Fatwas and the burka ban

Burka ban conversations rage hot because they relate with percision to current world tensions at many levels. 

make for good media and good outrage because people tend to be tied to
their politics and religions more emotionally than rationally.  Whether
to  to permit or ban the wearing of Burkas can be argued forever. 
People get nasty or dumb, and arguing from any side can make a certain
degree sense, depending on one’s starting point. 


tied to Burka ban legislation include: Freedom of religion, women’s
rights, national security, and the preservation of culture.

have already presented a simple solution in many previous articles on
how Western secular governments should handle delicate aspects of
legislation that tread into areas of religious rights and
sensibilities.  In sum it is this:  Always make legislation uniform for
all citizens, keep the laws clearly secular, and never favor or
disadvantage a religious group overtly in how the laws are written. 

ban burkas.  Simply write a law that says, no  French (or Belgian
citizen) may ever appear in public with their faces entirely concealed. 
Period.  Make the French (or Spanish) law purely on matters of
security. We don’t want to know what you happen to believe, or what you
name the God you pray to.  We don’t care if you are an immoral,
licentious cad, or an oppressed woman.  Just show your face in public. 
We in Spain (or France) do not want people floating around in our
country entirely concealed in public.

Want to ban headscarves? 
Fine.  Just write a law that says French citizens may not cover their
heads in public.  Can’t wear hats, can’t wear the habit of a Catholic
nun.  We don’t care if you’re cold. We don’t care if you are on the
Paris runway, or what French, Catholic saint wrote the rules of your
order.  If you are French, you cannot cover your head in public. Western
secular governments just write your laws, and stop bothering religious
believers. Take care of your citizens. Create opportunity, and sustain a
legislative environment that is fair and unbiased.

There are
states in the world in which religion is NOT separate from civic
government and legislation.  In these states such issues are more

One difficulty comes from the fact that religious
rules govern people under “foreign” political sovereignties.  For
example, I might be an American, and as such I am free to awaken
whenever I want.  But also I might be a follower of some Rishikesh Guru,
and thus live under a law that I must arise daily before sunrise.  In
this case, my Guru’s law doesn’t clash with US secular law.  But what if
I lived in France and my Guru said that I must cover my face to the
extent that I cannot be identified?  In such a case a potential clash
could occur.

Sheik Aedh al-Garni,
a popular Saudi cleric said Saturday it is permissible for Muslim women
to reveal their faces in countries where the Islamic veil is banned to
avoid harassment, while deploring the effort to outlaw the garment in

Perfect.  I commend the posture of this Muslim lawgiver unequivocally.

Aedh al-Garni’s religious advice, delivered in response to a question
from a Saudi woman in France, generated some opposition from those less
compromising, but al-Garni stayed firm.

“We should not confront
people in their countries or elsewhere,” al-Garni was quoted as saying
in the Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat. “In case a ban is enforced against a
Muslim woman there – and as a consequence there is a reaction or
negative implications or harassment or harm – it is better for the
Muslim woman to reveal her face.”

France’s impulses vis a vis
religion and religious freedom have long been wanting in the opinion of
this writer.  My affirmation of Sheikh al-Garni’s fatwah is not out of
sympathy for France’s lead footed approach to religious pluralism, but
rather enthusiastic praise for his broad-mindedness and courage,
lIkewise all public figures and people of influence who think in ways
that encourage greater harmony, integration, and mutual understanding.

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