France: The Ban on Headscarves

413 words | 2 page(s)

Recently, controversy erupted in France over potential legislation that would completely ban the face-covering veil worn by Muslim women. Politicians who advocate this bill assert that the legislation is intended to protect the dignity of women. While this seems to be a logical point, it adversely impacts assimilation in French society and undermines the very liberties that politicians claim to protect. Banning the face-covering veil negatively influences assimilation in French society because even if women appear more westernized without the veil, that does not necessarily mean that they feel assimilated.

From a logical standpoint, they are more likely to feel ostracized, and that the only way to gain acceptance in society is by dressing a certain way. For women who have grown accustomed to the full face veil, banning them from wearing it might have the same effect as banning long skirts and pants for women who dress more conservatively. Politicians claim to protect women’s dignity without taking into account that scantily clad women also may demonstrate a lack of dignity, though there is no legislation on the books to prohibit revealing clothing. Additionally, restricting the use of the veil also restricts liberty, as women cannot dress how they want to dress. A truly tolerant, open society would permit its members to dress as they please, however liberal or conservative that may be. Tolerance should ultimately facilitate assimilation more effectively than restriction. There have been other instances of nations passing legislation that restricts religious clothing. One of the most shocking examples is Turkey, whose population is predominantly Muslim.

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At the beginning of the twentieth century, Atatürk secularized the nation, banning religious attire in an effort to promote more liberal lifestyles. Today, the headscarf for women remains controversial, as many women choose to continue wearing headscarves, though they refer to them as a “başörtüsü” rather than the heavily politicized “türban” (Todayszaman.com, 2013). Though the 1990s were among the worst years for women wearing headscarves, as some students wearing headscarves were not permitted to enter university classrooms, women who wear headscarves today still face stigmatization, as headscarves can hurt their employment opportunities in the private and public sector (Todayszaman.com, 2013). This illustrates that controversy over religious apparel is not limited to purely Western nations, and that even predominantly Muslim countries struggle with this issue.

  • Todayszaman.com (2013). A brief guide to Turkey’s headscarf issue – Today’s Zaman, your gateway to Turkish daily news. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.todayszaman.com

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