Burqa wars

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Burqa wars

  1. 1. An Emerging Issue for American Higher Education The Burqa Wars Kendra Dewberry Amy Wells
  2. 2. Burqa Wars: An Overview <ul><li>The increased scrutiny on the burqa and other Muslim veiling is creating a divide and stirring debates of the boundaries of religious freedom. </li></ul><ul><li>American higher education needs to be aware of this trend and take a proactive approach to begin discussions that will inform university policy-makers. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Burqa Wars: An Overview <ul><li>Currently the focus of countries such as Belgium, France, Germany and the UK </li></ul><ul><li>Turkey and Tunisia have long-standing policies and laws that ban veiling and head-coverings by civil servants and students in state education institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Saudi Arabia and Iran have long been under scrutiny for their strict rules regarding veiling, though in these cases they require women to cover their heads </li></ul><ul><li>Afghanistan has been a focus of the media’s attention since 9/11 because of the widespread use of the burqa </li></ul>
  4. 4. Burqa Wars: An Overview <ul><li>In the 1970s and 1980s, as political Islam gained ground, many covered up as a sign of growing piety and conservatism </li></ul><ul><li>In Egypt, which does not require head-covering, many women wear the hijab as a fashion </li></ul><ul><li>Intensified by increased numbers of younger adults joining conservative Islam faiths </li></ul><ul><li>The conquering of the public sphere with religious symbols, has become a youth issue, an identity marker </li></ul>
  5. 5. The Different Forms of Veiling
  6. 6. Controversy: Burqa and Niqab <ul><li>The most heated debates involve only the burqa and niqab. </li></ul><ul><li>Both garments render an individual unidentifiable in public. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Controversy: Enter N. America <ul><li>Canadian Muslim group urging the federal government to ban the wearing of the burqa in public </li></ul><ul><li>Oregon is considering repealing a 1923 law that bans teachers from wearing religious garb in public schools </li></ul><ul><li>In January 2010, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Services banned clothing that obscures the face after its annual review of public safety procedures </li></ul>
  8. 8. Argument for Banning Veiling <ul><li>There is a fundamental need to maintaining equality between the sexes. </li></ul><ul><li>French analysts attribute a growing “re-veiling” trend with increased activity by religious fanatics and that this trend mostly affects young women </li></ul><ul><li>French legislators refer to the 1789 Declaration of Human Rights, which states the all-over veil “puts women in a relationship of subordination to men” </li></ul>The Marginalization of Women
  9. 9. Argument for Banning Veiling <ul><li>Muslim Canadian Congress argues that it “marginalizes women” and is not a religious requirement of Islam or the Qur’an </li></ul><ul><li>French Council on Muslim Faith has stated “no Koranic text prescribes the wearing of the burqa or niqab” </li></ul><ul><li>Biggest consideration is to what extent veiling is a demonstration of beliefs or actually required by doctrine </li></ul>The Marginalization of Women
  10. 10. Argument for Veiling Freedom <ul><li>Much of the fear behind head coverings, etc. is based on stereotypes and perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>France, no more than 2,000 use a veil or burqa to cover their faces </li></ul><ul><li>Afghanistan is the only country where a sizeable amount of women wear a burqa </li></ul><ul><li>Oregon state lawmakers are working to repeal a ban on the ability of teachers to wear religious clothing in the classroom </li></ul>It’s a personal problem
  11. 11. Argument for Veiling Freedom <ul><li>Are all women who wear a head covering doing so for strictly conservative religious reasons? </li></ul>It’s a personal problem
  12. 12. Argument for Banning Veiling <ul><li>Most prevalent in France and Turkey </li></ul><ul><li>Turkey’s ban on religious symbols also applies to crucifixes and yarmulkes, proving that the government is not targeting Muslims </li></ul><ul><li>The European Court on Human Rights maintains that the intent of the ban is “to preserve the secular nature of educational institutions, and was in keeping with the government’s legitimate aims of protecting the rights and freedoms of others and maintaining public order” </li></ul>Secular Traditions and Values
  13. 13. Argument for Banning Veiling <ul><li>Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, but section two of the article clearly articulates governments’ rights to create legislation restricting religious freedoms for specific purposes: </li></ul><ul><li>Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. </li></ul>Secular Traditions and Values
  14. 14. Argument for Banning Veiling <ul><li>America was built on the principle of a separation between church and state </li></ul><ul><li>A founding father of American higher education, Thomas Jefferson wrote: </li></ul><ul><li>Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god… the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions… </li></ul><ul><li>It is the government’s role to maintain religious neutrality in government institutions – NOT to form opinions on what should or shouldn’t be allowed </li></ul>Secular Traditions and Values
  15. 15. Argument for Veiling Freedom <ul><li>Not a one size fits all situation </li></ul><ul><li>Women in the Islamic world choose to wear a head covering for a variety of reasons </li></ul><ul><li>American University in Cairo outlawed the wearing of the niqab on school property </li></ul><ul><li>An Egyptian court overturned the ban, ruling that it is a matter of personal freedom </li></ul>Cultural/Political Expression
  16. 16. Argument for Banning Veiling <ul><li>Higher education institutions have a responsibility to keep their constituents safe </li></ul><ul><li>Earlier this year two men wearing burqas robbed a post office near Paris </li></ul><ul><li>On campuses, there is an undeniable need for a person to be identifiable in public spaces </li></ul><ul><li>Banning facial veiling can be compared to banning the wearing of a ski mask in buildings </li></ul>Security Concerns
  17. 17. Argument for Banning Veiling <ul><li>The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Services’ ban was discussed with Muslim students and officials at the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission </li></ul><ul><li>This is likely the argument most relevant to individual college and university campuses that may consider a ban on veiling </li></ul>Security Concerns
  18. 18. Argument for Veiling Freedom <ul><li>The First Amendment of the Constitution </li></ul><ul><li>Countries such as Italy and France are pushing, successfully in some cases, to ban the burqa </li></ul><ul><li>Great Britain realizes the danger and inequity in doing so </li></ul>Freedom of Religion
  19. 19. Argument for Veiling Freedom <ul><li>If we ban the burqa, niqab, hijab what is next? </li></ul><ul><li>Do we ban all religious symbol and identifiers? </li></ul><ul><li>Will we make the Amish and Mennonites change they way they dress? </li></ul>Freedom of Religion
  20. 20. Burqa Wars: Conclusions <ul><li>American higher education institutions need to be prepared to take a stance, whether they are creating policy or simply enforcing legislation. </li></ul><ul><li>This issue is not waiting for decisions and reactions to be finalized in Europe. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Burqa Wars: Conclusions <ul><li>Institutions need to take a more active role in educating its faculty, staff and students on the background and beliefs behind veiling to prevent discriminatory practices in areas such as hiring and grading. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Deceived by Appearances,” Na’ema Suleiman </li></ul>
  22. 22. Burqa Wars: Conclusions <ul><li>As higher education institutions, which pride ourselves on acceptance and understanding of all populations, we cannot allow ignorance to undermine our values. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I would have trouble as a teacher not seeing a student’s facial expression so I think that saying we should not allow niqab is the right decision.” </li></ul>
  23. 23. Burqa Wars: Conclusions <ul><li>By engaging in campus education and discussion, higher education can better position themselves to welcome a growing population of women that veil and react appropriately to pressures for policy change. </li></ul><ul><li>In addition, colleges and universities need to strike a balance between valid needs to protect its constituents and maintaining nondiscriminatory practices toward any group or population. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Want to learn more? <ul><li>MTV.com </li></ul><ul><li>True Life: Resist the Power Saudi Arabi </li></ul>

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