Should Britain Ban the Burka?

February 24, 2014 • Life & Culture, Religion

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This has been a debate over the years amongst politicians and the general public. Allow me to elaborate on a few facts and conclude with my personal opinion.

The Burka is not mentioned in the Quran, there is no religious foundation for it. Islam cannot be used to justify what is a culture fad. A culture going back to the bronze ages, where a woman had no choice but to wear it. There is a feeling that the burka is encouraging a primitive culture and mind set which degrades women.

I always found common arguments supporting the burka to be weak. These are some of the depressingly familiar; “Parents will refuse to send their children to school (if their daughters are forbidden from wearing it)”, “Women who would ordinarily work would stop”, “Housewives who ordinarily may go out shopping will not be ‘allowed’ out at all by their husbands, or worse, themselves”.

The population of Muslim women wearing the Burka in the UK is thought to be approximately only 3%. Similarly other places in Europe such as Belgium, where there are 500,000 Muslims, only an estimated thirty fully cover their faces (O’neill, 2013). I don’t think a modern progressive society should necessarily accommodate women who refuse to send their children to school and stop working due to not being allowed to cover up, or men for that matter, who “don’t let their wives go outside if they’re not covered”. Considering there is such a small percentage of the Muslim population wearing the burka I don’t think these are neither valid reasons, nor ones we should make allowances for. In fact, current form and common sense suggests that wearing a burka would seriously hinder any chances of getting a job in the first place. A responsible society should not accommodate and/or make allowances for extremism.

There is a strong feeling that if Muslim men were made to wear the burka, they would quickly prove to be even less common. In fact, it is against the law for a man to cover their face in public places; wearing a balaclava, or indeed a burka. In a gender-equal society, you have to ask yourself why it is legal for women and not for men? It should either be for both or none. This further supports the argument that the burka symbolises a tribal, divisive convention which is not welcome in the West, and where women’s rights are small or completely non-existent.

There was a case last year of a Terrorist suspect who used the burka to escape a British mosque (Whitehead, 2013). This opens up another debate about the obvious security risk. The man in question, Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, is still at large and wanted by the police. From personal experience, I have seen the burka being worn on the London Underground and in airports. It’s important to point out that going through security, staff have the right to ask anyone covering their face to show their identity. However, this makes people feel uncomfortable given the few, but significant, attacks by extremists. I believe allowing the burka in airports and on the London Underground for the sake of cultural sensitivity is too much of a price to pay.

There is also evidence that Muslim children are being born with rickets because of chronic vitamin D deficiency through lack of sunlight (Sahay & Sahay 2012). This also affects the health of the mothers, who are in some cases forced to wear the burka by their husbands.

The burka is also undemocratic, in Britain 61% agree with the statement “The burka should be banned in Britain” (Jordan, 2013). Whether the political class like it or not, the burka causes bad feeling and separation. The simple fact is people don’t want it, this could be called ‘freedom vs democracy’, which should prevail?

Reading this article, you’re probably thinking that my mind is made up; the burka should be banned completely and ridiculed as a stupid part of history and should be consigned to the dustbin. You’re wrong…

My opinion on this subject has changed over recent years. I realised that although all the things I have mentioned in this article are true, my real reason for supporting a ban was that I personally just didn’t like (or understand) it.

It was only about a year ago, I saw a woman wearing a burka and my tribal instincts told me to be fearful. I walked only 2 minutes down the high street and saw a bunch of people wearing Power Ranger costumes. It was a bit early for clubbing so perhaps they were performers or just having a laugh. Either way, I thought this was funny, I could not see their faces but I was not fearful and did not object to it in any way. I would have defended their right if the police ordered them to take their masks off and threatened them with arrest if they were to put them back on. Would I have defended the woman’s right wearing the burka from earlier?

I asked myself how they were any different and realised I only felt intimidated because I didn’t fully understand the burka, I still don’t. I have never been physically or verbally threatened by anyone wearing one and all of a sudden I started to question my logic.

People should live and let be, I wouldn’t want to live in a society where certain attire are banned just because most people don’t approve of it. I’m sure there are many Chelsea fans who object to my Liverpool shirt when I walk the streets of London. My attire doesn’t define me as a person and I am probably not much different from someone wearing the blue of Chelsea’s shirt.

The current law is broken; I still think the Burka should be banned on the London Underground and in Airports (that goes for Power Ranger masks too). I actually agree with our Prime Minister who recently put the ball in the shopkeeper’s court; they should have the right to refuse entry to anyone who is in disguise (Assinder, Nick. 2013). I believe this would create a more balanced platform of freedom and equality for everyone in this country.

Who said the Power Rangers can’t still be role models for us in adult life? Whatever next…

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