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Should burkas be banned in the UK? Show more Show less

Boris Johnson MP recently divided opinion - drawing condemnation from the Prime Minister and provoking a disciplinary investigation by his Conservative Party - for controversial remarks about Muslim women who wear burkas/burqas. Though he did not advocate a ban, his comments have reignited the debate following bans on the full-face-and-body coverings becoming law in countries including France, Belgium, and Denmark. This conversation looks at whether similar prohibitions should be introduced in the UK. It operates on the basis that women are making a free choice when wearing burkas, and are not forced to be doing so - something which all parties would reject.
Burkas are a tool of repression and a threat to national security.
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New(er) cultures should adapt to existing customs

The immigrant should adapt to the culture of the country they reside in, not the other way around.

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Context

When an immigrant is taken in by a host country, they are offered the opportunity to build a life in their new home. This is a courtesy and privilege extended to them, not a right. Out of respect, they should adapt to their new country's customs and norms rather than expect their new country to adapt to theirs.

The Argument

When Western citizens travel abroad to Muslim countries, they cover their shoulders, avoid public displays of affection and do not drink. They do so out of respect for their hosts' culture. These actions may cause offence and arouse suspicion in others. When Muslim citizens travel to secular countries, they should respect their customs, which typically do not promote the overt declaration of faith in public, the hiding of women's faces and the covering of women's hair. It is not the locals' responsibility to accept Islamic culture, it is the visitor's responsibility to assimilate to local culture. The Eyes and Face in Western Culture The eyes and the face are of particular importance in Western culture. Part of the reason why a burka is so incompatible with Western cultures is that it obscures the eyes. The eyes are the way in which many Western societies build trust and forge relationships. With no eye contact, there can be no mutual trust. With no mutual trust, integration and the meeting of two cultures cannot take place. Other aspects of Islamic culture have been incorporated into multicultural Western societies. However, the burka goes agains this basic principle and is essentially unpalatable to Western culture.

Counter arguments

The burka is perfectly compatible with UK and Western secular culture. Or societies remain committed to religious freedom. This means anybody living in Britain and other Western secular societies has the freedom to practice whatever religion they want. The burka is something many Islamic women choose to wear as an expression of their religion. Respect for this is a pillar of secular culture. Therefore, wearing the burka in public should not only be tolerated, it should be celebrated as an example of secular society at its best.

Premises

[P1] It is the visitor's responsibility to adapt to Western culture, not the locals' responsibility to be accommodating of an outside culture. [P2] A burka is not Western culture. [P3] Therefore, a burka should not be permitted in Western countries.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Religious freedom is a part of Western culture. Religious freedom dictates that citizens may practice whichever religion they choose. Wearing a burka is an expression of practising Islam. Therefore, wearing a burka is a part of religious freedom. Therefore, wearing a burka is a part of Western culture.

References

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Proponents

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This page was last edited on Monday, 6 May 2019 at 16:28 UTC