Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ban the niqab?

With France moving to ban the niqab in public, it has proven more difficult than was first thought. It looks more like it will be a ban on specific public premises, rather than all public spaces. However, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is now supporting the idea. No doubt knowing that in doing so, it will have the support of more than a few Conservative voters, but also tap interest from the great unwashed who see something in the BNP.

You can see women wearing the niqab regularly in London. It provokes fear in some, seeing someone completely concealed. Others see it as representing repression of women, that a woman would be required by a man to only go out in public so shrouded. It is highly likely those that wear the niqab, especially in a Western liberal democracy, and those who support women wearing them, are unlikely to be supportive of liberal capital Western society. No doubt many shopkeepers and others would prefer that people enter their property not wearing the niqab.

So is it the right response to ban it?


All shopkeepers and indeed all owners of private property should rightfully be able to set rules on what clothes people can and can't wear on their property without fear of so called "human rights" legislation deeming it "discriminatory". It isn't. If I don't want people wearing certain items of clothing on my property then it is fundamental to me exercising private property rights.

However, to criminalise those who wear the niqab in public is to say the state has the right to criminalise what anyone can wear in public. That is fundamentally contrary to having a free open liberal democratic society. To criminalise it may mean some women are effectively kept at home, which is not to their advantage. Moreso, it criminalises those some who deem to be the victims, not those who enforce this ludicrous tradition.

Freedom includes the freedom of others to offend you, it includes the right to hold silly beliefs and to wear ridiculous clothes in a public place. To surrender this is to ask the question "what next" and it is to hand to Islamists demonstrable proof to them that freedom is not to be embraced, because those who purport to believe in it will abandon it when they are offended. Like banning the vile Islam4UK, banning the niqab wont reduce the presence of Islamism in the UK.

Islamism in the UK will only be confronted when central and local government agencies stop funding or supporting any non-government bodies with a religious affiliation, but most of all when all major political parties, and the general public, stop fearing declaring their utmost support for free open liberal secular British society. Britain allows all citizens to choose whether or not they want religion and to live their lives as they see fit according to those beliefs, but by no means does it tolerate those who seek to use force to change that.

In Britain it should be clear there is a very simple deal - you have freedom to choose how you live your life, and that freedom includes a right to disseminate your point of view, but not to use or threaten force to change the views or lifestyles of others.

One of those freedoms is to wear a niqab, but it is also the freedom of others to ban you from their property if you do so, and to criticise you for doing so, and to call for others to stop wearing it.

Sadly not one of the major or even secondary political parties in Britain really does believe in a free liberal capitalist society.


ZenTiger said...

The State views public property the same as private property - except they are the owners (custodians) of the public property, and so are allowed to make the rules. It's fairly consistent with what you are advocating - the right to discriminate on arbitrary grounds the moment people enter private property.

Indeed, selling the roads to a company just so they can choose which vehicles can use their roads, which pedestrians can walk on their roads etc would supposedly solve this ethical dilemma, would it not?

Or would we need to agree there must be higher laws that rule - perhaps freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of movement?

I would be against this move for the higher laws I mention, not because the government hasn't sold off all the public assets as yet.

ZenTiger said...

Sorry, just to be clear - I don't mean you are advocating public space be sold to private investors, I'm theorizing the government sees their public land as if it were their private land.

My point becomes valid if we sell off 100% of "the commons" does it not, or would a libertarian need to redefine what "public" means to preserve basic freedoms in what people would naturally see as public spaces?

ZenTiger said...

PS: I agree that in Western Culture, it is acceptable for property owners (especially shopkeepers) to be able to ask anyone entering their establishment to remove any head covering (such as helmets, masks, hoodies and veils.

If the sign is clearly displayed, it gives people an opportunity to shop elsewhere.

Libertyscott said...

Zen: Well yes, but the state is wrong. By that measure the state can restrict all freedoms.

I would argue footpaths should be owned by adjacent landowners or body corporates for groups of them and they can then set rules regarding them. However, there would be a lot of commercial interests in not doing that.

There are many public spaces now that are privately owned, like airports, shopping malls and the like. It is likely the wide range of diverse owners of these will have different rules, which may ban people wearing or not wearing certain things. For example, nudity would be a matter for the property owner, as would clothing that offends some.

I would expect by the time this happens that people can have robust debate about what can and can't be prohibited by property owners. The first shop to prohibit people by race is likely to find life rather difficult I suspect, for example.