I do not find anything wrong in the French government's move to ban the burqa and the niqab in public. In a democracy, when a rule is made with a noble objective, it becomes the duty of all to follow it irrespective of caste, creed, race or religion. Any intention to attribute political or religious motives to it would be disastrous.
The burqa by any other name or form is unacceptable in a liberal, modern society which cherishes secularism and gender equality. The patriarchy- enforced attire is one of the instruments used by men to subjugate women in the name of religiosity, piety and moral obligation. The following remarks of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on the veil deserve serious attention: “As a consequence of the purdah system, a segregation of the Muslim women is brought about … Such seclusion cannot but have its deteriorating effects upon the physical constitution of Muslim women … Purdah deprives Muslim women of mental and moral nourishment … [they] become helpless, timid, and unfit for any fight in life.”
Most migrants went to France for better economic opportunities than what existed in their countries of origin. Local sentiments have to be appreciated when you move to another part of the world. How many Islamic countries can boast of giving equal rights to its minorities? The point is — everything in life is a two-way traffic. There is need for all of us to give and take.
The burqa issue has two sides to it — one aspect is to do with religious practice while the other is to do with security. France is a democratic country, and the people are entitled to liberty, equality and fraternity. Which means they can practise anything that does not harm anyone. But France also faces a threat from terrorists. A country's foremost responsibility is to its people, not religion. It cannot compromise on security for the sake of a religious practice.
People should understand the difference between an administrative decision and a religious decision. Administrative decisions are taken in the country's interest. The French government's decision to ban the burqa and the niqab in public is administrative in nature, taken for security reasons. India too should consider imposing a similar ban.
I refer to Shermin Ali's observation on the dress code of Christian nuns (Letters, July 19). When the first orders of Christian nuns were formed in Europe, they adopted the dress code of the time which was a robe covering the entire body from shoulders down. The head and neck were covered by a wimple which left only the face visible. A couple of centuries later, European dress styles began to change and by the Renaissance period, the wimple was out of fashion. The monastic orders, however, continued with the dress they had first adopted.
The newer orders of Christian nuns have discarded the wimple and adopted dresses with shorter skirts and sleeves or the clothing of the region. Many Indian orders have adopted the sari. As all of us know, Mother Teresa's Little Sisters of the Poor wear a sari and cover their head in the manner of the traditional Indian woman.
The proposed ban on the burqa by the French government is more of a political statement than a religious one. It is a pre-emptive measure taken to check growing Muslim identity and culture.
To ban the burqa in public places and argue that Muslim women can wear it at home as religion is a private matter is indeed amusing. Women are more vulnerable in public than in the comfort of their homes.
What is the need for them to wear the burqa at home? For a woman, there is no place that is as secure as her home.