Mona Elthawy on France’s banning of face veils

I have lost A LOT of respect for Mona…

This is actually one of the few times I like a journalist, and Hebah, was just awesome! You go girl<3 And Mona, you know what? You’re wrong.

I’d like to voice my two cents on this issue because it’s something that’s going to come up quite a lot over the coming days.

To start off I’ll point out that, as an atheist, arguments regarding why it’s important from the sense of coming closer to Allah aren’t my concern.

On a personal level I do find the niqab slightly unnerving.  The only point of reference I have regarding this is when I was at work and serving a couple, the woman was in a niqab and it did make me feel slightly uneasy.  I’m happy to admit that a lot of this comes down to culture shock and quite simply not being used to interacting with people wearing niqabs.  I don’t have a problem in the slightest seeing somebody walking down the street wearing a burqa, it simply comes down to the fact that when I’m in conversation with someone I’m used to seeing their face and their expressions and don’t like not being able to.  It’s probably connected to the same reason I hate using telephones to talk to people.

That is, however, an entirely personal issue and has nothing to do with how policy should or should not determine whether or not people wear it.  This is an important distinction to know and one that I’m fully aware of.  However I didn’t want to pretend to be some multi-cultural super hero, completely at home with any situation wherever and whatever that may be.

I see the instances of societal expectation or requirement to wear the niqab to be oppressive in nature.  In a situation where you’ve been raised and everyone around you is wearing the niqab, even if you’re not being directly told “you must do this”, it would be hard not to internalise this as a norm.  The choice may technically exist, but isn’t wholly free.

The claim that the niqab is a form of liberation from misogyny may have merit in it’s function, however to my mind this approach is bowing to cultural norms and finding a way to work within them.  The fight should be to tear down damaging norms as a group rather than avoiding coming into conflict with them as an individual.

However with all that said I completely disagree with the French government’s decision to ban the burqa.  Liberation, if liberation is indeed needed which I’m sure many people would be willing to debate, must come from within and cannot be enforced on a group.  Furthermore denying people to dress (or not at all dress) how they should choose is wrong.  Mona in this video comes across as soap boxing on the issue rather than being willing to debate the aspects of it, which is highly unproductive.

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