A Speech at a Woman’s Right Conference

Form: A speech at a Woman’s Rights conference

Contention: Frances decision to restrict the wearing of religious symbols is unjustified

In December last year, French President Jacques Chirac proposed a law to ban all conspicuous signs of religious belief form state schools and public buildings. This ban would include the wearing of Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses. The government-sponsored commission had recommended that new laws were needed to protect secularism in France. Although the bans are to include Jewish and Christian religious symbols, much attention has been given to the proposed banning of the Muslim hijab and burqa. Today I will explain why France’s decision to restrict the wearing of religious symbols is unjustified.

From the beginning of time society has consisted of people who wore different garments and accessories as an expression of their individuality and religious beliefs. In today’s world this freedom of expression is being frowned upon and considered to be dangerous in the tolerant world we supposedly live in. France’s recent decision to ban conspicuous religious symbols is exactly the kind of action that discriminates against all religious groups who wear badges of identity.

By banning these religious items, the French are discriminating against all religious groups, not just Muslims. France is well known for its many different cultures and religious within its communities. In fact the greater part of the population is of a devout faith, from Catholics to Jews and even a large number of Sikhs. So how can this country with only a minority of atheists be prejudice against those who wish to express their beliefs? To allow such a ridiculous proposition such as this where those who are affected greatly outnumber those that aren’t, is absurd. The government is discriminating against the majority of their population.

Both the hijab and burqa, contrary to the public’s beliefs are worn through personal choice. The hijab is a traditional Islamic gown and headscarf that covers a woman’s body from the neck down to the toe, leaving her face and hands visible. The burqa is a similar gown, but it also covers the face and hands. There is no denying that a small minority of Muslim women is actually forced to wear either of these gowns outside of the Middle East. But many Muslim women say that they choose to wear the hijab or burqa because they feel it protects their modesty and encourages men to engage with them on an intellectual, rather than a sexual level.

Though Islamic practices may seem alien to non-Muslims, a degree of tolerant within society is needed. Islamic beliefs are based upon entering into a condition of peace and security with their god Allah through allegiance and surrender to him. In doing so woman are to “draw their head-veils over their necks and bosoms, and to reveal their adornments expect to their own husbands” (Koran, An Nur 24: 30-31). How can one be expected to not show their faith towards their own religion, when it is written in the law that governs their beliefs?

Societies interpretation of the veil is based upon the little knowledge they have of Islam. Though it may be seen to symbolize the oppression of Muslim woman and girls, this is incorrect. For a woman of Islam it is a testament to her faith that she should not show her beauty or adornments. As a chaste, modest, pure woman, she does not want her sexuality to enter into interactions with men in the smallest degree. A woman who covers herself is concealing her sexuality but allowing her femininity to be brought out. A veiled Muslim woman is simply sending the message that society difference is tolerated and a person’s religious beliefs should not disadvantage her in any way.

If we allow this proposal to pass through, we’ll be introducing a way of living that can be associated with that of the radical Taliban. Placing restrictions and rules on what one can or cannot wear, as the French government did, is a deprivation of a persons right of freedom of expression. What kind of a society will we be living in where we cannot freely express our views and faiths publicly?