UK Independence Party manifesto includes burka ban

UKIP party leader Paul Nuttal said that wearing a burka or niqab was too much of a security risk and barrier to integration.  Labour MP Chuka Umunna responded that UKIP was a “hate peddler.”

Nuttal also said that UKIP candidates would largely not challenge any Members of Parliament (MP) who supported Brexit. Nutall did not confirm his own candidacy.

Symbolism or solution: Bavaria plans to introduce a burqa ban in the public sector

The government of Bavaria, one of Germany’s sixteen federal states, has announced plans for legislation banning Muslim women from wearing a burqa or niqab in selective contexts. The proposed measures apply to public sector personnel, security forces, as well as teaching staff at pre-school, school, and university levels. Moreover, casting a vote at the ballot box will also no longer be possible while wearing a face covering.

Saving the occident

Bavaria’s Interior Minister, Joachim Herrmann, justified the planned measure by arguing that “a liberal democratic conception of values of a Christian-occidental imprint requires a culture of open communication”.(( http://www.bayern.de/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/170221-Ministerrat.pdf ))

The language used by Herrmann highlights that the initiative is not driven by the attempt to solve real problems of civic participation and engagement but rather by ‘civilisational’ categories and anxieties. It also demonstrates the continued willingness of the CSU, Bavaria’s conservative ruling party, to hanker after the populist vote, even if this means using the terminology of the far-right Pegida movement that claims to defend the “occident” against its Islamisation.

Return of the burqa question

Over the course of the last year, Muslim women’s dress has periodically returned to the top of the German political agenda. After two incidents of violence linked to the ‘Islamic State’ in July, a group of conservative interior ministers demanded a “burqa ban”.

Subsequently, in December, the CDU party congress shifted to the right on a number of issues, including the burqa: at the conference, Chancellor Merkel herself demanded that the burqa be banned “wherever this is legally possible” and defined the face veil as alien to German culture and values.

Constitutional strictures

Merkel’s statement shows her attempt to pacify her vociferous inner-party opponents who demand a tougher line on immigration and Islam. Yet it also demonstrates her awareness that a generalised ban of the burqa in the public sphere – comparable to the provisions enacted in France – would most likely be struck down by the German Constitutional Court.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/verbotsdebatte-burka-verbieten-geht-das-ueberhaupt-1.3123311 ))

The proposed Bavarian legislation appears to take these constitutional limitations seriously by eschewing an across-the-board interdiction of face coverings. While the Bavarian interior minister noted that his administration may attempt a generalised ban in the future, the current legislative proposal only prohibits burqa and niqab in a set of relatively precise circumstances.(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/burka-verbot-bayern-beschliesst-verbot-von-gesichtsverhuellung/19421880.html ))

It is worth noting, however, that the Federal Ministry of Justice in Berlin even expressed reservations about the constitutionality of such a limited ban, currently also envisaged by the national government.(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/leitkultur-im-abendland-justizministerium-sieht-geplantes-schleierverbot-als-risiko/19401666.html ))

A proposal of limited utility

In any case, the very restrictedness of the Bavarian bill is also one of the features that will most likely undermine its novelty and utility in practice: in fact, employers, including public sector institutions, already appear to possess the ability to reject applicants wearing a burqa or a niqab.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-02/bayern-verschleierung-verbot-burka-nikab-gericht ))

In the past, courts denied a high school pupil and a university student the right to wear a full face covering because it hampered theirability to communicate in class. Similarly, legal professionals affirmed the right of public sector employers to demand that their employees be able to communicate effectively with their clientele.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/verbotsdebatte-burka-verbieten-geht-das-ueberhaupt-1.3123311 ))

It is, in other words, unclear whether the Bavarian selective burqa ban will fundamentally alter the existing legal framework. Beyond this, it seems questionable whether among the few burqa-wearing women in Bavaria—their numbers appear to range in the double digits at best—many would even consider applying for a public sector position. The Bavarian interior minister confirmed that there is not a single burqa-clad woman employed in the state’s public sector today.(( http://www.focus.de/politik/deutschland/kindergaerten-schulen-und-co-bayern-will-gesichtsverhuellungen-verbieten_id_6683765.html ))

Political symbolism

The Munich government’s initiative on the full face veil is therefore a largely symbolic move—yet a potentially powerful one: in an August 2016 survey, more than 50 per cent of Germans demanded a general ban of burqa and niqab. A further third of respondents expressed their support for a partial ban.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2016-08/burka-verbot-debatte-mehrheit-der-deutschen ))

Yet given its largely symbolic nature, the measure is also unlikely to effectively address the dynamic of religious isolation and radicalisation that it ostentatiously seeks to tackle. Those women who wish to wear a face covering will not be deterred by the ban; and those who are forced to do so will not be supported in their quest for self-determination.

