Sikhs Speaking out Against Niqab Ban

25 Mar

French Niqab Ban in Action

Posted by Brooklynwala in Human RightsPoliticsWomenWorld News on 04 11th, 2011 | 57 responses

The controversial new French law that bans Muslim women from wearing the niqab, or full-face veil, went into effect today and was met with resistance in Paris.� The New York Times reports:

The police detained two fully veiled women at a small protest outside the Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris, where demonstrators were easily outnumbered by police officers and journalists. But it was not clear whether the women had been held under laws forbidding unauthorized demonstrations.

French authorities estimate that less than 2,000 women in the entire country even wear the niqab, in a country of nearly 63 million.� The NYT article continues:

The ban also applies to foreigners visiting France… Violators may be punished with a fine of 150 euros, equivalent to $215. But people forcing others to cover their faces are subject to much stiffer punishments, including a maximum 12 months in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros, equivalent to more than $42,000, or twice that amount if the person forced to cover their face is a minor.

I’ve argued before that France’s so-called attempts at “liberating” Muslim women in reality perpetuates racist and assimilationist notions of national identity.� Some Muslims in France are organizing to challenge the law.� One wealthy property developer has set aside some $2.8 million to help women fight the ban and is encouraging women to wear the niqab in the streets as a form of civil disobedience.(Check out this video of a French Muslim woman taking a train to Paris today wearing her niqab)

As Sikhs, our Gurus have taught us to fight for a world that is inclusive of all ways of life, even if they aren’t necessarily in line with our way of life.� Guru Tegh Bahadur gave up his life to defend Kashmiri Hindu Brahmins’ right to exist, even while Brahminical caste ideology is antithetical to Sikhi.

But at the end of the day, I think this is more about good, old-fashioned, state-sanctioned racism, cloaked in a liberal, securalist politics, than anything.� I wonder how Sikhs in France are responding to the niqab ban and if they see it as a part of the same racist rationale that has challenged the Sikh identity in France.� Or if instead colonialism’s divide and conquer methodology continues to be effective in this situation of religious minorities in France.

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