Muslim women may not be legally entitled to concealing their mouths in France, but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily be silenced. Relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims have recently gone through great pressure because of a new law in France that makes it illegal for people to cover their faces. Though this law doesn’t distinctively ban Muslim burqas, its purpose is unmistakable.
The burqa ban is supposed to promote women’s rights in the Muslim community of France, but it may very well do the opposite. In the words of Schema’s Rosel Kim, this ban “takes away the power of self-representation from women, and the agency for women to signify themselves.” For us Canadians, we’re able to choose what we want to wear every single day, and yet, some women in France “are put in jail for [doing] the exact same thing.” Only a small percentage of women wear the religious Islamic head veil in France, but for most of these women, this action is and should continue to be their choice – not the government’s.
The vast symbolic value of the burqa to the Muslim community and the great hostilities concerning the burqa in France make a peaceful discussion challenging for the French, but restlessness will only spread if those against and those for the burqa ban do not manage to engage in constructive conversations. By banning burqas, the French government is automatically assuming that any person who covers their face is oppressed – to the French government, head veils are no longer items of religion or culture. The government must look as this burqa controversy again, but from both sides. By doing this, the French government will hopefully be better able to find a solution to this subject.
And who knows? This burqa debate might very well convince the French government to reevaluate the situation the country is in – to overcome the boundaries between the Muslim community and the rest of France.