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Burqa Bans Make Some Sense

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Despite the controversy it has caused, a law banning burqas in Switzerland makes some sense.

The Swiss parliament voted in favor of banning the traditional Islamic garment on its streets, according to The Sun.

Many Muslim women around the world choose to wear traditional headscarves with varying degrees of coverage. The burqa is the most concealing type of veil, with just a small opening or mesh screen through which the women can see. The one-piece veil covers the entire face and body.

Wearing the garment is now illegal in many places in Switzerland after the law passed in parliament by just one vote. In the close vote, 88 representatives voted in favor of the ban, 87 representatives voted against it, and 10 individuals abstained from the vote.

Switzerland is not the only country considering a ban of the burqa in public places. In Germany, lawmakers have been contemplating banning the garment from schools, courtrooms and other public spaces, according to The Huffington Post.

“It doesn’t fit in with our open society,” said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. “To show one’s face is crucial for communicating, for living together in our society and keeping it together.”

Technically, the Swiss law does not apply to burqas exclusively. The law reads “no person shall cover his face in public places and in places or hide in the public domain or the provision of public services (excluding sacred sites).” 

Allowing individuals to cover their faces in public is a legitimate safety concern.

Wearing masks is illegal in many jurisdictions. In Georgia, for example, individuals may not wear a mask or face covering that hides or conceals the identity of the wearer, according to Justia. Although the rule has exceptions, the 2010 law ensures transparency and dissuades individuals from concealing their identities  to evade trouble.

While many women wear the burqa for religious and cultural reasons, someone, unfortunately, could use the veil as a means for concealing a weapon or personal identity. 

Establishing a law that prevents this possibility not only enhances safety on Swiss streets, but makes the misuse of a cultural garment illegal.

Furthermore, it makes sense for Swiss lawmakers to ban burqas as a cultural symbol on Swiss streets.

“The burqa is an expression of misogynistic Islamist ideology.  This symbol we need to halt,” said Germany's CVP National Councilor Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter, according to The Sun.

By instituting the ban, the Swiss government is making a statement against the misogyny associated with burqas. The Swiss government is promoting the empowerment of women in a deliberate way. 

Of course, the law could be interpreted as cultural insensitivity. The French ban of the “burkini” swimming garment over the summer received similar criticism and was later overturned.

Receiving pushback is only natural when making such a bold statement. The Swiss government’s decision has sound reasoning, and the law makes sense to some degree. 

Sources: The Sun, BBC, The Huffington Post, Justia / Photo credit: Montse PB/Flickr

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