Can and Should Burqas Be Banned? - The Legality and Desirability of Bans of the Full Veil in Europe and Australia
Alternative Law Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 16-20, 2011
6 Pages Posted: 16 May 2012 Last revised: 31 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2011
The last two decades have seen growing debate in many countries about the appropriateness of displaying religious symbols in the public sphere. Much discussion has focused on the wearing of religiously inspired dress and in particular Islamic dress. The latest chapter in this saga are attempts to ban in public the burqa and niqab, clothing worn by some Muslim women which covers the face.
The primary focus of this article is not on the merits, or otherwise, of these arguments. Instead it examines whether legislative bans in a number of jurisdictions would be able to withstand challenges in court. First, we consider the developments in Europe, with particular emphasis on France and Belgium where the most concrete steps towards banning the burqa and niqab have been taken and examine whether enacted or proposed legislation will withstand scrutiny under the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’). We discuss in the second part whether similar bans could be validly enacted in Australia and show that the only legal protection in this jurisdiction is domestic anti-discrimination law.
Keywords: equality, religious discirmination, burqa, niqab, islamic dress, European Court of Human Rights, head scarf
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