On Tuesday 14th September, the French Senate voted overwhelmingly (246-1) in support of a nationwide ban of burqas and face veils from all public spaces. Once the law comes into force, any woman found wearing the religious dress will face a fine of 150 Euros or be forced to take French citizenship lessons. Many have commented that politicians have used the veil as a political football to court the Islamophobic and anti-immigrant vote amongst their electorate.
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz, Women’s Media Representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain commented, “By forcing Muslim women to unveil, the French Senate has further unmasked the deficiencies, weaknesses and flaws of Western secular liberalism. Debate may have centred around the face veil but it has been secularism that has been on trial here. And the verdict is in – an intolerant ideology where instigating prejudice against a community is an acceptable electioneering tool to win a few racist votes; an ideology where women are secluded from society and made social outcasts in true apartheid fashion simply for expressing modesty; and an ideology where all talk of human rights is clearly a fallacy, where freedom and equality is privy to only those who tow the secular line.”
“The ‘veil debate’ has exposed the failure of secular states to create harmonious cohesive societies where all feel equally respected. Discriminatory government policies and cheap secular politics that unscrupulously exploits xenophobia for political ambition, has fanned the flames of racism and fascism, stoking tensions between communities. It has provided ammunition for far-right groups with anti-immigrant agendas increasing racially motivated abuse. Bigoted vitriol was given a platform, entertained, and tolerated under the umbrella of strengthening national identity. Secularism’s aversion to religious pluralism has nurtured an environment where racial hatred has thrived.”
“Via hijab, minaret, and now niqab bans, European states have exposed the failure of secular liberalism to accommodate the rights of its religious minorities. Laws have been formed that target the minority based upon the prejudice of the majority. While secularism espouses freedom and claims to liberate Muslim women from lives of oppression, in reality it has treated them in true authoritarian fashion, legalizing religious intolerance and forcing them to relinquish their religious convictions in exchange for access to basic human rights. No longer can it be acceptable for advocates of the ideology to lay claim to its universality and neutrality in securing rights for all.”
“Ultimately, the outlawing of religious dress codes by Western governments symbolizes a failure to convince Muslim women, many Western born, bred, and educated to embrace secular liberalism. It is a desperate attempt at ‘forced secular conversion’. The idea of increasing numbers of women who having tasted the fruits of liberalism and lived the Western dream being unconvinced by its ideals, and now adopting Islam as an alternative social and political path, appears to be a concept too indigestible for Western politicians to accept. Furthermore, the exponential growth of women adorning the Islamic dress is a powerful symbol that negates in one swift blow all the negative accusations against the Muslim woman’s dress and Islam’s treatment of women.”
“So while debate has focussed on Islamic dress and whether it is appropriate for Western secular societies, the real debate to be had is whether secularism that is failing on so many fronts is appropriate to be idealized as the best system by which to organize society. Is it not time to seriously examine, what exactly is it about Islam, its values and laws that has so many Muslim women convinced?”