Religious Uniforms

The Burka is quite frankly bizarre, but we all know that. The very concept of wrapping yourself from head to foot in a bag and glancing out at the world through a slit is even at the best of times utterly eccentric, but beyond that it is also very offensive and is more or less declaring that half the human population should be kept hidden because the other half cannot be trusted. The French response to this has been a complete ban, but is this the best response? I’d like to argue that its not.

Laws can often have a hidden agenda and so should be robustly challenged when it is obvious that they are inappropriate. Take for example the City of Vic in Catalonia where the local council has put in play local by-laws banning the hanging out of washing  to dry on balconies and has also banned the mounting of satellite TV dishes on to the exterior walls of apartment blocks. What could possibly be wrong with that, are they not simply trying to make their city look tidy? Nope, this is actually racism in action. In Vic most the the satellite dishes belong to Moroccan immigrants who use them to pick up Arabic TV, and also most of the washing being hung out belongs to the poorer Moroccan immigrants because they are too poor to own a garden or a tumble dryer.

If we do enforce a ban on the Burka, would it just be for the Burka, or would you keep going? What about catholic Priests or Nuns, what about folks wearing a large cross (with or without the little man attached to it), and what about groups of Hassidim with ringtailed hair and large black hats, where would you draw the line and how do you decide what is and is not appropriate? Do we then create a new police department specifically for religious fashion?

The only conclusion I can come to regarding all this is to suggest that we simply deploy the golden rule and treat others in exactly the same manner that we would wish to be treated. Since I have no wish to have anybody legally dictate how I should dress,I’d like to suggest that we also should not dictate how others should dress, no matter how wacky or insane they are.

One of the most basic human rights is “Freedom of Thought”, and so respecting that implies that folks should be free to believe whatever they wish, no matter how utterly irrational it is. If that means tolerating folks dressing up in religious uniforms, then so be it.

However …

One of the other most basic of human rights is “Freedom of Speech”, so they in turn need to understand that if they do indeed choose to dress weirdly then we will be free to mock, ridicule, and laugh at such nonsense. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting you confront complete strangers to criticize the way they dress, because this is once again a context where the golden rule comes into play. Would you tolerate nutters coming up to you telling you that your colour combination was wacky. No instead I’m suggesting it happens within an appropriate context.

I suspect when faced with mockery and satire in blogs, articles , plays, books and movies, they will play the perscution card and demand “respect”, well they don’t get to go there because that would be a gross breach of our freedom of speech.

That basically is where I think we (the more rational) should draw the line, but am I wrong, what do you think? (Hint: drop a comment)

1 thought on “Religious Uniforms”

  1. I’m just back from a trip, otherwise I would have commented sooner. Firstly, I agree entirely with what you say here, and think that the French have made a big mistake which could well backfire on them.

    Secondly, is that photograph for real? It can only be a joke: “Here’s a holiday snapshot of Fatima and the kids in front of whatever”.

    I think that there is a practical problem with burkas and modern security. Do we need signs at the door of the bank saying “please remove your crash helmet and veil before entering”? Does that then become discrimination? I don’t hear the bikers complaining.

    Finally, thank you for an always interesting blog. I’m sorry you’re not yet getting the recognition you deserve, and I would rank your articles alongside PZ’s, for what it’s worth. Keep at it, and it will build up a momentum.


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