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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.


Arguments supporting this position



Belgium introduced a burka ban in an attempt to boost integration. The government believed that by banning burkas, it would reduce the isolation of the Muslim community, in particular, the isolation of Muslim females.[1]

The Argument

In reality, burka bans restrict integration. Instead of going out without their burka, Muslim women opt to stay at home, further increasing their isolation. In France, the burka ban implemented in public schools led to feelings of alienation from Muslim students, prompting some to withdraw from school altogether. Part of the issue is that forcing integration by banning an element of Islamic culture (like the burka) fosters a narrative that in the eyes of the law, it is "better" to be more closely aligned with the stereotype of what a French, Belgian, or British citizen should be. Those who do not closely align with this stereotype or vision, be it because they wear clothes associated with another country, have an appearance that isn't White European or speak with an accent that is not native to the country, are often alienated and relegated to "lesser" citizens.[1] Out of 35 Muslim women interviewed in France following the burka ban, 27 reported that they had socialised "significantly less than before the law and cut down their outdoors activities to the strictest minimum."[2] If the burka were to be banned in the UK, Muslim communities would likely integrate less with other communities, leading to increased division, reduced integration and ulitmately, a less multicultural society.

Counter arguments

Burkas prevent relationships forming between Muslim women and non-muslims. In Western culture, the eyes and face hold significant importance. Eye contact is the foundation for trust and understanding. It is the basis upon which a mutual trust emerges. Burkas obscure the eyes and face, preventing eye contact and the formation of a basic connection of trust and respect between a non-muslim and a Muslim woman. A ban on burkas would, therefore, help foster integration and increase cooperation and respect between Muslims and non-muslims.


[P1] Banning the veil or burka would have a detrimental effect on integration. [P2] Therefore, the burka should not be banned.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] The burka restricts integration by preventing connections and mutual trust forming. Therefore, a ban would help, not hinder integration.




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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 8 May 2019 at 15:48 UTC