On Burqa Bans

Should Western societies ban the burqa? A number already have (such as Denmark, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France), and a number of others continue to debate this issue. There are legitimate concerns about the burqa, so such debates are well worth having. See more on this in my two earlier pieces on this topic:



I address this issue again because a good friend recently posted on this, arguing against any such bans. While it has been up for a while now, I only just recently came upon it, so I thought I would add my two cents worth here. As mentioned, the fellow in question is someone I know (at least in cyberspace) and greatly respect.

He is a fellow Christian and conservative, and this may be the first time I have differed with him on something. So I enter this discussion not as an antagonist but as a friend, and one who appreciates all that this fellow has to say. Let me offer here his short social media post, “I reject banning the burqa in Australia for the following reasons”. He writes:

1. It allows the state to intrude into people’s religious lives not with the justification of preventing direct harm to others, but simply because it’s deemed by the state to be ‘oppressive’. Think about it, if we can ban the burqa simply because the state deems it to be oppressive, what else can be banned along similar lines?

2. If the claim is that women, despite what they say, are forced by their husbands/communities to wear it, then we have a case of the state entering into the sanctity of the home and family to set something straight in accordance with an abstract ideal – freedom. In this case the state ignores what the actual women who wear it are saying and just intervenes anyway. Again, dangerous stuff from the perspective of liberty.

3. What actual harm or danger is the burqa in Australia? How many Muslim women actually wear them? Personally I don’t find them very aesthetically appealing, and I do find them unaustralian (if that term even has much meaning anymore, especially in the cities) – but that doesn’t strike me as a sufficient reason for the state to get involved.

4. Hands up all Christians who’ll stop wearing their Crucifixes just because the state says so. Didn’t think so.

In summary, in this age where there are more people than ever who seek to take the reigns of the state to oppress (conservative) religionists, the worst thing we can do is to license the state with more powers to interfere in people’s religious lives in accordance with abstract principles.

Banning the burqa strikes me as a fairly pointless exercise that will cause more harm than good. Better to seriously consider justifications for culture-sensitive immigration policies so that over time the number of burqas we see won’t increase. I admit that my idea is also fraught with potential risks, but I’m not sure that there’s an approach to the problem of cultural integration that isn’t.

In response, I see where he is coming from, and I am somewhat sympathetic to his position. However, it seems a major issue here is, where does one identify oneself along the political spectrum? If you are more of a keen libertarian, his piece may well appear sensible indeed. If you are more of a conservative, there may well be problems with it.

And there are some real differences between the two positions. For the record, I am not a libertarian, and I have written often as to why that is the case. See here for example: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2011/12/27/conservatism-libertarianism-and-christianity/

It seems his main concerns are about government intrusion – something libertarians always seem to detest, and something conservatives normally detest, but within limits. But let me look at each point and offer a few replies.

1. Of course the state already is intruding into our lives – religious or otherwise. Simply for a state to exist will mean some intrusions will occur. The real question is, which of these intrusions are warranted and justifiable. And why speak only about the state deeming it necessary to get involved here because it is oppressive? Many folks have major concerns about burqas. Surely their concerns count for something as well here.

2. The argument here is again more or less libertarian in nature. There are plenty of instances where it is a good thing indeed when we have “the state entering into the sanctity of the home”. When murder occurs there, or rape, or incest, I sure hope the state intervenes. And of course one could argue that it is the libertarians who are the ones who have an inordinate fixation on “an abstract ideal – freedom”. Our concerns about the burqa are not really abstract at all, but rather concrete.

3. The issue is not how many women wear them. Even if the numbers were quite low, we still need to look at the reasons why people have concerns about them. So yes, we do need to ask if there are harms to wearing burqas. Two main harms seem to arise here: One, the harm to the women themselves, who are treated in such a manner. It really is a type of second-class citizenship.

If one chooses to do this, that is one thing. But it seems most are being forced to wear it. Second, there are legitimate security concerns that also can arise here with head to feet covering: criminal and terrorist activities can and have occurred with folks hidden under such garb.

