I swear to God, once I come up with a decent blog name and leave digitalniqabi behind, I will never speak of the niqab again. (Yeah, who am I kidding more than myself?) However, I’m going to address this whole Belgium/France niqab ban thing because I simply can’t keep it bottled up inside any longer. The trigger for this need to offload was seeing people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, write that one reason they could be for the ban for the “security” advantages that it would bring to such countries. At which point, I just felt like unloading all over these blogs and forums, but that would be rude and intolerant, not to mention that it would display a decided lack of control, and hey, look, I have my own blog to unload all over.
To start with, it doesn’t shock me that non-Muslim countries would want to ban symbols of Islamic faith; after all, since Muslim countries have imposed limitations on hijab and niqab, how can we expect any better from non-Muslim nations, especially in Europe? Turkey and Tunisia are notorious for giving women a hard time with the hijab (hard time meaning they’ve banned it in government buildings and universities in the case of Turkey) and women in Morocco are regularly face discrimination while hijabed, although there are no laws in place to officially make life for hijabis difficult. I recall a Moroccan friend during college telling me that she wanted to hijabify her life, but her aunt would tell her father, and then she’d be on the first plane back to Morocco because her father would be outraged. Outraged over the fact that his daughter is covering up more and that he is losing control. Imagine women in those countries wearing the niqab! So, my anxiety over women in the West being prevented from wearing the niqab is not as great as it could be, considering we’ve got our own intra-Muslim hijab bans to deal with.
However. The arguments presented for banning the niqab are so preposterous as to make me want to pull out my hair in frustration. (Yes, I’m not hijabed as I write this, so pulling my hair is definitely an option.) I mean seriously, France, niqab as an agent of widespread and debilitating crime? Seriously? So once the ban of niqab is in place, I guess criminals, who are so eager to follow the law, will both a) never don a niqab for purposes of robbing a bank or grocery store or mugging someone in the dead of night in a dark alley in downtown Paris and b) they won’t find other means of concealing their identity, as in with ski masks and the like? Because, you know, criminals are so lacking in creativity that they won’t even realize that there are other mechanisms besides the niqab that will aid them in being, um, criminals. In fact, they just waited for centuries for the niqab to wash up on the shores of France in order to commit crimes while concealing their identities. Because, you know, there are and have never been any other means for concealing identity. Not the ski mask, not helmets, not scarves wrapped around the lower face. None of those have ever existed until the niqab came to France and gave your law-abiding citizens a means to turn criminal.
Ok then. Now that I’m done with my lightly sarcastic dismissal of the security argument, how about the fact that banning things usually never has the intended consequence? Ban drugs, and what happens? We’ve got a War on Drugs that has been waged since I was a kid, and shows no signs of letting up. We also have all sorts of gun bans which, while they have dropped the percentages of assault rifles in circulation, have failed to eliminate the use of assault rifles in the carrying out of violent crime. If bans on drugs and guns, relatively difficult items for the average niqabi to gain hold of, are largely unsuccessful, how successful is a ban on a significantly easier piece of material going to be for the determined criminal?
In addition to that, fining the woman who wears the niqab is as nonsensical as nonsensical can get. The premise behind that particular piece of legislation is to prevent women from being “forced” into wearing the niqab by their domineering husbands, brothers, and/or fathers. First of all, fining the woman who’s being oppressed into donning the niqab is nothing short of oppression. Secondly, should those men actually be stupid enough to force the niqab on the women-folk of their families, what will prevent him from not allowing them to leave the home in the niqabless state? Won’t this just promote the “Talibanization” of Muslim households all across France, a condition where Muslim women who are forced into the niqab cease to have lives outside their homes? Just think about this for a moment. As for those women who are not forced into it, and I’m willing to go out on a limb and speculate that they far outnumber those who are forced, wouldn’t they just not go out as much as they otherwise would? I know I would, for as long as possible anyway.
Have you really thought this argument through, oh masters of France? Because it sounds like you’re coming up with an excuse you all know to be incredibly lame but you’re convinced it’s not as lame as saying you just want to ban Islamic symbols. Honestly, if you just came out with the truth, I’d have a lot more respect for your position. If you just said that France is not a nation that believes in the practice of Islam and thus all practice of Islam ought to be confined to the home and masjid, it would be honest. Insupportable in the face of calling yourself a democracy (secular or otherwise), but refreshingly honest.
Let’s raise our glasses of chocolate milk to idea of an honestly conveyed reason for the niqab ban.