Another perspective of France’s intentions regarding the Burqa and the Burkini

The below article is another perspective of France’s intentions regarding the Burqa and the Burkini. It is not arguing right or wrong but attempts to explain the French perspective. Only you the reader can decide whether the French perspective is moral or not.

This goes back to the philosophical issue of the tolerance of intolerance, or more broadly of whether objective moral truths exist or not. Western democracies, such as France, have self-determined that there are objective moral truths in the universe, of which include concepts of non-intervention (on the person, and when possible); of personal freedom; and of religious freedom.

The problem, however, is that western democratic philosophies don’t have room in them for unlimited freedom or tolerance. Some things may not be tolerated. This is lost on many observers of western democratic philosophy, especially the uninformed who see the Bill of Rights and incorrectly assume that the protections and tolerances they afford are unlimited (which is not the case; there are many exceptions in place, both legally and ethically, concerning the rights laid out in that particular document). As an example relating specifically to religious tolerance, even a “deeply held” religious belief in the spiritual power of snake handling is not protected in the States because of the great risk untrained professionals have, both towards themselves and others, of injury when handling snakes.

The question always remains: when discussing tolerance, where is the (inevitable) line in the sand going to be drawn between acts / ideas which can reasonably be tolerated and those which are so harmful that they cannot be tolerated in good conscience? This line is different by country, society, and person. For America, generally speaking, we take a consequentialist approach: what are the (expected or probable) consequences of something? If good, then allow it; if bad, then ban it. For France, however, this line is drawn at intention. If an act or idea is intended to infringe on other rights or the intention is to cause harm, then France is not morally obligated to tolerate it, by their estimation.

This is how they can justify the bans on headscarves and “burquinis” without internal inconsistency: the intention of these particular pieces of clothing are to control and subjugate women, at the time of the ban. Even if in consequence a particular woman isn’t being subjugated, that doesn’t mean that the purpose of the clothing, in a broad sense, is not to subjugate and / or control. This has a reinforcing effect; a woman who is raised to believe that they are lesser or property / chattel of men will see other women wearing clothing designed to subjugate and will fall further prey to abuse. In this way, the “religious liberty” argument of Muslims / Islamists loses out to the more primary issue of general human rights and personal freedom; the French afford no room in their concept of “religious liberty” to subjugate others, and said subjugation forfeits religious liberty.

This does have a secondary effect of being a practical legislation on women’s clothing, essentially doing what Islamists are doing: taking control away from women. However, remember that for France, the issue is intention. In the case of the French government, their intention is to increase freedom in a general sense: yes, women cannot wear 2 particular pieces of clothing and perhaps cannot go swimming when before they could, but what they gain in return is political and social power; self-respect; responsibility; and freedom from the control of men. To the French, this is an attractive trade-off.

In addition, the “cost” of a woman losing the ability to swim is not a true loss of freedom, to the French. Her “freedom” to swim was merely a luxury afforded to her by the men in her life (and thus subject to their whims; a Muslim man who would refuse a Muslim woman the right to swim sans-burkini would have no qualms of rescinding her privilege to even leave the house, traditional clothing or not). It was a false illusion of freedom. In this way, the French ban has tinges of second-wave feminist bra burning rallies; in the same way that second wave feminists rejected traditional methods of attaining beauty as methods women were, in a sense, “brainwashed” into accepting, and violently rejecting those methods, the French argue that burqa, hijab, headscarves, and “burquinis” (well-intentioned though the last may be) are only accepted by their wearers in current cultural terms through brainwashing and subjugation. This requires active rejection to reverse.

So, while at first glance this may seem counter-productive, to the French, when working from the operative assumption of intentionality, this is not counter to their goals at all. The ban on clothing may be paternalistic, yes, but that’s something they accept for their broader goals. The French want Muslim women to see this ban, recognize that their true plight is not with the French government but with the restrictive tenants of fundamentalist Islam, and either reform or reject their religion. If a day comes where these items of clothing no longer are burdened by the connotations that fundamentalist Islam foists upon them, the ban can be re-evaluated and lifted.


  • jimknowsall

    Nicely argued piece. Thanks.

  • Seriously?

    A nice argument, but an explanation I think has been constructed post-fact. I think the bans are much simpler in origin.

    Many in France are scared of the advance of Islam in their country and the changes that may bring. Rightly so. Add to that, the terrorism France is enduring, inflicted in the name of Islam. It quite fairly elevates those fears.

    The bans are an understandable reaction to the threats Islam poses to the French way of life. The burka is an outward manifestation of the religion, and a doable target.

    If Islam did not seek to alter the laws of countries in which it gains strength, I doubt there would be a ban. But it does. If there was no terrorism in the name of Islam the reaction might be more subtle than such bans. But there is.

