Is France's Burqa Ban Racist?

France's lower house of Parliament voted yesterday to ban the wearing of veils that cover the face in public places. Aimed at the burqas worn by Muslim women, the legislation stipulates that anyone wearing a full facial veil will be fined $190—and anyone who forces a woman to wear such a veil could have to pay $38,000 and spend as much as a year in jail.

Joan Wallach Scott, a historian and social scientist at the Institute for Advanced Study (and the author of the book "Politics of the Veil") told Big Think that the end result of this ban will be "further isolation of those Muslims who want some recognition for their religious practices in France."  She said that the ban will also convince many other Muslims that there is a deep-seated hostility to them in the French population, and will only "exacerbate tensions, increase discrimination, and convince even those who seek integration into the countries in which they live and work—and are often citizens—that the deck is stacked against them."

While there may not be protests immediately, Scott says that the measures are sure to "intensify the sense of discrimination these populations feel, not only in France, but throughout Western Europe."

Scott rejects the arguments advanced by French politicians that women’s rights are being protected by the ban, and that the burqa is dangerous for national security. "French politicians have shown little interest in equality for women in general," she said, and noted that the law exempts face coverings "like ski masks and other such items which also can be used to conceal the identities of burglars and terrorists."

Essentially, Scott says, the ban is a form of racism. "There is a long history of discrimination against Muslim populations tied, in some countries like France, to histories of colonialism, and in others to 'guest worker' policies that looked upon these migrants as a source of cheap labor and ever expected to have to integrate them into the nation," she says. "Whether these countries can develop a more open accommodation, a greater tolerance for heterogeneity in their populations, is an open question."

It's no coincidence that that legislation was passed on the eve of Bastille Day, says Scott. The law is "a way of insisting on a singular version of national identity that necessarily excludes those whose beliefs and customs are 'different' from those of the dominant culture."

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

TESS telescope has found eight new planets, six supernovae

It has found several bizarre planets outside of our solar system.

NASA/Kim Shiflett
Surprising Science
  • The Kepler program closed down in August, 2018, after nine and a half years of observing the universe.
  • Picking up where it left off, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has already found eight planets, three of which scientists are very excited about, and six supernovae.
  • In many ways, TESS is already outperforming Kepler, and researchers expect it to find more than 20,000 exoplanets over its lifespan.
Keep reading Show less
Promotional photo of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones
Surprising Science
  • It's commonly thought that the suppression of female sexuality is perpetuated by either men or women.
  • In a new study, researchers used economics games to observe how both genders treat sexually-available women.
  • The results suggests that both sexes punish female promiscuity, though for different reasons and different levels of intensity.
Keep reading Show less

Wealth inequality is literally killing us. The economy should work for everyone.

This economy has us in survival mode, stressing out our bodies and minds.

Videos
  • Economic hardship is linked to physical and psychological illness, resulting in added healthcare expenses people can't afford.
  • The gig economy – think Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Handy – is marketed as a 'be your own boss' revolution, but it can be dehumanizing and dangerous; every worker is disposable.
  • The cooperative business model can help reverse wealth inequality.
Keep reading Show less