eastern temperatures)! But this said, I am not a Muslim, and I am one that wholeheartedly believes that if one chooses to do something, i.e. wear something that they believe in for whatever reason, then it is up to them to decide this, not me and certainly not their government. And moreover, their wearing of the burqa has no effect on me whatsoever. It is not contagious, it does emit some noxious fumes or upset my quest for fashion, in fact, it has always reminded me of the habits the nuns at my school used to have to wear all the time (why doesn't the French government have a problem with those, cause they look mighty constricting?? )

I think if a law like this doesn’t terrify people around the world it should. It may start with a burqa, but the floodgates are now open for a government to decide what clothing they deem fitting for society, and this is a very scary thought. Tomorrow it could be hoodies because they suggest anti-social behavior (according to those making laws), or T-shirts that say inappropriate phrases, or even better, suggestible clothing that one’s government suggests could incite sexual behavior. (Although I would not be sad to see half shirts disappear). 

See this is yet another thing about America I love – and curiously 2 out of 3 Americans opposed the ban – no matter if some idiot next to me is wearing a shirt that says "I hate Lebanese Americans (that’s me) and want to see them beaten like dogs," he’s allowed to wear it. In fact, we pride ourselves on being a country where one is granted freedom of speech, expression, and religion, like it or not. In fact, I've often thought of wearing a veil just to prevent sun damage - SPF is just so clogging to the pores. I wonder what Sarkosy would have to say about that?

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