To participate in society, one must be recognizable. To be recognizable, one must show one’s face.
It is one thing to be unidentifiable in a society where one is always under the control of a male guardian and a perpetual minor, and therefore not a full participant in society. But the Carnita Matthews case in Australia demonstrated how the surreal masquerade ball of face veils in an open society becomes a vehicle for gaming the system. It becomes a means of selective participation in society at the whim of the wearer (or in other cases, those who make her wear it), and presumes a right to pick and choose her responsibilities in society. That is not equality under the law, either for men and women or Muslims and non-Muslims. “Belgian ban on full veils comes into force,” from BBC News, July 23:
A law has come into force in Belgium banning women from wearing the full Islamic veil in public.
The country is the second European Union nation after France to enforce such a ban. Offenders face a fine of 137.5 euros (Â£121; $197) and up to seven days in jail.
Two women who wear full veils launched an immediate court challenge, saying the law is discriminatory.
France, home to Europe’s biggest Muslim population, enforced its ban in April.
Belgium’s law bans any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street.
It was passed almost unanimously by the lower house of parliament in April 2010.
MPs voted with only two abstentions to back the legislation on the grounds of security, to allow police to identify people.
Other MPs said that full face veils such as the burka or the niqab were a symbol of the oppression of women.
But critics of the law say it could end up excluding women, leaving those who do wear the full veil trapped in their homes.
And they say the measures are over the top – estimates suggest only a few dozen women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of about half a million.
What matters is that the practice has grown — there used to be none. One could just as well find a situation some time from now where the argument would be they can’t be banned because so many women wear them. For something that is wrong in principle, why would one have to try to wait until the number is “just right” — and according to whom?
“We consider the law a disproportionate intrusion into fundamental rights such as the freedom of religion and expression,” Ines Wouters, the lawyer representing the two women challenging the ban, told the newspaper La Libre.
She has taken their case to Belgium’s constitutional court, where she will request a suspension of the law, AFP news agency reported.