The Personalist Project

Sarkozy says that burqas are not welcome in France.

I would like to know what personalist philosophers say to this. We favor the free expression of religion, while we oppose the oppression of women in Islam embodied in the burqa. What’s a pluralistic society to do?

Comments (8)

Bill Drennen

#1, Jun 22, 2009 12:21pm

I think the simple answer is, as long as it is their choice and they are not required to wear them in public.

Issue is that Islamic law as basis for public law is problematic. Islamic law and pluralism or religious tolerance are not compatible.

Katie van Schaijik

#2, Jun 22, 2009 12:50pm

To what extent is it rightly considered “their choice,” though, if it is religiously required and violently enforced by the men in their families?  In Iran and elsewhere women are beaten by the “virtue and vice police” if they are not adequately covered in burqas.

Clearly there would be no tolerance if Sharia were the basis for public law.  My question is more how much can free societies tolerate the de facto oppression of women?

Bill Drennen

#3, Jun 22, 2009 12:55pm

Understood. Free societies can not tollerate oppression at all. I was envisioning the proper use of them in our country where they can choose to wear them and may be required to at church but are protected from punishment if they choose not to wear in public. However, unlike France, we also protect their right to wear them if they choose.

Katie van Schaijik

#4, Jun 22, 2009 1:11pm

It’s very difficult for us as a society to protect dependent women from their fathers, husbands and brothers.
And what if we consider the burqa oppressive in itself?

Bill Drennen

#5, Jun 22, 2009 1:36pm

In this country a crime is a crime and if the women report abuse they are protected and the ones responsible are prosecuted aggressively.

If you think the burqa is oppressive in itself then you will not wear one and you may even try to convince others not to but we also need to defend their right to wear it if they choose. Otherwise next we will be banning nun’s habits as well

Katie van Schaijik

#6, Jun 22, 2009 2:32pm

Bill, surely this is too facile.  I think you seriously underestimate the problem of domestic abuse among Muslims. 
Nor do I think the comparison between a burqa and a nun’s habit is a just one.  The burqa is something imposed on all Islamic women by virtue of the fact that they are women.

Josef Seifert

#7, Jun 22, 2009 7:48pm

Defending the Freedom of wearing Veils and Burqas
I think that not even the most literal interpretation of the Koran’s dressing codes for women, wearing burqas, ought to be outlawed in the West, let alone Muslim women covering of heads by normal veils (which are equally outlawed in many Western countries). It seems to me that any observance of a religious tradition that is not in any way in itself evil, or criminal, or offensive, ought to be permitted by the law and never be banished or outlawed, which does not exclude to persecute domestic crimes even if justified in the shariah.
Not only is there a sacred right to the freedom of religion and to the freedom of conscience to obey one’s positive religious mandates as long as they do not entail crimes or oppression bordering on crime (which wearing the nice burqa that underlines the mystery of the woman’s body, certainly does not). One may remind oneself that also Saint Paul demanded that women cover their heads in Church as sign of their submission to their husbands and of their respect for the angels. Should it be outlawed that women wear veils in our Churches (which is still being done in some places)?
The comparison with religious habits of nuns is not that far-fetched. There is a Catholic nun’s order of the “slaves of Christ” in Spain, and some other Eucharistic feminine orders, who wear almost the same veils that completely cover their faces. Should this be outlawed?
Moreover, in general the outlawing of any dresses that do not offend public morality is an assault against freedom, even if these dresses have nothing to do with religion.
Besides, to want to forbid pious Muslim or Hindu women (in the name of fighting oppression!) to wear veils or other dresses that correspond to their beliefs, while we do nothing to solve first our problems with women’s dresses, as an extremely witty Muslim Professor remarked when called to speak out in the veil-processes in England, seems doubly wrong.
There is another reason against this. It seems in general quite wrong to support any kind of pressure (as in Mexico for decades in regard to the Catholic priests and nuns and now increasingly in the West) that demands that nobody may wear in public places or private schools symbols of their religion.
Moreover, it is ludicrous, grotesque and utterly hypocritical that in Germany, France, England, or the USA, Muslim women should be forced to take off their veils against their conscience, while our women may wear the most offensive and unbelievably impure dresses in public, indulge in the most shocking public seduction, for example as naked prostitutes on TV commercials giving their phone numbers and “prices,”¬ù pose in offensive nakedness in Playboy and other magazines, without being outlawed!
Finally, a country that forbids burqas but “legalizes”¬ù the murder of one’s own children is in my opinion absolutely cynical and grotesque!

Jules van Schaijik

#8, Jun 23, 2009 9:32am


The above comment by Josef Seifert was turned into a new entry in the Linde.  See the comment box belonging to that entry for further discussion:

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