25 November 2006New topic in Dutch politics: the current (demissionary) government proposes a law to ban the Burqa in Dutch society.
Which, in a society that moves somewhere beteen individualism and pluralism, leads immediately to emotional discussions :-). The obvious pluralistic stance is that everyone should be allowed to dress as they wish, so the burqa can't be banned. And from the more traditional and the more progressive islamic corners, it's seen as yet another attempt to corner the islam, either as an enforced breach of religious values, or as a blatant generalisation of what muslim women wear.
Some comments from my side (a man who was raised with Christian values, but who has studied most world religions in the mean time and a great fan of Sufism, or enlightened Islam): in the first place, NOBODY in Holland wears a burqa. Burqa's are only worn in Afghanistan, where the Talibs enforced women to cover themselves completely in order not to be seen by men. The term burqa has therefore become synonymous with niqaab (which is a version of a veil that only leaves the eyes visible), chador (the Iranian version that leaves the face open), or te veil that is sometimes worn by Turkish or Moroccan women. I am not sure anymore what this law is about, as the discussion has broadened its practical scope from including face-covering clothing to anything that covers the head.
In any case: what was the original intent of women covering their hair, as ordained by Mohammed (PBUH)? It was to protect women from unwanted glances of men. That is the whole history.
In time, it became a sign of decency for muslim women. And in some countries, where it became customary for women to cover themselves almost completely, it even became a more or less convenient way of protecting themselves (as beautifully shown in one of my favourite films, Kandahar). Interestingly, after the fall of the Talibs in Afghanistan, many women still preferred wearing the burqa, because they were actually stared at by men and felt more insecure not wearing a burqa than living under the protective cover of it.
Forcing women to take off the burqa in Western society is a different story, though. Obviously, given the values of Western society, it can be considered quite a clash with the pluralistic values of freedom of choice for all. However, looking at it from a more Integral perspective, you'd need to recognise that the parts of society where wearing some sort of veil by women is customary are not at that pluralistic level of psychological development. Which is not to say that they're underdeveloped, it's just that their structure of values is different, similarly to the fundamentalistic Christian part of society where women are nto supposed to take part in politics. So given the fact that there are more traditional parts of society and taking into account the Prime Directive of Spiral Dynamics that says that you need to take care of the health of the complete Spiral (i.e. take care of the complete build-up of value-structures that society consists of), one needs to conclude that banning veils is indeed a violation of the values of that part of society. As much as forcing women to wear a veil instead of giving them a choice, forbidding them to wear it goes past their right to choose.
So, where do we go with this? The answer is acceptance first and then development. Let's first accept the fact that society consists of many different layers of values and groups of people attaching to those individual layers of values. I amquite opposed to enforcing one value-structure to society as a whole, but see the value of all those structures forming society. You cannot just introduce the Western form of democracy in societies like Afghanistan or Iraq that are mainly tribally driven. Neither can you force certain groups in a multi-layered society like the Dutch one to behave like and accept the values of one of those groups.
What needs to happen first is support and stimulate development. By developing, people's values change and they will grow to a level where traditional values imposed by the group they belong to are not anymore the leading values, but individual choice becomes the norm. Then, everyone can make a choice of wearing whatever head dress they like, or nothing at all.