Banning Muslim Veils Tends to Backfire—Why Do Countries Keep Doing It?
Source: The Atlantic
Denmark this week wrote the latest chapter in a global story that is becoming strangely familiar. The country’s new ban on any “garment that hides the face in public”—widely understood to be targeting Islamic veils like the burqa and niqab—entered into effect on Wednesday.
Limitations on wearing face veils in public have already been enacted in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Austria. They’ve been debated as far as Australia and the Canadian province of Quebec. Despite regional differences, a similar pattern of events has recurred in some of the countries. Although not every element of the pattern has appeared in every country, France, Quebec, and Austria, for instance, have followed a progression that goes roughly like this.
First, politicians in a country propose banning the face veil, which is worn by a small number of Muslim women and reflects one interpretation of the Quran’s injunction to “cover and be modest.” They argue that a ban will promote integration, or public safety, or that wearing a veil is inconsistent with national values like gender equality. Pundits and lawmakers loudly debate the policy, and the argument rages in the press. A few propose legal challenges. Eventually, the ban is passed into law.