Ban the Parka?

November 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

There is a growing sentiment in Europe and North America that governments should “ban the burqa”. Usually, what they are referring to is a ban of the niqab: a face covering used by some Islamic women.

There are certainly times at which the administration of justice or government requires that a person’s face be visually identified. For example, a recent Court of Appeal decision in Ontario notwithstanding, my view is that it is never any more right for a female witness to wear a religious face covering on the stand than it is for a biker to wear his headscarf on his face while giving testimony on the stand. Government-issued photo identification ought to make no exceptions: no face coverings, period, because the purpose of such identification is to ensure that the right person is identified properly with respect to compliance with our laws. We must ensure that we all can visually identify the faces of the government employees who serve us.

Private property extends the same rule-making powers to the property holder. Consequently, one should be free to set the terms pursuant to which any person enters onto or uses ones own private property: if I require you to wear lederhosen before stepping into the brewhouse I own, your choices are (a) wear lederhosen, or (b) stay out of my brew house.

However, there is at least one argument in favour of the ‘burqa ban’ that I find wholly indefensible: the argument that we must ban the burqa so that women can be freed of the oppression it represents or causes. Read more