Date :Monday, August 6th, 2018 | Time : 15:46 |ID: 68184 | Print

The Atlantic’s report on Banning Muslim Veils across Europe 

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SHAFAQNA- Denmark has passed a ban on face veils in public which widely understood to be targeting Muslim face veil like the burqa and niqab. The Atlantic reports about this law in Denmark and other European countries and its effect on Muslim community in these countries.

In this report, Sigal Samuel pointed that limitations on wearing face veils in public have already been enacted in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Austria. They’ve been debated as far as Australia and the Canadian province of Quebec. Despite regional differences, a similar pattern of events has recurred in some of the countries.

The writer added politicians in a country propose banning the face veil, which is worn by a small number of Muslim women. They argue that a ban will promote integration, or public safety, or that wearing a veil is inconsistent with national values like gender equality.

Reports indicate that discrimination against Muslims is rising in the country with time. Many Muslim women begin to hold more tightly to their religious identity, and some who didn’t wear the veil before the ban now start wearing it as an act of protest. Some others opt to stay home, though it’s impossible to say how widespread the phenomenon is.

The writer believes if the ban was truly meant to promote gender equality, it appears to backfire. And yet, a few months later, another country enacts its own ban, and the whole process happens all over again.

Nine years ago, the right-wing Danish People’s Party first called for a ban on full-face coverings in public. But the move later found support elsewhere on the political spectrum. More recently, Marcus Knuth, of the ruling liberal party Venstre, argued that full-face veils are “strongly oppressive.” The law enacting the ban passed in May. As it entered into force this Wednesday, hundreds of Muslims protested while wearing the now-illegal veils. They were joined by non-Muslims, many of whom also covered their faces—with everything from niqabs to horse-head masks—in solidarity.

The writer spoke to a 21-year-old Muslim who lives in Copenhagen and wears the niqab. She told him she’s worried the ban will result in niqab-wearing women becoming isolated in their homes.

She said “I haven’t been out all day because I’m at risk of that now—every time I step out of my front door, I’m a criminal.” A violation results in a fine of about $150 for a first-time offender.

She added “I actually believe that whenever politicians make these discriminatory laws, we only get stronger. We feel that this ban has made us a lot more vocal, brave, and strong”.

The Atlantic mentions that France banned Muslim headscarves and other conspicuous religious symbols from public schools in 2004, and banned full-face veils from all public spaces in 2010. But instead of complying, some young Muslim women began to express resentment of French society, and doubled down on head-covering as a form of political protest.

Surveys of attitudes toward French Muslims showed that there was a strong correlation between the highly publicized legislation banning headscarves in 2004 and an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment.

A pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage after two men allegedly attacked her for wearing the veil and ripped it off her face as she walked down the street in a Paris suburb in 2013.

A report that year indicated that more Muslim women were staying home, because “after the ban they felt considerably less secure because of harassment and violence targeted at them by members of the public who have been emboldened by the ban … Restrictions on the movement and security of women in the public space has had significant detrimental consequences on their physical and mental health and on their relationships.”

Likewise the “Charter of Values” in Canada, the province of Quebec sought to ban “ostentatious” religious symbols—including the full-face veil, the headscarf, the turban, and the kippah—among public workers in 2013.

The charter was never implemented, but a later iteration known as Bill 62 did pass into law last October. However, the controversial part of that legislation that would bar women with covered faces from accessing public services was challenged in court, and its enactment was suspended pending judicial review. This June, a judge suspended it for the second time. Even though that part of the law hasn’t come into effect yet, women’s groups have been reporting an increase in verbal and physical attacks against veiled Muslim women.

Valérie Létourneau, a spokeswoman for an umbrella organization of 17 women’s centers across Quebec, told The Globe and Mail in May that dozens of assaults against veiled women were reported to her during a single meeting of her coalition. One man had rammed a woman’s shopping cart with his own and told her, “Go back to your country.” Another man yelled at a woman on a bus, “We should have never opened the door to you!”

In the same interview, Other women’s-center employees insisted that ever since the government started debating a ban, people have been emboldened to behave aggressively toward Muslims.

The Atlantic claims in Austria, the ban on full-face coverings that went into effect last year has had several unintended consequences. Officers stopped Asian tourists wearing anti-pollution masks, and a leukemia patient who’d been ordered to wear a mask to protect his immune system. Only about 150 Muslim women in Austria actually wear a veil.

In Denmark, too, observers say populism is part—but not all—of what’s animated the ban.

Stig Hjarvard, a professor at the University of Copenhagen who researches the role of religion in Scandinavian societies said this legislation has been supported by the Conservatives, the Liberal party, and the Social Democrats. He added there’s both a populist anti-immigrant or Islamophobic position and a secular Enlightenment discourse.”

He pointed that Denmark’s right-wing politicians these days lean heavily on identity politics as a method of political point-scoring, and that the burqa ban must be seen in context of other recent moves.

The writer pointed that In May, the government passed a law requiring children who live in what it calls “ghettos”—Muslim-majority immigrant communities—to receive training in “Danish values.” That same month, Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg said Muslims should stay home during Ramadan “to avoid negative consequences for the rest of Danish society,” claiming it’s “a danger” to work while fasting.

Agnès De Féo, a sociologist who’s spent 10 years studying Muslim veiling practices in Europe, told the writer that bans can have dangerous consequences.

She pointed in an email that these measures create discrimination and self-marginalization, because these women, feeling excluded, will opt out more.”

She added: “This law affects the entire Muslim community, which feels that such measures, with such publicity, for such a small number of users, is a way of telling Muslims that … they are strangers.”

Human-rights groups have likewise slammed Denmark’s new law. Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe said  this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates women’s rights to freedom of expression and religion.

The writer concluded that In spite of such statements, and in spite of the adverse effects such bans have on Muslims, Denmark’s new law is unlikely to be overturned. The life cycle of the burqa ban probably won’t change anytime soon.

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