Belgium's banning the burqa- (the full face covering). The first European country to do so- when they do it- some time this month. The law won't allow anyone to cover their face in public so that would also include the niqab (allows the eyes to be seen) in the ban.
France wants to push for a law that would ban the burqa as well, expanding the 2004 law that banned headscarves in state schools. Other countries such as Britain, the Netherlands, and many German states are also facing the debate in whether or not to expand their ban on headscarves in schools- to burqas in public places. And of course there was Switzerland last year banning mosques from building minarets.
But the thing that makes the Belgium ban different from the headscarf bans in other EU countries is that, it has the support- albeit cautious, of the Muslim community there.
Belgian Muslim: "It is wrong to say the burqa is part of Islam. The vast majority of Muslims do not wear it. And it's not a bad idea to give a signal that we need some rules to live together."
Another Belgian Muslim: "I don't like the burqa. Every person should be visible. In most cases, it is not a religious act, but a macho one...But I wonder if we need a law on it. If we do this, we could make it a symbol and reinforce extremists on all sides. And in the middle of this economic crisis, where everyone is concerned about their job, this is not the number one problem."
Belgian non-Muslim: "The Muslim community is not yet well-integrated in Belgium. The difference between them and us is still there. This law draws a line, saying we in western European democracies accept Muslim beliefs, but in order to live together and even communicate - we have to be seen."
This makes for an interesting conundrum. As a Muslim and as a female, I have thoughts on this- obviously. But does it matter what I think when the Muslims in said country are accepting of this? There is no doubt in my mind that when this law passes, there will be HUGE backlashes across the world from offended and outraged Muslims, but I don't live in Belgium and the closest thing I know about Belgium are their deliciously scrumptious waffles. So who am I to say that this law steps on the toes of Belgian women's rights to wear what they want? Even though that is kind of my first reaction. I don't know. It's complicated to say the least. When Denmark published those cartoons, it only turned into a big deal when Muslims outside of Denmark made it a big deal. Yeah of course there were Muslims in Denmark that were offended and angry, but the majority of people were like, oh.
Sometimes I think in trying to assert freedom and "democratizing" countries- we take away their right to feel and express the way they want to. I mean why can't we live in a world where we have countries and places that express their values in different ways- why does there only have to be one way? If the people are happy what right do I have to say- no, you would be happier this way?
Whatever thats just my mental vomit on the issue.