Posted on 26-01-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Religion) by Rashtrakut

France is moving closer to a partial ban on the burqa in certain public places.  Like the previous ban on head scarves in schools, I find it disturbing when a government steps into religious practice that does not pose a threat to its practitioners.  It is correct that the Quran does not explicitly mandate the veil.  The language requiring modest dress in inherently subjective and open to interpretation on cultural norms.  However, that interpretation should rely on the practitioner and not the state.  This is in some ways the other side of the coin of the Taliban and Saudi Arabia mandating the burqa and Iran mandating the head scarves.  They are both wrong and an infringement on religious liberty.

Separation of church and state is a trick subject for Islam since its founders and early leaders combined secular and religious powers in the same individual.  However, after the fragmentation of the Abbasid Caliphate even Islam saw a bifurcation of these functions.  To the extent Sultans exercised religious authority, it was not different than Christian monarchs proclaiming themselves god’s vice-regents on earth.

I had an interesting conversation with someone who supported the proposed French policy today.  However, I cannot help but wonder whether the support would have remained in place if a similar ban was targeted at that person’s religion rather than at what is currently an unpopular religious minority.  A ban of this nature would not be constitutional in the United States.  While I have no fondness for religious fundamentalism and am generally unmoved by overt public religious displays, I will take the liberty granted by the American constitution to the type of secularism (and cultural xenophobia) rammed down people’s throats in France.

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[…] I noted a couple of months ago in this blog and as the author in the article above notes, this is conceptually not different from the Saudis […]

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