Sunday, June 27, 2010

COMMENTARY: Nations Should Not Deny Muslim Women the Right to Wear a Burkha

Last week the Council of Europe, which is comprised of 47 European countries, voted unanimously that outlawing the burkha -- the full-faced veils worn by Muslim women -- would deny women the right to cover their bodies.

Ironically, this unanimous vote occurred on the same day that the Senate in Spain approved a motion to ban Muslim women from wearing the burkha. Consequently, Spain has become the first nation in Europe to legally ban the burkha.

The burkha is worn by many Islamic women for the purpose of hiding a female's body when she is out in public. These Muslims believe that non-relatives should not be allowed to look at a woman's body.

In addition to Spain's decision to ban the burkha, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands have initiated legislative discussions on this idea, as these countries are also planning to vote soon on banning the burkha.

There are several reasons for European countries wanting to ban the burkha. One reason is to ensure the safety of these women -- especially when they are driving a motor vehicle -- since their vision can be obstructed by this garment.

A second reason is that European nations, for the most part, are by tradition Christian nations, and using the burkha is an Islamic tradition.

A third reason is that many Europeans believe that wearing a burkha is demeaning to women. The belief that Muslim women are required to hide their bodies -- while Muslim men are not -- is a double standard, and views women as sex objects.

Although these reasons -- and others -- may be used by nations to ban the burkha, I believe that each Muslim woman should decide for herself whether or not she should wear a burkha.

In other words, a woman should have the choice of wearing a burkha or not wearing one. For a nation to legalize a ban on women wearing a burkha denies Muslim women of their right to choose what they feel is best for them.

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