Live from Cairoston

The Veiled Argument?

In her article “Veiled Threats?” Martha Nussbaum cites five arguments used to justify banning the burqa; that it hinders security by concealing the face, prevents transparency proper for human interactions, is a symbol of male domination and objectification of women, it is only worn due to coercion and finally that it is per se unhealthy.
Nussbaum refutes each argument and concludes that they are all “discriminatory.  We don’t even need to reach the delicate issue of religiously grounded accommodation to see that they are utterly unacceptable in a society committed to equal liberty.  Equal respect for conscience requires us to reject them.”
However, Nassbaum did not tackle what I consider to be the primary motive behind banning the burqa; the veiled argument. It’s veiled because it exposes a raw and genuine fear of the “other”. This argument revolves around the burqa being an external expression of Islamic identity, and an assertion of one’s dedication to Islam. Such assertion and commitment is very difficult to uncouple from Islam’s global perspective and impetus to reach and influence all of humanity. Thus these five arguments are only desperate and helpless justifications of a real fear that veiled Muslims conceal the intention and fantasy of dominating the West. I suggest that Western Muslims look deep in their hearts and see if such intentions exist. If they do, then I suggest honestly bringing them out. If they don’t then I suggest helping the “other” express their fears. In either case, there ought to be a deeper discussion about our fears, aspirations and how they interact.

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