Question of the hijab

Nor, of course, does prohibiting burqa-wearing women from working for the public sector solve the much more relevant question of how the state should position itself vis-à-vis Muslim job applicants wearing the hijab. In this area, the legal situation in Bavaria (as well as in many other German states) is still in flux.

The Bavarian interior minister intimated that employees in the public sector should be held to the standards of religious and ideological “neutrality”.(( http://www.bayern.de/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/170221-Ministerrat.pdf )) This might point to a willingness to move towards a laicité-style banishment of religious symbols from the public sphere, as is currently in force in the state of Berlin.(( http://gesetze.berlin.de/jportal/portal/t/iaf/page/bsbeprod.psml?pid=Dokumentanzeige&showdoccase=1&js_peid=Trefferliste&fromdoctodoc=yes&doc.id=jlr-VerfArt29GBE2005pP2&doc.part=X&doc.price=0.0&doc.hl=0 )) At the same time, however, Bavaria’s strong Catholic heritage continues to militate against too harsh a curtailment of religious expression in the public sphere.

Wealthy shoppers from the Gulf

Muslim figures have mostly remained silent on the renewed push for a ban on face coverings, perhaps reflecting their limited interest in the burqa question or their exasperation with the topic.

In any case, as the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper noted, the only significant crowd of fully veiled women in Bavaria are wealthy shoppers from the Gulf propping up Munich’s large luxury retail sector and the city’s health clinics.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/bayern/vollverschleierung-mit-dem-burka-verbot-loest-bayern-ein-problem-das-es-nicht-gibt-1.3388963 )) As of now, the Bavarian government continues to welcome them and their ample purchasing power with open arms.

Muslim women’s dress takes centre-stage again in German debate

Counterterrorism and the burqa

Following the twin attacks in Würzburg and Ansbach in July, a group of conservative interior ministers from Germany’s federal states have published a manifesto demanding enlarged competences for police, army, judiciary, and intelligence services. The politicians from the CDU/CSU party also demand the retraction of laws easing the acquisition of dual citizenship, passed by the red-green government of Gerhard Schröder in 2000.((http://www.haz.de/Nachrichten/Politik/Deutschland-Welt/Innenminister-der-Union-fordern-Burka-Verbot )).

While the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the conservatives’ coalition partner in Berlin, has flatly rejected calls to abolish dual citizenship, responses to added security measures have been more mixed. Yet what has taken centre stage in recent days is another demand from the manifesto – a proposed ‘burqa ban’. This is in spite of the fact that the precise security benefit from such a ban has remained largely unexplored. The initially security-focused discussion has thus gradually morphed into a debate with vaguely ‘civilisational’ overtones.

Echoing many of his colleagues in an opinion piece for the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, leading CDU politician Jens Spahn deems burqa and niqab to be incompatible with the values of an open society and with the kind of public interaction such a society necessitates. According to him, these items of clothing also undermine the integration of recently arrived refugees. ((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/warum-burka-und-niqab-nicht-nach-deutschland-gehoeren-14393282.html )) In an interview in late July, Spahn had struck a distinctly more polemical note, declaring himself to be a “burkaphobe” and accusing Muslims of being sexually repressed. As a remedy, Spahn encouraged Muslims to shower in the nude while at the gym.((http://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article157398148/Ein-Verbot-ist-ueberfaellig-Ich-bin-burkaphob.html ))

Constitutional hurdles

Yet whether a blanket ban on the burqa as Spahn and others demand it would even withstand scrutiny by the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) is uncertain at best. In the past, the court has generally set high hurdles to potential state regulation of religious practices. Consequently, already in 2010 a German parliamentary committee came to the conclusion that a straightforward burqa ban would be unconstitutional. ((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/verbotsdebatte-burka-verbieten-geht-das-ueberhaupt-1.3123311 ))

In view of this fact, politicians not just from the CDU but also from the SPD appear to move away from a general ban to more targeted restrictions: more recent interventions in the debate propose prohibiting women from wearing burqa or niqab when appearing in front of a judge or when driving a car.((http://www.n-tv.de/politik/Burka-am-Steuer-soll-verboten-werden-article18438906.html ))

