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"What a fuss over a piece of cloth"

The burqua law comes into force tomorrow in France, so in principle if a woman is reported for wearing a full face veil she can be fined 150 euros. The arguments about the veil have been very well rehearsed and maybe they could be summed up thus:

For a ban:
  • security issues, need to identify someone
  • an issue of female freedom, some women forced to wear the burqua or niqab
  • wearing the veil is not "French"
Against a ban:
  •  it is anti-libertarian, people should be able to wear what they like
  • some muslim women like to wear the veil and feel empowered in an age where looks count for too much
  • the ban is unworkable since other forms of clothing also hide the face e.g a ski mask
  • the ban is ultimately racist, despite its claims
  • why bother since only a couple of thousand women wear a niqab or burqua anyway
A British minister was asked about a possible ban in Britain and commented that in Britain we don't tend to tell people what to wear. I thought that summed it up reasonably well. It's a lot of fuss about very little. People can hide their identity in many ways, women do not need a law to protect them from over-zealous husbands and, ultimately, the libertarian argument is the trump card.

I agree with Viv Groskop in today's Observer. "What a fuss over a piece of cloth" she comments.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/10/france-burqa-niqab-ban

She concludes:

"Jean-Francois Copé, leader of Sarkozy's UMP party, says the ban has the support of 74% of the population. But if you read the comment threads on French news websites, France is divided. Granted, many support the ban. As one commentator writes: "This is France. Live by French laws." But equal numbers voice the idea that this ban violates "the basic French principle of liberty".
Exactement. Because liberty means allowing others to get on with their lives, even if you don't approve of their wardrobe choices. In the meantime, anyone planning a trip to the Alps might want to select their winter headgear very carefully."

The "niqabitches" video has been doing the rounds on Youtube apparently. Here is a link:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/8036686/French-women-cause-a-stir-in-niqab-and-hot-pants-in-anti-burka-ban-protest.html

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