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Is France right to say what we wear?

With France's burqa ban passed, we asked Connexion readers if France has any right to tell people what to wear

TWO Muslim women have set out to walk the streets of Paris in miniskirts and niqabs to protest at their right to wear what they want. They believe France has no right to tell people what to wear.

See the video at this link. Here are some of your responses:

"It would seem to be reasonable to allow people to dress as they wish, but in practice it does not work.

Decency plays a large part in style of dress, followed by safety. There are always those who would wish to push these rules to the extreme, i.e. very short and revealing skirts or see through garments.

However I believe the burqa is one step too far. I personally find it offensive to women and do not believe there is a place for it in western society.

In the west we believe in open faces and are uncomfortable with the veil or burqa. Do Muslims really want to create further difficulties and perhaps mistrust between western society and Islam? Perhaps they would think this through."

Carol Fraser

"Can you imagine what would happen to either of the two silly girls in the photograph if they trooped around wearing that get up in any Islamic country?

If they feel their faces are so ugly they have to cover them, I pity them. Covering a face will not cover ugliness.

I recently asked an Imam here in Oxford to explain the wearing of the burqa to me. 'To prevent women tempting men.' he said.

'Are you saying,' I asked, 'that you and the other men all feel that you and they have no responsibility for behaving in a civilised manner, or are you saying that your God's creations are so mistaken that you dare insult Him by banishing them from sight?'

I got the same answer from him as I used to get as a sweet and loveable child when I asked an awkward question of what were jokingly referred to as grown ups: 'You wouldn't understand. I have to go.'"

Dominic Fahr

"Of course, put as the question has been, there should be free choice as to how we dress. But, this must be subject to certain restrictions in the interests of the larger community.

In the first place, there is the matter of public decency. People are not permitted to disport themselves in a manner likely to give offence to the public at large.

Nudity in public is generally not acceptable, other than on designated beaches, and usually we have to cover ourselves properly. Obviously the burqa does not offend in this respect.

Secondly, there is identification and security. There have been cases where male criminals have donned the burqa and it has been impossible for the police to identify the offenders, even as to their sex.

It is also highly relevant to the giving of evidence in a court of law. Not only must a witness be identifiable, but their expression and demeanour are also very important.

The wearing of the burqa, or indeed any facial covering, inhibits this so that a judge and or jury cannot weigh the veracity and relaibility of the evidence being given.

The proposed French law in these respects is not anti-Islam, but in the wider interests of the general public."

Jeffery Shaw

"It seems your two Muslim chicks have mixed up the freedom to wear what they want with the current terrorist threat[s] to the world.

The burqa has not been banned because France or for that matter other Euro-countries do not like Muslims but because weapons and bombs are so easily carried within the burqa - moreover it is well possible for men to wear a burqa.

If they do not like being in a relatively peaceful country like France - try going to Baghdad, Pakistan, or Afghanistan where people wearing the burqa regularly blow up kill and maim their fellow citizens for apparently religious belief reasons.

I think they prefer here to there so go on with the 'leg show' the law is the law break it and see what happens. Try a mini skirt in Afghanistan."

Michael Nason

"We all know it’s not about clothes here. It’s about incognito etc., no identity, keeping women down. Ancient ways of old men keeping women as second class citizens.

It is sad that in this day and age that some women are still (not by any real choice) living in the middle ages and condemned if they do not conform to religious rules that go back to when most people probably dressed like that anyway minus or not the covering of the face.

So the mini skirt which shows more than just the legs in some cases could be seen as provocative also, where do we draw the line?

Covering the face to me and many others is not necessary, it is just as provocative as covering any other parts or exposing other parts, fashion will win with the trouser attitude but I for one see the women covered up like this rather sad in the 21st century.

We are Europe and so if these people want to live here then they should conform and live like us, we have to comply with the rules of their countries when we go there. If not will we not eventually lose our identity altogether??

Perhaps the ‘hoodie’ is just as bad, as that has been associated with low life types that go around in gangs – but are all hoodie wearers bad guys? Labelling all over again."

J Heywood

"My view is that dictating dress is not a field into which governments should enter. As a Jamaican colleague of mine once put it: “What, you pay your taxes and they tell you what to wear?”

I had the (very real) pleasure of residing in Malawi, Central Africa, for 15 years. The head of state, from independence until the 1990s was Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda. Under his guidance, Malawi, a predominately Christian country, banned the wearing of mini skirts and trousers by ladies, whilst gentlemen were not allowed to sport flares or have hair over their collars.

According to the law, however, trousers for ladies were permitted “in Game Parks and for Theatrical Purposes…” Ladies arriving at the airport from abroad unaware of the rules, had to change before they could enter the country.

Similarly long haired male arrivals had their locks shorn, at Malawi taxpayers’ expense. This sounds simple enough, but, as a word of caution to French government, a “mini skirt” for example, has to legally defined.

Basically the Malawi law stated that skirts had to fall below the knee – but of course, many below the knee skirts have splits in them. This generated a market for marginally below the knee skirts with 2 foot (600mm) splits up the side.

Which brings me to the question of enforcement. The Malawi “mini skirt” police would sporadically patrol the streets of the main commercial town, Blantyre, on Saturday mornings.

If they saw a suspect mini they would sometimes rip the skirt up to the waist, in order to embarrass the wearer. There was an incident where a Malawian law student, wearing a “split” skirt, was dragged to the police station and her friends (also law students) told to go to her house and bring her something decent to change into.

The friends argued and were told that unless they did this the skirt would be ripped (whilst still on the wearer). The law students responded that such action would surely be tapering with the evidence as they were sure the skirt was legal and wanted to go to Court to prove it. At this point the female student was released.

Presumably the French government does not intend to rip burqas. Therefore I assume that persistent offenders will be jailed. Burqas under challenge will surely have to be produced in court as well as having a legal definition.

I understand that there are only about 5,000 burqa wearers in France at the moment. I suspect the cost of drafting the law and enforcing it will be a significant amount per burqa. Sorry but I really don’t think this makes any sense at all! Malawi had the maturity to repeal the mini skirt ban in the 1990s."

Name withheld

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