Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Italian Burqa Ban: Prejudice Masquerading as Paternalism?

News reports indicate that Italy may adopt a ban on burqas, following the lead of other European states like Belgium. Those who violate the ban face fines of up to Eur. 300, whereas those who coerce women to wear burqas could be fined as much as eur. 30,000 and be jailed for 12 months. As in those instances, the ban's proponents cloak their case in the garments of concern for the poor women who are forced to wear the burqa, blissfully unaware of the hypocrisy of their position. For example, the New York Times quotes Barbara Saltamartini of the Freedom Party - no irony there - as saying that the ban "will put an end to the suffering of many women who are often forced to wear the burqa or niqab, which annihilates their dignity and gets in the way of integration."

I am sure that some of these people mean well but how on earth do they claim moral superiority when all they are doing is substituting one coercive act (the burqa ban) for another coercive act (forcing women to wear the burqa)? For my critique of the bans, see here. Previous blog posts are here, here, and here.