This week in Cork some camera-chasing councillor decided that a “modern society” should be in the business of making people’s wardrobe choices for them (original story). I’d like to now publicly invite Councillor O Callaghan to retract his statements or eat a dick. Here’s why:
1. Restrictions on personal fashion , as well as all lifestyle choices, run completely against everything my beloved left wing believes in. Obviously it’s the old chestnut of “Do whatever you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone” but some things become cliches for a reason. Many of the people campaigning for this ban are the same ones that support legalised marijuana and other personal liberty causes and yet don’t seem to see the parallel.
2. Many of those most vehemently in favour of banning burkas are by no means doing this for feminist reasons. It’s loosely veiled racism and should be treated as such. This wouldn’t be happening if it was a Christian custom – or should we ban the wearing of habits by nuns, too?
3. The first argument that’s always bandied about here is that women are being forced to wear it. Well, that may in fact be true and I’m no supporter of the more misogynistic tendencies in major religions (all of them. Again I ask any female Catholic priest to forgive me – NO, NOT YOU SINEAD). Sadly this won’t fix that problem. The men who are that callous and domineering in their wives lives will find new ways to torture them. It’s pretty likely that many of the women in question won’t be allowed out without the burka, meaning that this ban would in fact be an absurd sentence of house arrest passed down to women that clearly don’t have much clout in the homes we’d be sealing them in.
4. As with all outright bans, it’s the slippery slope that starts here. In Switzerland last year, despite opinion polls pointing in completely the other direction before the vote , a referendum banned minarets. This wasn’t out of anything that even pretended to be altruism, it was merely an attempt to stifle religious practice in the most petty way possible. There’s no difference between this and forcing Catholics to practice in private, and while there’s a certain disparity of scale (and it’s the most used comparison on the internet, I know), this is how the Nazis started gearing up for the holocaust.
5. For the Muslim women who choose to wear the burka (and no, I don’t know how many there are or what proportion of the burka-wearing population they make up because I don’t know any muslim women) this is a laughable constriction on something that doesn’t matter. How is it any better to ban wearing something than forcing someone to wear it?