Back in 2010, I wrote about my misgivings about the fact that the Netherlands was considering banning the burqa. Fast forward to now, and the government has indeed now proposed a ban on wearing the burqa in certain places, including in courts, schools, townhalls, and on public transport.
I remain unconvinced that this ban is going to help our samenleving (literally: living together, but usually translated as society). Kenan Malik’s words at the time about the ban remain as true today as they were back then:
The burqa is a symbol of the oppression of women, not its cause. If legislators really want to help Muslim women, they could begin not by banning the burqa, but by challenging the policies and processes that marginalize migrant communities: on the one hand, the racism, social discrimination and police harassment that all too often disfigure migrant lives, and, on the other, the multicultural policies that treat minorities as members of ethnic groups rather than as citizens. Both help sideline migrant communities, aid the standing of conservative ‘community leaders’ and make life more difficult for women and other disadvantaged groups within those communities.
As I wrote at the time:
While I have qualms about why women should choose to wear the burqa, the answer is not to ban it. The answer is to make it as ludicrous as a codpiece, and that must emerge from the women themselves.