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Burka or no Burka?
Sarkozy will propose a law that would prohibit wearing the Burka in public places. I find this law outrageous and excellent. Outrageous because it is intolerant and is against the freedom to chose what one wants to wear, and excellent because I can’t think any woman in her right mind wanting to wear a Burka. This law could be just the thing which sets hundred of thousands of women free.
What do you think ? Would such a law stand a chance in the US?
Hi Julie,
I don’t know about the US, but I think that if France allows this law, then the whole concept on which French republic is based: “liberté, égalité, fraternité” has become worthless. It would mean no freedom, no equality and no fraternity-but sheer intolerance. There are also enough emancipated Muslim women in France that are proof that they can choose their own way of living.

I agree with you that the Burka is a terrible outfit and the very symbol of women’s surrender to men’s tyranny, but I believe this law is extremely harmful and is in itself a surrender to intolerance. Will this law be accepted or not, good or evil, here is another possibility :

"... who are you, then?
I am part of that power
which eternally wills evil
and eternally works good."
- Goethe
I sometimes forget just how tolerant the United States is. Even if racism persists (it does), it stays behind locked doors. A racist or bigoted commented dropped in the marketplace will have you reemed by your peers. One misstep soundbite and a politician's career is over. There is no tolerance for intolerance over here. Your drunk uncle making racist jokes at a wedding is unwittingly alienating himself and an exaggerated generalization about a whole group of people won't make it through to the discussion without prompt correction. Even if the feelings still exist, people know they are wrong and they keep their prejudices to themselves. Although this can make them bubble over and eventually explode, for the most part it keeps the hate at bay and even prevents the hate from being passed on to the progeny.

In America this burka law would never see the light of day. Although I don't think this is necessarily an intolerant act of legislation, it's still radically stupid. It's a form of censorship and oversteps the boundaries of a responsible state. It's impossible to force change on an unwilling demographic. Even if the longterm intentions are genuine and good, the immediate effects will endanger the lives of many women and entire families. To symbolically unveil a multitude of women is to leave them entirely defenseless.

There are other ways to go about empowering these women than a drastic and potentially harmful quick solution. There is education and there are opportunities and there are networks of support already out there that only need to be tapped.

There are two routes to freedom. This law represents a full-frontal assault. If it is passed people will die and be hurt and no one can know just how long the war will last but fear will run rampant and the idea of empowerment will seem like a far-away dream next to the realities of constant conflict. The other way freedom is won will also seem like a far-away dream. But in this way freedom will be gained in waves. Freedom is not something given away lightly (although it should be). It can come in slow transitions and longterm overthrows. Look at women's rights in Europe and the United States. It started well before suffrage and eventually had its day with the right to vote. But it didn't stop there, from the right to vote women realized they could change other things too, they could make it to equal footing as men. From their political freedom they eventually gained further economic freedom in the form of equal pay and from there they entered the workplace and achieved cultural and societal realization that still has a ways to go but is still moving forward every year.


To force freedom is to awaken a mysterious sleeping beast. Although I would love there to be a quick and easy solution to equality the truth is to do so will force immediate and harmful social repercussions. And if the Muslim women in France are willing to face these repercussions then that's well and fine and maybe the law should be given the go-ahead. But what does Sarkozy know of their struggle?

How and when should politicians act in issues of empowerment? Should the struggle be born from the constituency or can it be brought on from above?
What if you wanted to wear a burka as a costume to a costume party?  What if you weren't Muslim, or even a woman?  It is just clothes.  I think all you have to do is keep it out of public schools, driver's license and passport photos.  
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Latest Post: September 14, 2010 at 2:00 AM
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