In defense of the burka

Please, don’t get me wrong:  I hate the burka.

In my never-humble-opinion,  wearing a burka (or niqab) is immoral.

So, I resent having to write in the defense of the burka!

…because, nothing, not even the burka or niqab, grant any government the power to legislate a citizen’s choices in clothing.

The government does not – and must not – have the right to tell me how to dress.  What to wear or what not to wear.  EVER!!!

‘Governments’ simply lack the authority to a law that determines how I choose to dress.

However…

This does not mean that governments do not have the right to enforce a dress code in public buildings/parks/vehicles etc.

As in, if you enter a public building – for whatever reason – the government which administers it has the right to demand that you wear shoes (that is a safety/liability issue – stepping on stuff can harm an unprotected foot), and so on.  In the same way, the government has the right to demand that every person entering a public building or park (anything administered by that level of government) must not cover their face.

Therefore, schools, libraries, public transit, hospitals, government offices – well, all the ‘public spaces’ – are areas where the government has the authority to pass a law that people must show their faces.  Fully.

That IS within the government’s jurisdiction to pass laws about.

And yes, governments SHOULD pass these laws!!!

Leaving all the ‘obvious’ reasons aside (many people have made these arguments very eloquently already), another very valid argument could be made that it is absolutely necessary that a person’s mouth be fully visible while in public buildings:  obscuring one’s mouth is discriminatory.

Our laws , our very constitutions, forbid discrimination on he grounds of disability.  Governments naturally hire people based on their skills, regardless of any potential disabilities – like, say, being hearing impaired….  Whether accessing or providing a government service, lipreading is an accepted means of communicating and much more common than most people realize.  Many of us even do it without realizing it!

Obscuring one’s lips behind a veil thus discriminates against people who are hearing impaired and rely fully or partially on lipreading to communicate.  This is an important issue:  a constitutional matter!  Perhaps this argument appears disproportional, but, please, take a moment to think about it.  It is a valid point.

And, for a society which prides itself on being inclusive and does not discriminate against people with physical disabilities, this is a big deal.

Of course, all private places of business also have the right to enforce dress codes for people who enter their premises.  That is fully accepted in our society, and must remain so.  It is best captured by the signs:  “No shoes, no shirt, no service.”

Perhaps the new ones will read:  “No shoes, no shirt, no face, no entry!”

And that would be good.

It not only ‘would be good’, in my never-humble-opinion, it is necessary.

It also seems to me that our existing laws already cover this issue (no pun intended).

Private places of commerce have the right to enforce dress codes.  They are free to ban ‘face coverings’ – and must remain free to do so.

Public places are also governed by rules which can be interpreted as forbidding ‘face coverings’:  on the grounds that covering one’s mouth discriminates against people who are hearing impaired.  This is not permitted in public places.  Therefore, no burka, no niqab.

We even have a law (at least in Ontario) which says that a driver’s face must be fully visible and recognizable from outside the vehicle:  that is why the front windows in a car are not permitted to have a dark tint.  Wearing a veil of any type which is not transparent and obscures a driver’s face, or any other thing which prevents the driver’s face to be fully visible from outside the vehicle is, therefore, already illegal!

No new law needed!

It is not a good idea to have more laws than absolutely necessary.  Passing multiple laws to govern one thing is misguided and dangerous.

To sum it up:

  • governments can, do and should have dress codes for people entering public buildings or accessing public services which demand that a person’s face be fully exposed
  • places of commerce can, do and should have dress codes of their choosing – even ones that forbid people entering their property from obscuring their faces.
  • traffic laws already exist that demand that while a person is exercising the privilege of driving, their face must be fully exposed and visible from outside the vehicle

Perhaps I’ve missed a few specific instances, I’ll grant that.  BUT – they would still be ‘specific instances’!  It is wrong to pass a blanket law which bans the burka.

Permitting the government the exercise any authority to legislate how people dress is as frightening as it is ludicrous!

Who’d enforce these laws?

The ‘Fashion Police’?

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