World of India!: EditorsEdit : Netherlands bans the Burqa - and takes a step back e

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EditorsEdit : Netherlands bans the Burqa - and takes a step back

The Netherlands has become the first country to ban the Burqa covering the face. Timesonline, U.K, reports that "last year several Belgian towns, including Antwerp and Ghent, banned the wearing of the Burqa in public, and recently started issuing £100 spot fines for breaking the municipal ordinance. Several towns in Italy, including Como, have invoked legislation introduced by Mussolini that bans hiding one's face in public to impose fines Burqa-wearers. France and several regions of Germany have followed Turkey and Tunisia in banning the wearing of the hijab, which leaves the face visible, in public buildings, most controversially in schools. "


The ban has caused a huge uproar in Holland amongst Muslim groups, who see this as yet another attempt to mow down on religious freedom and target Muslims specifically.

Public opinion against immigration in Holland is at an all time high and issues such as integration of existing immigrants, laws regarding granting citizenship to immigrants, have become hotly debated topics. Holland has had traditionally the most lenient of immigration laws in Europe. This resulted in a wave of immigrants from all over, especially the former Dutch colonies, Turkey, and Africa. I still remember that the first time, I took the train from Schipol airport and landed on Rotterdam train station, I was completely taken aback by the number of black faces around me. It seemed, for a moment at least, at the station, that I was in Africa rather than Europe! The truth wasn't much further. Rotterdam., Holland's second biggest city and its commercial capital, has no less than 47% of its population as immigrants. So it’s hardly surprising that the Dutch are concerned at these levels and are fighting back with tough anti -immigration laws. If anything, isn’t it the most natural thing in the world?Woudn't we be concerned if 47% of Mumbai be composed of Bangladeshis? Immigrants from other parts of the worlds (including Indians) should not think that other countries around the world have an OBLIGATION to host them in their countries.

Where the Dutch, on the other hand are erring is that by targeting religious practices , like wearing of the Burqa, they are trampling over some fundamental religious rights, which not only legally questionable (The EU might have a hard look at this particular ban),but are also discriminatory. As Imran Khan rightly pointed out in a recent interview, liberalism is a two way street and if there is no ban against wearing the skimpiest of clothing, there should be no ban on wearing the Burqa, if that is what some women, VOLUNTARILY wear. I whole heartedly agree.


For example, Holland has extra-ordinarily liberal legal framework against a range of issues ranging from prostitution (legal) to consuming psychotropic substances (marijuana is legal- I remember a shopkeeper telling me that perhaps even the police might ask for a 'push') and gay rights. If some people feel offended by these, would the Dutch consider banning them?

Sadly, some of the western countries seem to believe that cultural integration can be achieved only by immigrants adopting their culture wholesale. True cultural integration is a two way street and the mainstream has to realize that they have to make as much effort to integrate with immigrants as the immigrants themselves. In our Dutch office, for instance, I met one Turkish manager, who complained to me bitterly that despite being on the job for more than a decade, his Dutch colleagues would never invite him for a beer in the pub, after work, or in another social setting. How would the Dutch Govt. punish such behavior?

Measures like banning the burqa, would only aggravate tensions and perhaps draw some more youth into being extremists and perhaps a repeat of the incidents like murder of the far right politician Pim Fortuyn (who incidentally was the first politician to speak against immigration and hence became very popular). More importantly, they would not serve to do what should be the priority of all western politicians- promote cultural integration in its truest form.

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November 24, 2006 5:33 PM

why is it that we see all issues from religeous angle? What would happen to security if terrorists disguise themselves in veils? security personnel cant ask them to take the veil off because if it is case of wrong identity and the person is a burqa clad woman hells bells will be raised. All religions must adopt to changing conditions and moderate their practices.    



November 24, 2006 5:45 PM

hmm...i wonder how many North Indian Hindus would take to your suggestion, since their woman too cover their faces almost completely. Its not just Muslims who follow this practice.    



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