4. Generally speaking, a law should apply to all groups of people equally. But not always. We usually never allow convicted paedophiles to get work as school teachers involving young children. But most other folks are NOT banned from such jobs – although background checks may be run on all folks seeking to get such jobs today.

So the issue here may have more to do with whether there is a moral equivalence between Muslim women wearing a burqa, and Christian men and women wearing a cross. I think most people realise that wearing a cross is not in any way oppressive nor mandatory. But as mentioned above, wearing a burqa does seem to be both for most Muslim women.

In sum, I fully agree that we have far too much government intrusion in our lives. But some of it can be necessary. And when we have a decidedly undemocratic and dangerous political ideology such as Islam, then we have even more reason to walk carefully here, and not just allow open slather for every religious practice that comes along.

We already do ban some dodgy religious practices, eg, suttee, honour killings, etc. Those restrictions do not mean the end of freedom as we know it, but are some prudent steps taken for the common good. So the issue is not whether we allow some state intervention in some areas – we already do, and for good reasons.

The issue is how far we go in all this. I admit that the issues can get rather complex and nuanced. As I said in the second article I link to above, written back in 2007:

As no nation can long survive without a set of commonly-agreed to values and ideals, and without some social cohesion, the problem of opening one’s doors to foreigners while maintaining some kind of national soul or identity is a difficult one.

When France several years ago decided to ban religious symbols and clothing in its schools, there was a mixed reaction. Fred Nile in Australia, for example, thought it was a good thing, forcing Muslims to declare their real allegiances, and so on.

While I concurred with this line of thinking to an extent, I also had my concerns. The truth is, an attack on one religion by a secular state is also an attack on all religions. Thus it is not just Muslim headgear for example that is outlawed in French schools, but Christian crosses as well. Thus the problem is complex and multifaceted.

But certain points can be made. Some groups have managed to maintain their unique identity while living peacefully in a host culture. But quite often, Muslims living in the West have had some difficulties settling in….

So it can be seen that I have shared some of my friend’s concerns for quite some time now. But I am also not willing to let an unbridled libertarianism on my part cloud my vision as to what a very real threat political Islam is to the West. If the survival of Western freedoms and democracy are further enhanced by restricting the wearing of the burqa, that might be something worth considering.

As I concluded the first article I link to above, penned in 2014:

A democracy must always balance the rights of the majority with those of the minority. Generally speaking, individuals should be able to dress as they please, within reason. But societies have every right to expect that those coming from foreign lands offer a degree of agreement with its core beliefs and values, including the full political and social equality of women.

All things considered, I cannot offer a blanket ‘no’ to a burqa ban at this point. But how we proceed here certainly requires further careful thought and attention.

[1559 words]

25 Replies to “On Burqa Bans”

  1. Greetings Bill, I so agree with you on what you stated. Also concerned that if a Muslim woman commits a crime and high tails it down the road how would authorities know her description? I know this is opening a can of worms but we have enough robbing of our western culture. A cross is a lot smaller than a burca.

    Thanks again for your words of wisdom and your WARNINGS to us. England was once a country filled with beautiful cathedrals that honored Jesus Christ. Now many of them — maybe 50% have been taken over by mosques. We also have some churches inviting Imams to read from the Koran. Lord Jesus forgive us — we know not the evil we’re entertaining.

  2. I totally agree with you that they should be banned especially for security reasons. Just like helmets, balaclavas are in banks. There is absolutely no comparison with a cross worn around the neck and a burqa.

  3. Rather than a burqua ban, the State should ban anything that masks facial identity in public, unless mandated for safety purposes such as when actually riding a motor cycle.

    We should not legislate re “religious” clothing, but instead legislate re wantonly obscuring facial identity. Similarly, we should not seek legislation re “Religious Freedom”. Religious Freedom laws risk being misused to attack people with different views. Rather we should seek constitutional or legislative protection for Freedom of Speech, Conscience and Assembly: it is those freedoms that are fundamental to all freedom – including freedom of religion.