The calmer voices in the often agitated discussion have sought to critique the focus on the burqa as a false debate obscuring the real issues. Indeed, the number of burqa-wearing women in the country  is very small, ranging between a few dozen and several hundred.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/verbotsdebatte-burka-verbieten-geht-das-ueberhaupt-1.3123311 )) As the Muslim CDU politician Cemile Giousouf stated, “I am against the burqa but it is not the core problem – an extremist understanding of religion is.” Moreover, according to her, “the experience in France shows that a burqa ban does not provide greater security.”(( http://www.haz.de/Nachrichten/Politik/Deutschland-Welt/Cemile-Giousouf-Burkaverbot-bietet-nicht-mehr-Sicherheit ))

From burqa to burkini

France itself, among the pioneers of a burqa ban, has since moved on to debate the ‘burkini’, a piece of swimwear covering all of a woman’s body with the exception of face, hands, and feet.(( http://europe.newsweek.com/burkini-swimsuits-spark-anti-muslim-outrage-sales-488138?rm=eu )) This debate has been considerably more muted in Germany, where the focus has remained on face-covering burqas and niqabs. Indeed, the German Constitutional Court has implicitly legitimised the burkini in the past, when it ruled that co-educational swimming classes in public schools were mandatory, and that those Muslim girls uncomfortable with a co-educational arrangement could wear burkinis.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/bundesverwaltungsgericht-schwimmunterricht-in-burkini-fuer-muslimische-maedchen-zumutbar-12569208.html ))

In spite of this, in mid-August German Muslim woman reported an incident in which she and one of her daughters were asked to leave a water park near Berlin since their burkinis were deemed to be “inappropriate clothing”. Speaking to Berliner Zeitung, the mother asserted that wearing the burkini was her own independent choice; a choice that one of her daughters had also made while her other daughter had stuck to regular Western swimsuits. Interestingly, she went on to add that she disliked full-body veiling and that she agreed with a burqa ban, but noted that a burkini for her was a completely different thing.((http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/berlin/streit-in-bad-saarow–was–bitte-schoen–ist-an-einem-burkini-so-schlimm—24599592 ))

All of this amply demonstrates that the body of Muslim women is back at the centre of attention. After the string of attacks in Europe and amidst unresolved questions regarding immigration, however, a nuanced engagement with this topic seems to have become even more difficult to achieve.

Expert on geopolitical conflicts, Alan Salehzadeh, urges to ban head scarves in schools and face veils in public spaces

Alan Salehzadeh, who has gained publicity in the past years as an expert on geopolitical conflicts and researcher for the Finnish National Defence College, urges in his blog for a ban on head scarves in schools and face veils in public spaces. Salehzadeh, an immigrant from Iran, has previously as well spoken out for issues that touch upon issues in multicultural Finnish society, such as migrants’ difficulties in the job market due to language skill requirements.

In his blog post from May 21st Salehzadeh maintains that in democratic Finland it is not acceptable that certain religious groups – with this implying to Islam – force their children to embrace a religion and at the same time force little girls to wear the headscarf to the school. He notes, that it creates inequalities between students for example when a girl who wears the headscarf is not able to attend gender-mixed swimming lessons. Hence, he urges for a citizens initiative that would call for a law which can forbid parents from determining their children’s dress style.
Salehzadeh argues that the headscarf should be allowed to be used only after the child has reached 18 years of age, which is the age of majority in Finland. However, he finds that even then, when a woman is able to decide for herself about her religious dress, face veils should be banned as they are not compatible with democratic values.

The issue of the face veil in the public space has been a topic of discussion also earlier this year, as MP Nasima Razmyar, like Salehzadeh with an immigrant background, expressed her concerns against the face veil in an interview. For Razmyar it would be necessary to ban the face veil in cases in which a woman is wearing it in her profession in the child education sector. Although she criticized the face veil as part of an employee’s dress in schools and nurseries, she extended her argument so that the face veil does not support the integration of its wearer into the Finnish society.

Teachers wearing the full face veil in UK schools

There is no need to “panic” about Muslim primary school teachers wearing the full-face veil in class, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, has insisted. He said concerns that young children would struggle to learn from a woman whose face was covered were “largely misplaced” and that there are other ways to “read” what people are saying. David Cameron rejected the idea of a ban but said he would “back up” schools and courts that ask women to remove veils.

Dr Sheikh Hojjat Ramzy welcomed remarks by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams that fears about the increasing use of the niqab in Britain are ‘misplaced’ but said young children nevertheless need to see their teachers’ facial expressions.

