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Researchers say legislation to ban burqa will test foundations of modern liberal society

May 15, 2012 - London

According to a study by researchers from Queen Mary, University of London and the University of Sussex, legislation against, and to criminalize face-veiling which has swept across the EU recently will test the foundations of modern liberal society.

The paper 'Reasons to Ban? The Anti-Burqa Movement in Western Europe' examines the European movement against face veiling, and the legislation being passed to criminalize it.

The European movement against face veiling is now widespread, with calls to implement a ban, or a ban being in place, in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Germany.

This move from country to country makes it seem like a form of "political Swine Flu", suggests the paper's authors, Prakash Shah, Senior Lecturer at the School of Law, QM and Ralph Grillo, Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at Sussex.

It is apparent that many opponents sincerely believe that whether a religious or cultural symbol, face veiling is a non-liberal practice that penalizes and subordinates women

"While some claim that face-veiling is a customary rather than religious practice, others condemn it as an instance of 'quintessential radical Islam' - a Western extreme interpretation of Islam and Muslim practice," says Dr Shah.

The current rush to legislate, the academics note, is set in the context of a 'backlash' against multiculturalism that has been developing across Europe.

Dr Shah further adds: "What was previously thought tolerable has now become unacceptable, and moreover, subject to the law. The legislation which has criminalized face-veiling has clearly originated with the belief, that face-veiling does not fit with European society, culture and values, and has all manner of disagreeable if not downright dangerous implications, especially for women."


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