This one is a bit of a repeat, but worth repeating. Wearing a burqa is still illegal in France as of April this year. In September, praying in the streets became illegal. And September was also the month they started throwing out the fines for those breaking the new laws.
The latest news however, is that Air France will allow women to wear burqas on their airplanes since the law can only be enforced “on the ground.”
The French claim, among other things, they are helping these women who are being oppressed by their own religions’ intolerance. But I think Nancy Graham Holm got it right in her editorial piece here where she discusses how this law fuels Islamophobia. She mentions the clearly-not-oppressed, niqab-wearing woman, Kenza Drider, who is running for President in France in 2012 (and will assumably breaking the law while doing so). Drider says, “I tried to understand this law, and what I understood is that this is a law which puts us under house arrest.”
While these bans are disguised as an extension of forward-thinking liberal and secular values, they are transparently a move backwards to old timey oppression of minorities. Hilarious, really, that Europe is going to come full circle from religious oppression into secular oppression. Every dog has his day?
Let me just jump on the issue now of tolerating the intolerant, which is the wall these ban-happy folks lean upon. I won’t lie to you, I’m all about what Wikipedia has to say on the issue, so I’ll just block quote it here:
Philosopher Karl Popper asserted, in The Open Society and Its Enemies Vol. 1, that we are warranted in refusing to tolerate intolerance. Philosopher John Rawls concludes in A Theory of Justice that a just society must tolerate the intolerant, for otherwise, the society would then itself be intolerant, and thus unjust. However, Rawls also insists, like Popper, that society has a reasonable right of self-preservation that supersedes the principle of tolerance: “While an intolerant sect does not itself have title to complain of intolerance, its freedom should be restricted only when the tolerant sincerely and with reason believe that their own security and that of the institutions of liberty are in danger.”
I do not think France has reason to believe that women in burqas dropping their kids at school threaten their “security and institutions of liberty.” I think their ban-happy burqa and prayer laws pose the real threat to their country’s liberty.