  4. Bill, I think your friend’s arguments are well thought out and reasonable, if the presupposition was that the burqua is worn for “religious” reasons. According to some Muslims, it is not a religious requirement for women to wear it, but more of a political statement, a rather arrogant one, that Muslims are separate from, and superior to, the western society in which they live. Of course, there is also the fact that it is a symbol of the inferiority of women, and their forced subjugation. The security risk is also well proven, the least being the ease with which shop-lifted items can be hidden under the burqua, and the fear of “racist” name-calling if the shop-owner dares to accuse.
    I think there are very good reasons to ban the burqua, but first it must be established that it is NOT a religious requirement, but a political statement, and completely at odds with Australian law, traditions and values.

  5. Good afternoon Bill, topical subject well dealt with. I believe the last part of the last sentence Jan Grieg wrote sums it up:
    ‘completely at odds with Australian laws traditions and values’. Ban the burqa.
    Cheers Mark Bryant

  6. The truth is, an attack on one religion by a secular state is also an attack on all religions.

    That’s only if all religions are equal.

    The Bible says all religions aren’t equal. Either Jesus is right when He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” or He’s not.

    It might be trendy to agree with the non-Christian and Christian Lite world that “all religions are equal” but Paul warned us against exactly this kind of “hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition”:

    “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” [Colossians 2:8]

  7. Thanks Michael. Of course I nowhere said anything about “all religions are equal.” The issue is, in a secular society, there are important questions about how to grant religious freedom to all – within limits – while recognising that some religions are more compatible with freedom, democracy and pluralism than others. Some folks may not like it, but Australia is not a theocracy, so like most Western nations, it seeks to balance competing rights, including differing cultural and religious traditions. This discussion is NOT about whether Christianity is the one true religion. I happen to think it is the one true religion, but that is an altogether different discussion, and not what these articles are about.

    The point here is how secular democracies can accommodate religious beliefs and practices, while maintaining basic freedoms for all. Those are very important matters which believers need to carefully and prayerfully think through. And that has nothing to do with being taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy. One might as well claim that Jesus was taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy when he spoke about things like rendering to Caesar what is his, and to God what is his.

  8. Let’s get our terms clear, first. The Muslim headscarf is a hijab, and the face veil a niqab, while the burqa is a veil which covers the whole face, with just a grill for the eyes. The all-enveloping black robe is an abaya in Arabic, and chador in Persian.
    I adopt the same view as Daniel Pipes: Muslims should not be persecuted, but we will not change our customs and laws for them. I think this is only fair. After all, they or their parents came to this country in order to make a better life for themselves, even though they knew it did not operate according to shari’a. Now they must take the bitter with the sweet.
    Since Australian women occasionally wear a head scarf, the hijab should not be banned. However, it is perfectly acceptable for businesses to reject it in their dress code. (Anti-discrimination laws which prevent this should be removed.) Also, it should be absolutely forbidden in schools. Girls must be educated according to our standards of freedom. As for the veil or burqa, I don’t wish to ban it (yet), but there are certain circumstances when we must accept that the face be shown. And, of course, I suggest that no woman be allowed to enter the country wearing one. That would tend to restrict its use among immigrants.

  9. Malcolm’s differentiation between the various forms of “covering” for women in Islamic tradition is a matter worth further consideration: There is, apparently, no universally accepted Islamic dress code for women who have to work or move about in the presence of men other than their fathers, husbands, sons or brothers and first cousins.

    I note that certain varieties of Orthodox Judaism deem it improper that the hair of the married woman’s head be seen by anyone other than her husband – this stricture doesn’t prevent women from some of these branches of Judaism appearing in public with their natural hair covered by a wig, instead of the expected head-scarf…

    There can be two ways of the objectification of the bodies of women of childbearing age: One is to so cover those bodies that the underlying assumption is that men would otherwise find their allure irresistible; i.e. that men are incapable of self-control when it comes to members of the fairer sex who are not their own close relatives. The second form of objectification of the nubile female human form is the all-too-prevalent Western fashion designer’s philosophy that that clothing is meant to exhibit the human body rather than cover and protect.

