Is Banning the Full-Veil Compassionate?

Its official. The French senate has voted with an overwhelming majority to pass the new law that bans an individual from wearing the Islamic full veil in public. Women that wear a  veil and men that force a woman to wear the veil are subject to a fine. The law hopes to promote gender equality, women’s dignity, security and French cultural values. Now, all of those things are fine and dandy; I believe that measures should be taken to make modern society more egalitarian.  However, I can’t shake the feeling that this law not only infringes upon individuals’ rights but also is uncompassionate.  

Compassion is feeling enough concern for the suffering of others that we do something to help alleviate that suffering. This law would fall into that definition if women were being forced to wear the full veil against their will. But for many women that is not the case.  For some Muslim women, the full veil is a positive affirmation of their femininity and devotion to God; they have chosen this for themselves. One woman was even quoted by the Huffington Post as saying that instead of going out in public without her veil she will simply stay secluded in her home.  For these women, this law is not alleviating suffering, it is causing it.

Furthermore, some say that this new law has the potential to increase the anti-Islam feelings already present in France. The country has a Muslim population of approximately 5 million, with only about 2,000 being women that wear the full veil. But if anti-Islam feelings are fueled by this law, it will not be just the 2,000 women that will suffer but the entire Muslim community. It seems to me that a law that encourages self-expression and appreciation of cultural differences could do a lot more good than one that suppresses them.

For a critical analysis of the law, click here .



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