Is There a Point to Veil Bans?
While some have predicted that everyone on this site will have to wear burqas in order to appease the wrath of the religious, in other parts of the world, the face veil is becoming far less popular in other parts of the world. In some countries, the move has been to ban women from covering their faces in public, for reasons varying from cultural integration to national security to women’s liberation.
Many who argue against face veil bans are citing morally relativistic reasons for opposing them, whether they realize it or not. This is especially the case when it comes to women’s rights and LGBT rights, along the lines of “Those of us who are over here will keep our freedom and our universal human right and continue to evolve our culture. You, over there, born into oppressive cultures? We won’t try to impose things like freedom and rights on you. Continue persecuting and oppressing as you see fit. ”
Without moral relativism, you could say that bans would prevent women from being compelled to cover their faces, which would be a step forward. In actuality, such laws are questionable — not for morally relativistic reasons, but because they are utterly counterproductive.
In the best case scenario as can be imagined for such comprehensive covering, the women who wear full face veils sincerely believe that it is their firm religious duty to do so (the BBC has excellent coverage of such women as well as a handy illustrated guide to different forms of Islamic veiling). In the worst case scenario, women might be forced by the men in their lives to wear a full face veil when leaving the house.
There can be some Stockholm Syndrome-esque overlap between those two categories; if you are told your whole life that your body is a source of sin, pollution, shame, and temptation for poor innocent men who cannot help themselves, of course you would want to cover it.
Whichever way, if a woman sincerely thinks that she should cover her face, or the man in her life won’t let her out without a face covering, some law would not compel her to go about uncovered. All that bans would do is drive these women further into isolation from society — they wouldn’t be able to leave their houses at all, shut away by their own will or someone else’s. There is no way that creating more deeply entrenched subcultures, ones wholly detached from the rest of the population, will lead to anything good.
On a wholly personal note, I used to wear the headscarf as well as long, loose clothing, and would have started covering my face of my own volition had my father not forbade me from doing so (he understood the stigma of it better than my idealistic teenage self did). I sincerely believed that if a man saw me and felt that I was attractive that I was a sinner for provoking him, and that anything he did (harassment, rape, whatever) would be my fault for tempting his base male nature.
(I was quite a fetching young lass, after all.)
What helped to change my mind? Because I was not shunned by society for dressing differently, I was able to come into contact with people with different views from myself. My religious views were tempered thanks to this contact and it played a not insignificant role in my eventual apostasy. Naturally, not every overly-devout Muslim will change quite that much thanks to social contact with non-Muslims, but those Muslims who do have meaningful relationships and contact with non-Muslims tend to be more moderate in their views.
Let’s have more of that and less of this, please.