The Danish parliament has voted to ban the wearing in public of the Niqab and Burqa (the Islamic veil which covers a Muslim woman’s face), while the wearing of a head scarf remains legal. Denmark joins a growing list of European countries, including France and Belgium to have introduced such a ban. The Danish Director of Amnesty International is quoted in The Independent as follows:
“All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs,” she said. “This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa.
“Whilst some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion …”. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/denmark-burqa-ban-europe-muslim-women-face-veil-niqab-islam-a8377586.html.
As a believer in individual liberty, I share the concerns voiced by Amnesty International. Imagine the furore which would be generated where it to be suggested that the wearing of short dresses and skirts be prohibited. Defenders of individual liberty would (quite rightly) be up in arms at this proposed affront to personal freedom. Yet it is considered acceptable by many who would term themselves “liberals” to ban the wearing of the full face Islamic veil. I have, personally been in the company of people who proclaim themselves to be “liberal” (with a small l) who do, nonetheless support such a ban on the (to me) illogical grounds that the wearing of a covering which hides the face is incompatible with a liberal, western society. John Stuart Mill would be turning in his grave at the misconstrual of liberal values by those who term themselves “liberals”, yet support the banning of the Islamic face covering.
There are, of course circumstances in which it is legitimate to insist that the veil be removed, for example in a court of law or in other circumstances where genuine security concerns/the need to verify a person’s identity exist. This is, however not a reason to criminalise law abiding individuals for choosing to cover their faces.
Leaving aside the issue of personal liberty for a moment, the matter of police resources raises it’s head. Surely the police have better things to do than arrest women who freely choose to wear the Islamic veil? The little matter of catching muggers, fraudsters and rapists springs to mind! Yet resources are being wasted in persecuting individuals who choose to cover their faces. The world is going mad and I thank heavens that there is (currently) no proposal here in the UK to ban the Burqa or the Niqab. Liberals (in all the main parties) are, thankfully, on the whole opposed to such legislation.
A colleague chooses to wear the head scarf (which will not be banned) while other Muslims of my acquaintance choose to cover neither their faces nor their heads. Both Muslims who choose to cover (and those who do not) have a right to make that choice, likewise the lady who chooses to wear a revealing dress and stillettos has an equal right to dress as she pleases. I really don’t understand this desire to interfere with the liberty of the individual (unless their actions directly threaten the wellbeing of others) which (in the case of the Islamic veil) they do not).