He said that even for the most strict Muslims education must be “paramount” and, when it comes to communicating with small children, facial expressions are essential because “a picture paints a thousand words”.

Dr. Sheikh Ramzy states that “although the words of the former Archbishop Rowan Williams greatly help dispel some of the hysteria that often surrounds the full face veil, in my opinion as an Islamic scholar, educationalist and former Chair of the Muslim Council of Britain’s Education Committee, I do not recommend that teachers wear the full face veil in primary school classrooms while they are teaching.”

Burqa law ban in Catalonia

In 2010 a ban against women wearing burqas in public buildings was approved by the city of Lleida in Catalonia. Women who would disobey such ban would incur in a fine between €300 and €600. The ban was adopted by several other localities in the area on the basis of public space control and public safety.

Later in 2013, all bans against the use of burqas and niqab in the region of Catalonia were annulled by theSpanish Supreme Court claiming that local authorities do not have the juridical right to legislate about fundamental rights.

Following the Strasbourg Court recent conclusions that the use of burqa or niqab in public buildings is not against the European Convention of Human Rights, the Catalonian Government announced that they will begin to prepare a new set of laws to regulate the use of integral veils and burqas in these spaces. The new conclusion of the European Court opens according to the Catalonia Government a new perspective that concerns the women’s right of dignity.

Madonna wears traditional Muslim niqab veil because it’s been ‘that kind of day’

June 25, 2014

Madonna’s having a bad day, so decides to wear a niqab. While most people would maybe don a pair of tracksuit bottoms or a baggy T-shirt, the singer chose to wear a traditional Islamic headscarf to get her through what she describes as “that kind of day”. She shared the picture on Instagram, along with the perhaps ill-advised words: “#unapologeticbitch” – as if to pre-empt any possible backlash, which would of course be likely. Not that she cares; she’s “unapologetic”.

Both the burqa and the niqab refer to the principle of modesty, and for some are a statement of religious and cultural identity. Madonna, if her statement is anything to go by, seems to treat it like a lazy day onesie. She has dabbled in Muslim veil-wearing before – in July last year she shared an Instagram picture of herself wearing a chain mail mask, with the caption: “The Revolution of Love is on… Inshallah [Arabic for ‘God willing’].”

European Human Rights Court Upholds France’s Burqa Ban

July 1, 2014

On Tuesday, July 1 the European Court of Human Rights voted, by a large majority, to uphold France’s ban of the full veil. A young Frenchwoman challenged the law that was instituted in 2010 and which calls for a 150-euro fine for anyone wearing the full veil in public. The decision is largely viewed as a triumph for France and Belgium, which are the only two countries in Europe to institute such legislation. The victory gives other countries the right to enact similar laws.

The French government had argued that the ban was in the interest of public safety and in support of women who may be forced to wear the full veil. However, many critics contend that the law is discriminatory and targets Muslims and religious minorities, violating the principles of freedom of religion and freedom of expression. In response to the ruling Elsa Ray, spokeswoman for the Muslim advocacy group CCIF argued, “Some people now feel entitled to attack women wearing the veil even though the infringement is no more severe than, say, a parking ticket.”

The law was challenged by a woman only identified by her initials, S.A.S., who decided to wear either a niqab or a burqa without any pressure from her family. S.A.S. contends that the French ban constituted a violation of her religious freedom, and could potentially lead to “discrimination and harassment.”

The French government argued, “showing one’s face in public was one of the ‘minimum requirements of life in society.’” The court decided that the ban cannot be justified as a public safety measure or as a protector of women’s rights, but that “the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face was perceived by the respondent state as breaching the right of others to live in a space of socialization which made living together easier.”

The highly contentious decision, which cannot be appealed, has already sparked protests from several groups. James Goldstone, executive director of the Open Society Justice initiative, filed a third-party intervention on the ruling and said, “Coming at a time when hostility to ethnic and religious minorities is on the rise in many parts of Europe, the court’s decision is an unfortunate missed opportunity to reaffirm the importance of equal treatment for all and the fundamental right to religious belief and expression.” He continued, “The majority has failed adequately to protect the rights of many women who wish to express themselves by what they wear.”

However, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry confirmed that the government viewed the ruling as a success because it “reflected France’s commitment to gender equality.”

Zaman interview with Dounia Bouzar on radical Islam

January 16, 2014

 

Anthropologist of religion and expert at the National Observatory of Secularism, Dounia Bazar addresses the issue of radical Islam in her latest work, ‘Countering Radical Islam’ in which she delivers the fruits of her fifteen years of analyses on this minority phenomena that nonetheless often gets conflated with the entirety of the French Muslim population. In her interview with Zaman, Bouzar emphasizes that radicalism has nothing to do with Islam, but is the result of a psychological process.

