Burqa Ban

I think all the talk about banning the burqa is bullshit. Articles like this and this make a few points that boil down to:

  • Burqa’s are used to oppress women
  • Anonymity is dangerous and should be illegal
  • I have the right to identify people in public

For now I’ll Ignore the “I hate Islam” written between the lines and just address those issues.

Yeah, Burqa’s are used to oppress women. I agree with that one, so I won’t say much about it; except that banning the burqa won’t stop the oppression.

As for Anonymity being dangerous, well yeah. Bank robbers generally don’t like to reveal their identities. But a bank robber is already committing a major crime. If burqas, masks or any form of facial concealment becomes illegal, do you think that is going to stop the bank robber? “Well I was planning to rob the bank, but I don’t want to get a fine for wearing a balaclava!” And as for the “terrorist threat”, a suicide bomber doesn’t care if you can see his face before bits of it are spread across half a kilometer.

As for “I have a right to identify people in public”, well, actually, you don’t. I am not saying that teachers, police, crossing guards, taxi drivers or even retail employees should have anonymity. Anyone dealing with the public in a professional capacity should be identifiable. But anyone walking down the street, going to the shops or on public transport has no obligation to identify themselves to you.

Being identifiable is not in the United Nation’s universal declaration of human rights. It is not in law (in Australia and most other countries). And more importantly, anonymity is essential for a free and open society, because anonymity is the only way to guarantee free speech.

Take the anonymous protests against Scientology. They must protest in disguise because Scientology is known to identify protesters, investigate them, and attack them legally.

Lars Vilks is another example. He exercised his right to free speech by creating the cartoon of Muhammad as a dog. Recently he was attacked and headbutted in a public lecture.

If Vilks’ cartoon was published anonymously, he would not have to fear reprisal. Since he did publish it under his name, perhaps he can now avoid being targeted by remaining anonymous – maybe even by wearing a burqa!

Though Vilks is defiant and does not seek anonymity himself, you can see how others might be intimidated into remaining silent. It does not matter that their right to free speech is protected under law. It does not matter that the threats and violence against them are illegal. The only way to guarantee their freedom of speech and safety is to remain anonymous.

The burqa bans are bullshit because they’re not banning burqas, they’re banning anonymity. They’re not “lifting the veil” and freeing these women. They’re just oppressing the rest of us.

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