Posts Tagged belgium

Covering up

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

The terrorists have won.

Why do I say this terrible thing?

Because Belgium have passed the law banning the Burka.

Now, there are a few things to be examined here.  First of all, my primary new source is the BBC, I’m trying to convert to Euronews gradually, as I think they are less US centric, and their habit of providing video without commentary is a good one, though also capable of biasing news.

The article from the BBC can be found here:- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8652861.stm

and the Euronews take on it here:- http://www.euronews.net/2010/04/30/belgian-parliament-votes-to-ban-burqa/

Secondly, the ban seems to be aimed at the uncovering of identity,

(BBC) The law would ban any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street.

Thirdly, let’s deal with my own prejudices.  I don’t like it.  I hate seeing people concealed and separated from society, as if I’m a danger to them, or they are to me; or as if my leering eye will lead them astray because I have no control over myself, (see my entry on femininism, probably just below).  I hate the idea that some control or old convention leads people to conceal themselves from the rest of society.  I like my western values, such as they are; this level of conservatism is not for me and I don’t like it.

Let’s put that aside now.

The counter argument is of course, that people can choose in our plural society to follow their religion freely, and in our society, (in case you’re reading this internationally, I’m a Brit and I have all the stereotypes and prejudices fully installed, for which I apologise; I try to apply my intellect to things to try and  counter the enormous drag factor of such thinking as “Channel fog bound, continent cut off.”), can choose in our plural society to follow their religion, personal practices etc. as long as no-one is harmed.  It’s a value, and we should remember that.  I value that more than I value my personal prejudices.

So what is going on here?

From my point of view there are two difficulties in this move, (oh and by the way you should also see this:- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8658017.stm 500 Euros, appalling), two difficulties I was saying.

One is that the backlash, which let’s face it we knew was coming, is that women are now being victimized as practicers of their religion.  I know of no religion that requires men to cover up as women are required to do, and therefore the victims of these laws will all be women, some of whom are going to feel terribly vulnerable as result of these laws.  And couching them in terms of “not having a hidden identity” just makes it a lame excuse.

And it’s lame, it’s lame because while we have no general need to conceal our identity, the law enshrines a fear, a fear that anonymity is dangerous, that it is not allowed, because be we have no right to privacy in public places.  It enshrines an idea, that we need to be afraid of people we cannot immediately police, (through CCTV etc.), because we need to be afraid.

It victimises women in particular, Muslims in a more general case, and in the broadest interpretation, it makes us all subject to government scrutiny and control, (or at least, inspection), because we might be terrorists.

Our, and by our in this case I mean Europe, laws have become so much more draconian since 9/11, 7/7 and so many other dates that are sadly meaningful in the track of bombings and other abuses that people have practised upon the world.

These laws, however do nothing to improve safety, but do everything to alienate and stigmatise a tiny minority of Europe’s population, and a majority of the population in the Middle East, people who must be looking on and shaking their heads in wonder at our “liberal” society.

I don’t like the Burka, but I don’t  like suppression, distrust, suspicion and racism a whole lot more.  MY values are that we remember that not everyone on this earth lives the same way, that we respect other cultures and value them, because humans need that “hybrid-vigour” that comes from having cultural values that differ.  As a Discordian, I don’t mind if people disagree, in fact, I rather value that; and I don’t want people to have to leave their culture/religion behind just because they are living near me, because eventually I will learn different points of view, and history that I know nothing of, and philosophy that is beyond value.  Let there be a rainbow, and let it be the colours of all the humans.

As usual, if anything comes across real right wing, then I left out some negation somewhere.