Bouzar states that she wrote the book for two audiences: the Islamophobes and the Islamophiles (educators, intellectuals, non-Muslim thinkers of Islam). According to her, they are two sides of the same coin because both groups perceive Muslims as a homogenous entity, whether inferior or simply different, and ultimately they both contribute to the same line of thinking as the extreme right-wing party, the National Front.  Bouzar stresses how one needs to distinguish between Islam and its radical forms since maintaining the confusion benefits radicals and Islamophobes alikes.

Bouzar defines radical Islam as a discourse that relies on self-exclusion or the exclusion of others, and leads to a process of identity rupture. It deploys all the psychological tools of cultish movements: breaking with civilization, destruction of personal and family history, the myth of a purified group withholding ‘ultimate truth’, and the replacement of rationality with imitation. Young people under 30 in particular, who have no other form of religious transmission, are prone to being drawn to this kind of discourse on the internet.

Another characteristic of cultish movements is the establishment of indomitable symbolic barriers between members and the ‘evil’ society around them. This leads to an overt religious exhibition, such as the wearing of long beards and the niqab. These displays have nothing to do with testing the State, it is more about self-protection and the preservation of purity in today’s world in decline.  It also has nothing to do with Islamism – Islamists have a political agenda while radical puritans have an almost apocalyptical project to save the world.

Bouzar has in fact been a long-time supporter of religious visibility in France, and was one of the first to work on ‘Frenchisization’ of the headscarf. Taking into account that Islam is a culturally adaptable religion, and that the French wish to see a visibly ‘French woman’, Bouzar developed the idea of a scarf that would be esthetically compatible with France’s cultural heritage. She was equally against the move to ban headscarved mothers from participating in school trips, because it is precisely visibility – not hiding one’s Muslim identity due to already feeling at home – that is a sign of true integration.

Those attracted to extreme discourses have the feeling that society doesn’t offer them a place and role to play. Banning veiled mothers from schools sends precisely the message to children that their kind do not have place in society, and that they are in fact ‘banned’ from society.

Bouzar challenges the idea that French Muslims have an inherent sectarian attitude towards the rest of society. She affirms that a problem of social ghettoization exists, but it is not of the ghetto’s own accord. French Muslims in fact believe in the promises of the République, and the role of politicians should be to guarantee them a place in society.

 

Source: http://www.zamanfrance.fr/article/dounia-bouzar-on-diagnostique-lislam-radical-a-effets-rupture-7273.html?utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=d99f3b8a60-Zamanfrance+17_01_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-d99f3b8a60-315962845&utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=cf4a6c4c8f-Zamanfrance+21_01_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-cf4a6c4c8f-315948881

Muslim Women more likely to suffer Islamophobic attacks than men

November 19, 2013

 

Muslim women are more likely to be subjected to Islamophobic attacks than men, especially if they are wearing the niqab or other clothing associated with their religion, a study has found.

Maybe We Are Hated, a report on the impact of Islamophobic attacks, written by Dr Chris Allen, a social policy lecturer at the University of Birmingham, will be launched in the House of Commons on Wednesday. It is intended to look beyond the statistics and, for the first time, give a voice to the female victims of Islamophobia.

Allen interviewed 20 women aged between 15 and 52 about their experiences. Fiyaz Mughal, from Faith Matters, which commissioned the report, said: “This is the first time Muslim women’s voices have been given life in terms of anti-Muslim prejudice. We keep hearing people saying: ‘What are the numbers?’ We can understand that, but it’s important to recognise the actual impact on people.”

Tell Mama, a hotline for recording Islamophobic crimes and incidents, found that, excluding online abuse and threats, 58% of all verified incidents between April 2012 and April 2013 were against women and that in 80% of those cases the woman was wearing a hijab, niqab or other clothing associated with Islam.

According to Allen, some of the women said their experiences had made them question their Britishness, with one saying her husband wanted them to leave the country. He said a refusal to take Islamophobia seriously risked giving credence to the “clash of civilisations” narrative promoted by Islamists and the far right.

“It feeds into the rhetoric of the Islamists saying: ‘No matter how hard you try, you will never belong here, they hate you,” he said. “When it comes to Muslims, they won’t tackle these issues. It adds fuel to the fire.”

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/20/muslim-women-islamaphonic-attacks