    Perhaps we need to start again with a re-examination of the Biblical account in Genesis chapter 3 of the origins and meaning of human clothing…

  10. Thanks Malcolm S. and John W. Yes there are various types of Islamic coverings, but my piece of course was talking ONLY about the burqa. And given that others elsewhere have raised the issue of how women may have covered themselves in the OT, and various NT passages about proper dress, etc., let me make a few quick comments.
    -Generally speaking, in most of those cultures back then – and in many still today – it was the norm for women to be clothed modestly.
    -Some claim that the wives of the Patriarchs were covered for example. Um no, the Bible nowhere teaches that. It does on occasion speak of a veil, as in Genesis 24:65. BUT, it was only a face covering (not an entire body covering), it was only a temporary veil for brides before the wedding (not for all times), and it was again related to customs of modesty (not treating a woman as a second-class citizen). See for example Song of Solomon, 4:1, 3; 6:7.
    -And things can get even more complex, with various other types of clothing worn for different occasions, including widow’s clothing. Moreover, prostitutes wore face coverings at times. We find instances of both in Genesis 38:13-16 for example.
    -For helpful insights and background information on historical, social and cultural practices in biblical times, most good Bible handbooks, dictionaries and/or commentaries will discuss such matters.
    -And even in NT times we expect to see passages about modest dress for women – and men too. Christians today should still dress modestly.
    -All of this has NOTHING to do with the oppressive burqa and what it represents.

  11. Hmm, the burka is unacceptable since in our culture we have face to face discussion and someone’s identity is held within their face. That’s what we operate under. In our public places, it’s like a garden pretty girls catch the eye of the boy’s wives are arm in arm with their husbands there is a vibrant population all contributing to the interest. That is basically any western town. it’s important that is maintained since I need to be able to walk around looking pretty without a man thinking I am somehow rapable since I do not cover myself head to toe.

    At the moment Muslim boys consider us western girls sluts (am I allowed to say, slut, MR M?) if we dress differently than Muslim girls.

    If the burka identifies me as something I am not and that puts me in danger simply by not wearing it, it needs to be outlawed. it isn’t just the issue of a woman’s right to dress as she wants, its got to do with assimilating into the culture. If I went to live in Saudi Arabia I may very well have to wear the burka so I assimilate into their culture. I should not be expected to assimilate into someone else’s culture in my own country, if for no other reason than if we want multi-culture, then my culture is one of the multi!

  12. Yes, the current unacceptable treatment of minorities in Pakistan must be confronted.

    Yes, but what can I do?

    Here is a possible place to start:
    The High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
    4 Perth Ave, Yarralumla ACT 2600
    Phone: 02 6273 1114

  13. I’ve been mulling over my comment for 24 hours, because it really is a vexed and complicated issue. When I read Peter Newland’s 2:48pm comment just now, I found it voicing what I was concerned about, and part of the solution.

    Yes, ban the burqa, but not for religious reasons; if we can help it.

    The whole issue of religious freedom will never be successfully put into law and also yield the results we really want. What do we want? We want to live peacefully and to be able to preach the gospel. Some will immediately say that that is impossible to have both. What those “some” want is freedom from religion.

    There seems to be two sides needing to be covered by any religious freedom legislation.

    The Ruddock Report for Australia Dec2018 seems to want to deal with exemptions. These exemptions are exemptions for certain people of certain religions to not comply with what is otherwise the law of the land, or indeed, what might become the law of the land. The exemptions need to be very clear and specific in law. This is what we are facing with current anti-discrimination laws. If it is law, then it needs to be legally defined. I don’t think there is any other way around this messyness, and certainly “good neighbourlyness” will not get us very far right now.

    The other is much more like the issues behind banning the burqa, where some people might want to do things that are uncomfortable, or unsafe, or bullying, or treasonous, etc (how long is the list?). There is no current legislation about these, but they disturb the peace, and the amenity of our society is threatened. Some of these things may and should be regarded as traitorous, and or a deliberate invasion even. Such things need laws so that they can be removed from our society. Many of those things are couched in the religious understand and faith of some. The wisdom here may be to bring in laws that target an unacceptable behaviour, without referring to any particular religion. Then there is the huge task of deciding to what extent some behaviour is or is not acceptable.


  14. Dear Sarah,

    At the moment Muslim boys consider us western girls sluts (am I allowed to say, slut, MR M?) if we dress differently than Muslim girls.

