After the ban on burkinis in Cannes, the issue of Muslim women covering their faces has become the focal point of discussion recently. Is it right to cover your face and your whole body for the sake of religion and are European governments right in their assumption that banning full-face veils and burkinis is the way to “liberate” Muslim women? I have the feeling that this topic is so sensitive that any attempt to scrutinize it made end up tragically.
Ever since France became the arena of frequent terrorist attacks, the French government has been trying to figure out a way to increase the security of its citizens and to prevent any future disasters. But we should ask ourselves whether banning the traditional veil is the right way to manage the situation, especially now when other European countries like Germany consider banning full-face veils as well.
Sara Silvestri, a professor at City University London argues that “the effect of these laws is that Muslims feel marginalized and in turn, the feeling of being unwelcome impacts their ability and willingness to integrate into society, can cause withdrawal and lead to engagement with radical groups”. What this means is that such measures, which have a purely cosmetic effect and do not tackle the real problem, may result in the further encapsulation of Muslim communities and may even contribute for their radicalization. And while Christian Europeans support the idea that wearing burkas is oppressive and disparages Muslim women, it is also true that such a ban is also a measure, directed against these same Muslim women that we are trying to liberate. This ban will not affect the majority of the Muslim men and will definitely not help the fight against terrorism.
But if that’s not the proper way to address the problem, then what is? Muslims who have been living in Europe for decades refuse to be integrated and remain fairly isolated within their religious and ethnic communities. Attempts for social and cultural integration are still being perceived as a frontal attack against their religious beliefs. This together with the influx of refugees, the majority of which are Muslim, creates a tense situation, which is bound to escalate at some point. However, there is still no consensus on what actions need to be taken in order to facilitate proper integration without raising concerns over discrimination or assimilation of Muslims.