Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Burqa II: The Re-Burqa'ing

In follow-up to the mush of a prior post: having thought it through more, with a big dollup of help from Eli and Norm, I cannot support any sweeping France-style burqa ban. I can see particular situations where facial coverings create problems of a degree that can legitimately interest the state, e.g., while giving testimony in courts, but those are exceptions that shouldn't govern the matter generally.

The proper "dress code" for open, free societies should be that individuals are free to choose their attire for their own reasons or no reasons at all; and exceptions to this principle can be carved out based on a strong showing of cause, after which the rules along with their carve-outs apply to all equally, and according to consistent principle.

If women are pushed around in private for religious or cultural reasons -- and this does happen, within and beyond Islamist circles -- shortening the list of legal clothing is not the way to rectify the resulting injustices. It won't liberate them in any clear way, and it may restrict that which they genuinely and legitimately wish to do.

As always, this is not to be confused with the notion that the choice to wear a burqa automatically merits the approval, celebration, or respect of the state or anyone else. Making choices in a diverse and open society entails the risk that others will not agree with the choice, and that public institutions will not reflect or enshrine that choice.

As it happens, other free people may even say harsh things about the choice. I, for one, think burqas are absurd, degrading, ugly, and irredeemably pointless.

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