    I don’t like to agree with Muslims but I have to say what Australian women and girls (maybe not you Sarah) wear these days outside the home is a disgrace. Even some so called “Christian” women and girls. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, don’t complain if people call it a duck.

    As Melanie Pritchard says:

    “I meet many parents who have allowed their daughters to wear spaghetti-straps, tube tops, leggings as pants, two-piece swim suits, and other clothing when they were young when their figures hadn’t emerged, only to find out there comes a time when they become extremely uncomfortable with their beautiful, womanly, innocent, teenage daughters wearing them in public. Fathers are by far the ones who cringe the most when they speak to me. They know teen-age boys. Every father was a teenage boy once. They cringe at the way their daughters are dressing, but the fight is so big, they often back down and let their girls wear what they want.”

  15. I suggest that instead of trying to ban the burka, or any other Muslim apparel (or practice), we try to make it optional – put the element of choice, fundamental to Western societies, back into the issue. The way to do that is to doubly punish honour killings. An honour killing (or mutilation) perpertrated in a Western country is not only an attack on the individual, but is also an attack on the society. So why not add a lengthy addition to any sentence upon conviction? Maybe even double it, along with doubling the parole period? This should give prospective perpetrators significant pause for reflection, and encourage Muslim women to make the best use of Australia’s secular soceity.

  16. Dear Mr Taouk, You should not agree with that Muslim boy since we do not judge by appearance but by the content of the character. Those Christian girls who you called sluts could have been acting outside of wisdom and their claimed own standards but that does not make them sluts but just girls caught up in the abundance of freedom. The reality was if they were not seen by men or seen by men who thought, silly little girls, that would have done no harm at all. the harm they did at the end of the day was to men’s eyes, and they did so for what was in men’s hearts, but we do not judge by the heart since its deceitful beyond all things and maybe your heart deceived you into thinking those girls were sluts perhaps.

    And in the context of my post, that Muslim boy was communicating with me while I was in my school uniform, and he knows very well I am a Christian girl and the way I dress is subject to my dad’s standards.
    he also knows I have to bring honour to my dad’s name where I can and I am only borrowing my dad’s name until my husband gives me my own.

    He is fully aware that I am held in a framework of morality that has been laid out for me and he may challenge me on any failure to uphold anything in that framework, but he can’t impose his framework on me since he is a guest in my homeland.

    As regards Melanie Pritchard’s comments. Yes, of course, the father in that comment is regretting his failure in his daughter’s upbringing, it seems to me she was perfectly “honourable” she was just doing what mum and dad had taught her. I do not know if you had noticed but dad failed his daughter when she was preteen then she got to teen and he realised his failure what did he do? grit his teeth and continued the failure at her cost.

    My Mum taught me that we (females) can dress one of two ways.
    1. Seductively.
    2. Pretty.

    Both get the attention of men. 1 must never be used on anyone who is not your husband since if you do he will never become your husband. 2 is what the wise and sensible girls use to get the opportunity to sell their characters to someone, who if you look deeply into his eyes, you can just make out a husband in their.

    My Dad has a different take on 2,

    2 is what the wise and sensible girls use to get the opportunity to sell their characters to someone who is on the end of a fishing line, who if you look deeply into his eyes he surrenders to you completely. This made me giggle.

  17. >>Mr Ritchard,
    I think what you say Sir would appear to have a double standard to a Muslim as it appears that way to me as a western girl.

    First, my issue with the Burka.

    The Burqa is problematic in the sense that for many Muslim men its a symbol that the women wearing it are an untouchable class. Which you may say that is fine, so what? The problem at least in my location is that those not wearing the burqa are by the standards of those wearing the burka and those demanding the wearing of the burka are plainly behaving immorally or advertising themselves as sexual objects to be used, that would be any girl not part of the “protected” Muslim political system (note I didn’t use faith.) You must understand that you have been brought up in a society where it would be shameful to sexually assault a teen girl, irrespective how she was dressed, that is not the case in all cultures sir. The measure of a girls untouchability isn’t related to her dress, but to her value as an image bearer of God. If you are secular atheistic, try inventing some secular moral demand on a Muslim man. Best of luck with that, they already have laws for everything, and you will obey them.