  • Duchess of Pork

    So the French are starting with the low-hanging fruit? Very well but consistency dictates they must also ban the off-beach version of the burkini viz the ankle length long flowing pant, tunic top and headscarf seen on every French street and which also has the same goal of ensuring the Muslim woman’s modesty. And what are the higher goals. Again to ensure consistency with the view expressed in the article they would need to ban the Qur’an, all mosques and imams which preach from the text.

    • Shalice

      I agree. The French seem to be battling a mere symptom of Islamisation that will do nothing to the actual problem. No one has the guts to ban Islam so they just go for an easier target.

      • Duchess of Pork

        If a battle can’t be won, don’t fight it. The French will learn they should look to Sun Tzu instead of Rousseau. The burqa is another matter entirely.

  • Superman

    The French have always been a little different to other peoples both in lifestyle and in philosophy. That’s what makes them French. If you choose to live in France you should fit in with their way of life and not expect them to change to accommodate your philosophy. This applies to all immigrants to any country. Unfortunately Islam doesn’t allow accommodation to others and that’s why Muslims should only emigrate to other Muslim countries. Before anyone calls this a racist attitude remember that neither Islam nor Muslims are a race, just as Christianity and Christians and Budaism and Budaists etc are not races.

  • iera

    Yesterday, under the post WHILE TERRORISTS TEACH THEIR CHILDREN HOW TO KILL, FRANCE TEACHES THEIRS HOW TO HIDE, I tried to comment but accidently embedded a movie instead of just a link to it, so asked for the whole mess to be deleted, which the Moderators kindly did.

    However the information (YouTube: “The Most Disturbing Video on the Islamic Invasion of Europe You’ll Ever See” 2 minutes from Start) still applies to this topic, again French – that the present birth rate of the French themselves is 1.8 children per Frenchwoman, while the Muslim birthrate in France is 8.1 per family. By 2027, 1 in 5 Frenchmen will be Muslim, and in 39 years France will be a Islamic Republic.

    The question perhaps is: How will not being able to wear two particular pieces of clothing and perhaps not go swimming, effect the Muslim birthrate?

  • PsychoKea

    It is interesting that the French get all excited about a clothing ban but still allow the likes of the festering sore that is the Calais illegal immigrant camp to remain, not sure their priorities are particularly correct, I suppose one is relatively easy and the other requires a degree of intestinal fortitude. As long as the Burkini wearers aren’t asking for a section of beach to be allocated to their needs or passing judgement on other beach goers I don’t really see an issue

  • RG52

    The Burkini issue shows how primitive and ridiculous Islam is (Muslims are). Koran 33.59 states;
    “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful”.

    The intent of this passage in clear, it is to avoid abuse or molestation, depending on the translation used. In a modern Western society with Judeo/Christian values people tend to have higher morals than they did in the 7th century, and failing that, Western societies have a long history of civil law. The upshot is that women in Western societies do not need to cover themselves with their garments so they will not be abused, so wearing a burkini to the beach is clearly a religious statement, akin to yelling Allahu Akbar before committing bodily harm upon the unbelievers, and as such it should be banned.

    But the other side of the coin is that it does give the unbelievers a jolly good laugh to see somebody wearing something so silly to the beach!

    • Andinz

      Hard to find places other than a bathing beach where the dress codes are so starkly different. A moment of thought would also see the difference between freedom and slavery in their codes of life.
      On many beaches especially in NZ the burkini would be a danger to safe swimming.
      I read also that cloak-clad women become subject to rickets.
      Why do not the Islamic women revolt? Is there fear of being beaten or worse?
      Have a thought to the increasing signs (in UK) of “moderate” Islamic women covering up in order to conform. I found a different version of 33.59:
      “O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. This is better so that they will be recognized and not molested. God is Forgiver, Merciful.”

  • 10cents

    I think what is going to happen is that we will eventually see a blanket ban on all religious clothing or external show of religious belief. There is a strong anti-islam feeling brewing in Europe, but the tolerance of the Western world will not allow us to apply this to Islam without also applying it to ourselves, despite the fact that it is islam that is doing the murdering and killing and not other religions.

    Or, perhaps the western world can re-categorise Islam for what it really is, which is a political ideology rather than a simple religion. Then it may be possible to judge it differently to religious beliefs. Either way, change is coming.

    • RG52

      Perhaps if Islam is classified as the violent totalitarian ideology that it has proven to be over the last 14 centuries, then it could join with that other violent totalitarian ideology and have all symbolism banned as is the case in Germany with the Swastika etc. This would mean banning the burka, minarets, and any other Islamic symbols, but still allow the nuns to keep their silly hats, and the churches keep their bells.