There is an ongoing public debate in Germany about the prohibition of the full-body veil (ie. niqab, burka). Here are some personal thoughts from an atheist liberal.
1. Are men and women under an equal obligation to conceal themselves? If yes: Religious nonsense, but ok. Please yourself. If not: This custom is misogynistic and discriminating.
2. One can oppose the prohibition of a misogynistic religious practice, without trivializing or advocating this practice. The prohibition would be discriminating, as is the full-body veil.
3. A personal rejection of the burka or any other religious practice is not “islamophobe” or discriminating. The rejection and criminalizing of the person exercising it? That is discriminating.
4. One cannot pride oneself on democratic values and then exclude minorities from these values, only because they don’t fit one’s worldview.
5. One does not liberate people by prohibiting them from doing something.
6. There are people who wear a full-body veil voluntarily. Others don’t wear it voluntarily. The latter is already litigable, the former perhaps incomprehensible, but none of our fucking business.
7. Wearing a full-body veil voluntarily is not feminist or empowering per se. Likewise, reproducing sexist and patriarchal stereotypes, jokes, customs, etc. voluntarily isn’t either ( = internalized (religious) misogyny).
8. One should, however, respect the fact that some people perceive this as feminist or empowering – and, in some individual cases, it actually may be the case. The world is too diverse for pigeonholing.
9. No need to pride ourselves on “our” women’s rights. It’s not such a great feat to be better than Iran or Saudi Arabia in this respect.
10. However, we are not helping if we act as if niqab, burka, etc. were completely ok and a legitimate part of our society. No. They are not (but the people wearing them are). The regressive left in pandering to conservative Islam is actually jeopardizing progress in Islam.
11. Discriminating religious individuals ≠ legitimate criticism of religion.
12. Organized Religion (as opposed to a personal faith or belief held) could be called the nationalism and the national spirit of an ideology. We can’t seriously criticize the public exposure of nationalistic symbols and avoid doing so with religious symbols. Nationalism and most religions have a mindset in common: Mine is better than yours. Why do we criticize the one and look away with the other?
13. The safe space for an ideology ends beyond the walls of a place of worship or your apartment. If you can’t deal with your religion or God or prophet being criticized or even taunted, that’s your fucking problem, not society’s. Every hobby has the right of being panned and insulted, no matter whether it’s football, collecting stamps or religion. Respect people, not ideologies.