Why I Oppose Banning Burqas

This is not the problem.

And no, my reasoning has nothing to do with racism or any other ism!

Belgian lawmakers recently passed a bill that, if approved in their senate, would make it illegal to wear burqas in public. This comes on the heels of France’s

When justifying banning burqas or similar Islamic garments, people typically make two points–one, that burqas represent and facilitate the oppression of women, and two, that they pose a security risk.

I’ll address the oppression issue first. Some women do indeed wear burqas because they’ve been pressured into it by their culture or by specific men in their lives. But other women do it out of a genuine desire to observe their religion in that way. Some even see it as an empowering gesture. It is fundamentally unjust to oppress the latter group in the name of protecting the former.

But even if I’m being completely naive, and even if not a single Muslim woman willingly chooses to wear a burqa, I conveniently have a second argument. For those women who are being oppressed by the burqa, would banning it really help? The obvious answer, I should hope, is no. In this case, banning the burqa is the legal equivalent of slapping a band-aid over a knife wound–and of treating the symptoms rather than the disease. The disease being, of course, large-scale societal oppression of women. Not something that can be fixed with a single magical law. To use an analogy that’s even closer to my personal experience, banning burqas to promote feminism is like banning suicide to promote mental health.

Not only would banning it not help, but it would probably backfire. If these women’s husbands or fathers are pressuring them into wearing the burqa, they would probably keep right on doing it despite the new law, thus placing these women in a prime position for facing charges, jail time, or plain ol’ harassment by the police. After all, they would be the ones paying the price for breaking the law, not men.

As for the whole security issue, I don’t have too much to say about that because I’m honestly not an expert on the subject, but I’ll say this–Israel has no burqa ban, or any sort of ban on Islamic head coverings, and yet has an incredible security force that manages to stop virtually all potential terrorists within the country’s borders. They don’t release these statistics to the public, but all the time in the Jerusalem Post, you see another story about security guards catching a would-be terrorist. Maybe the security authorities in these European countries should have a big pow-wow with Israeli ones and see what they’ve been missing.

I think it’s very tempting for people (and governments) to believe that issues like the oppression of women by organized religion can be fixed by something as simple as a law banning burqas. But ultimately, you can never really know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. What looks like oppression to us may not feel that way to the women in question. Or maybe it does. In any case, banning burqas won’t help.

I’ll leave you with my favorite cartoon on this subject:

Civil Disobedience Gone Horribly Wrong

Anyone who’s been at an airport lately probably agrees that those new TSA bodyscans/patdowns suck. One woman, however, apparently reserves some very special wrath for this procedure, because it infuriated her so much that she assaulted a female TSA officer. Not in the usual shoving/punching way, though:

TSA staff said Mihamae refused to be go through passenger screening and became argumentative before she squeezed and twisted the agent’s breast with both hands. Police said Mihamae admitted to the crime and was arrested on a felony count of sexual abuse.

Just in case this isn’t bad enough, there is now some sort of movement to keep Miyamae (that’s the actual spelling of her name; the media outlets got it wrong) from being prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It’s a Facebook page called “Acquit Yukari Mihamae” and it has currently been liked by 4,694 (and rapidly counting) people.

That’s a lot of people who think that physically assaulting someone is a fair response to a policy they dislike.

Here are some of the comments I found on the page:

“I love the story about this those disgusting TSA pigs need a taste of their own putrid medicine. I hope everything goes well I will offer all the support possible. NO PARA-MILITARY a.k.a TSA”

“GOOD JOB!!!! you should have twisted those bad boys right off!!!! show them punk asses a case of trading places… they think this is bad wait till they push us so far into a corner that the only option left for us is to revolt!!!!!!!!!!!”

“THANK YOU, Yukari for standing up to the TSA and for doing what I have always wanted to do!! You are a true hero and you show that resistance ios NOT futile!! I hope everyone will learn from your example and resist the senseless groping. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage and bravery!!”

“Thank you Yukari for your courage. You are the modern day Rosa Parks”

“Well, if somebody doesn’t stands up as Yukari did ,the world will be destroyed already… kudos for you!”

“TSA is to the United States as The Gestapo was to Nazi Germany!!”

“I live in Australia and was thinking of vacationing in the US. Until TSA follows the Inquisition and the Stasi into the dumpster of History, I’ll go elsewhere.”

“Keep twisting Yukari-san.”

Perhaps nothing disturbs me more than the comparisons of Miyamae to Rosa Parks and of the TSA to the Gestapo, the Stasi, and the Inquisition.

As for the suggestion that what Miyamae did is somehow equivalent to what the TSA does, that’s preposterous. Whether or not you agree with the actual method, the TSA has been charged with keeping airline flights safe. They’re not scanning/patting people down in order to make them uncomfortable, molest them, or embarrass them. They’re doing it because they’re trying to stop potential terrorists.

Furthermore, last I checked, we don’t do “an eye for an eye” here in America. We don’t rob convicted burglars, we don’t rape convicted rapists, we don’t punch kids that we catch fighting with classmates.

It seems that people have, as usual, fallen victim to black-and-white thinking. To them, the TSA’s screenings are “bad.” Therefore, anyone who resists them in any way must be “good.” Even if that resistance takes the form of an assault on someone’s body.

The supporters of Miyamae, particularly the ones who compare her to Rosa Parks, also seem to neglect the fact that real civil disobedience is powerful precisely because it harms no one. The image of Rosa Parks quietly sitting on the bus and refusing to stand is completely different from that of Miyamae forcefully grabbing and twisting the breast of another woman, a woman who is simply doing her job and trying to make a living.