    In your opening comment, you say make it a choice. I’m sure there are women who chose to wear the burqa. I’m sure if the burka was banned tomorrow there would be an outcry from Muslim women . . . who couldn’t wait to bin the burqa? I’m sure there are many Muslim women who want to be obedient and loyal to their husbands who arrived in the west hoping to leave behind aspects of their culture that was not part of their religion, the burqa being one.

    If you think it important that they keep their traditions, such as the Burqa, then I see no reason why by the same token they do not keep their other traditions, one being honour killings. it is, after all only your Weston mindset that the burka isn’t as important as killing the unhonorable one.

    You need to see the connection of the burka, honour killings and the ease in which Muslim communities rape and traffic non-Muslim girls particularly Sikh girls and white western girls or put simply, anyone non-Muslim who is female. You will never hear an apology, only criticism about the criticism! you see as a westerner you are self-critical, Muslims are not. You should not fear to remove some aspect of a woman’s freedom by removing her option to wear the burka in public. What you should fear is your inability to see the burka as a political statement that is telling you sharia law has arrived and secular atheism has no defence against it, secular atheism is just the key to opening the door to a hell, that historians in years to come will wonder how a society could so quickly become so self-destructive, having lost its Christian values to secular atheism in just a matter of a few generations.

  18. Peter has a good point. They may brush off the burqa but put that way would be hard to disagree.
    We should send this to all M P s

  19. Mr Levick,
    Yes, It does seem a good solution, doesn’t it.

    It limits the pushback from Muslims (if you believe that you have no idea what you are dealing with).

    Who would want to cover their face in public anyway? Well, I can suggest a couple of reasons.

    1. Simply because I want to.
    2. If you are experiencing the early stages of a tyrannical government (hint you may be in the early stages of a tyrannical government). We certainly are in the UK. you would need to be anonymous, when taking part in demonstrations, think of how effective Antifa are with its black bloc technique, you are going to have to learn from the enemy.

    The other thing to consider is that it has nothing whatsoever to do with what you want. Do you really think the barmy liberal left won’t support their adopted children over what you a citizen of your country wants, who do you think you are, this is about multiculturalism, you did vote for population replacement didn’t you? Look, part of living in a secular atheistic society is that man is king, there is no Ray, Peter or Sarah, there is just the one who shouts the loudest. You have had it too good for too long, what with your- there are only two genders and your up is up when we have told you repeatedly, up is now down. What you fail to understand is that we have a dwindling population and that has nothing whatsoever to do with us liberal left lunatics destroying the family unit before you throw that accusation at us. No, it was due to the fact, we have been getting you to murder your potential first born, second, third and, oh, I’ve found my pills. Have you not been concentrating on what we have been doing over the last decade! We own the media now so don’t expect them to voice your concerns. Academia, yes bring us your young fertile minds and we will finish off what we started on their first day at school. Oh, and from now on could you make an appointment to see your son and daughter, after all, we do own them.

    A little tong-in-cheek, Mr Levick, but the solution isn’t more laws since they won’t be just used to solve your issue, they will be used against you. Think of a law as you taking a stick to the government handing it to them and saying- beat me if I do not do what you say. Laws need to be very limited in their reach or better, a society that has common values and traditions.

    S&k xx

  20. Banning of all face-concealing apparel in public is very simple and would have quite a few benefits.
    1. It would force Muslim women to integrate a little.
    2. It would stop Antifa thugs attacking conservative rallies anonymously
    3. It would help banks, security and government centres by not requiring special rules

    The biggest problem would be removing motor cycle helmets every time you get off the bike. But I guess they could be designed to be quicker to remove. And then there are safety face shields…

  21. If we allow governments to ban burkhas because they are oppressive, does that mean that they can also legislate against denominations that only have male pastors?

  22. A burqa makes a woman untouchable and is to be avoided. It is a sign that Muslim men and other Muslim women are watching that woman and especially non-muslims to stay far from her or they will suffer the consequences. It means you are forbidden to talk to a woman in a burqa and you have to leave the room when she comes in at once. This is also the same with the Niqab.

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