Tariq Al-Maeena’s “When in Rome” ( June 27) is a rather thought-provoking article. Though the French niqab ban has been a rather hyped topic, his stand remains on the logistic side without taking any emotional stance.
I agree with the writer that it is necessary to respect foreign cultures and beliefs in the hope that your principles will attract those who subscribe to reciprocity and the very same will be given back to you.
However, I respectfully disagree with his view that by choosing to dress a particular way you will “impose your own set of cultural norms and beliefs on the French or any other people.”
The niqab ban does not serve to uphold any French cultural ideologies rather it serves the purpose of eradication of an unconventional religious practice within national boundaries. In fact through enforcement of such a law we take away the very essence of freedom of religion which, as a matter of fact, happens to be a constitutional right in France. Even when the cultural disrespect that this law portrays is put aside and is evaluated for what it claims to serve, we can still assess that it is based on a very weak logic. Let’s quickly dispel the two main arguments deployed by those who are for the niqab ban.
(1) The fewer-than-2000 niqabis in France do not constitute a security threat. A backpack is a much better place to hide a bomb, should we ban them? Also, let’s be honest. The majority of identity theft is done by people without head coverings. To date there hasn’t been any records of impersonation by someone wearing a niqab in France. Unless you are going to count the KKK.
(2) The “secularism and women’s rights argument,” that women are forced to wear the veil. Suffice it to say that one should speak to those who wear the niqab in order to assess the value of this argument.
And that is what my stance is about: why should I agree to a law that neither protects the moral values or convictions of its people nor has a sound economic or political agenda behind it but is based solely on stripping away my identity?
This is not a cultural clash where one will be obligated to pay respect to the host country’s values and ways. This is a law conflicting with a traditional (and often religious) practice that has no legitimate harm to society whatsoever.
In my opinion, the three Saudi women from Qatar handled the situation very decently. We are obliged to obey laws not agree with them. Their decision to deport, instead of succumbing to the law, reflected not a mark of disrespect to any “cultural norm or belief of the French” but anger toward a law that stands no empirical reasoning. Why are we so bent on suppressing anger when for so many, it is the only emotion left in the face of injustice?