A Critical Analysis of European Veiling Laws
Chapter 5: Womens rights, equality and the Islamic veil
A further justification for anti-veiling laws (one that is fuelled by and fuels popular opposition especially to full-face veils) is that the practice of veiling is repugnant to the European vision of gender equality. I note that there are two elements to this. First, it is argued that the right to equality of the individual wearer is under threat. Moreover, in response to the argument that a woman cannot be threatened by something that she voluntarily wears, it is occasionally suggested that in fact the supposed ‘consent’ of such a woman to veiling is suspect and may be the product either of false consciousness or duress. Secondly, it is suggested that the veil is an inherent symbol of the oppression of women and is thus, morally unacceptable. In this chapter, I assess both the arguments about the suspect nature of a woman’s consent to veil and the suggestion that the veil is such an inherent symbol. I suggest that there is very little to support either contention but that, once again, the effect of justifying a law against veiling on this basis is to stigmatise the garment, and, in consequence, both its wearer and her religion, as something inherently repugnant to western, liberal values.
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