The Burqa Ban: Legal Precursors for Denmark, American Experiences and Experiments, and Philosophical and Critical Examinations
International Studies Journal, vol. 15, no. 1, Summer 2018
50 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2019
Date Written: 2018
As the title of the article suggests, “The Burqa Ban”: Legal Precursors for Denmark, American Experiences and Experiments, and Philosophical and Critical Examinations, the authors embark on a factually investigative as well as a reflective response. More precisely, they use The 2018 Danish “Burqa Ban”: Joining a European Trend and Sending a National Message (published as a concurrent but separate article in this issue of International Studies Journal) as a platform for further analysis and discussion of different perspectives. These include case-law at the international level while focusing attention on recent rulings and judicial reasoning by the ECtHR and the ECJ; critical thought-experiments in religion, morality, human rights, and the democratic public space; a contextualized account of burqa-wearing interventions by federal and state governments and, moreover, various courts in the United States; and philosophical commentary and, in some instances, criticism of the Danish and/or European (French, etc.) approach. The different contributions have different aims. The section on case-law at the international level reports on those central judgments that, in effect, helped to pave the path for the Kingdom of Denmark’s burqa ban. Concerning the concurring judges at the ECtHR, the opinions served to uphold a preexisting ban and to grant a wide margin of appreciation to the national authorities, thereby limiting the Court’s own review.
As regards to the ECJ, the legality of company rules that contain a policy of neutrality for the workplace was examined, with a similar outcome. The authors who discuss religion, morality, human rights and the democratic public space are endeavoring to, respectively, appeal to ethics as a testing stone for law and to both challenge and address several forms of “expressivist worry” in connection with face veils. In doing so, the authors ask a number of thought-provoking questions that hopefully will inspire public policymakers to careful analysis. While the section that is devoted to American perspectives highlights a comprehensive survey of political and legal responses to, in particular, full-face veils like the burqa, the relevant author also incorporates public perceptions and, in the course of examining these, draws a parallel to “the fate” of the hoodie. The constitutionality of burqa-wearing in America, so it also appears, is partially an open question, but differentiating between religious, political, or personal reasons is a de jure premise. Given that the Danish legislators who drafted law L 219 to ban burqa-wearing in public places rely on a reference to political Islam, they relegate religious and personal reasons to the private domain, thereby also adopting secularism as a premise. This is explored in the last author response of the article, more precisely, in an account of the underlying materialism that, in turn, is applied to Muslim women. If policymakers and legislators engaged in Thinking Things Through exercises, they could, as a minimum, avoid law-making strategies that are not in the spirit of the theory they themselves invoke, albeit tacitly. While the aim of, as it were, arresting culturally self-contradicting legislators is unique for the section in question, all the authors who contribute to the joint research project have one end-goal in common, namely to inform about important perspectives while at the same time opening up for parameters for (more) fruitful, constructive and (if need be) critical debate in the future. With this in mind, four recommendations are presented by the research director for the project. Legally, politically, socially and culturally, conflict-resolution should not translate the relationship between rulers and the ruled into a separation ideology, an instance of controllers versus the controlled. All things being equal, that is the objective limit for a democratic society.
Keywords: democracy, democratic public sphere, Islamic full-face veils
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