Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ban the Burka

by Richard Crews
Are you puzzled by the recent spate of "Ban the Burka" legislation? I was.

Denmark, France, and now Canada have announced legislative moves to make the wearing of Muslim veils (the burka and niqab) illegal here and there in public--on public transportation, in government waiting rooms and offices, in schools and hospitals, and elsewhere.

These seem like modern, civil-rights oriented countries; why are they considering such religious prejudice?

The point is that such clothing is not always the woman's choice. Many Muslim women are required to wear veils--by their religion, their country's laws, or by their male relatives. In some places women can be beaten, whipped, or stoned for not covering themselves from tip to toe in public. In the old Baghdad of Saddam Hussein gangs of "enforcers" roamed the streets and--legally--bludgeoned to the ground women caught not wearing full Muslim veils.

And women cannot simply be "permitted" by law to wear different clothing; they would readily be forced by their male relatives to claim that they were wearing the heavy veils by their own choice.

Being forced to cover her face can interfere with a woman's education and participation in many civil activities. It is, in fact, an abuse of her civil rights. More than that, ones face is a light, a signpost to the rest of the world of ones ideas and dispositions.

According to the January 27, 2010 issue of Scientific American, "The latest study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that certain traits once thought to be indistinguishable based on looks alone are in fact written all over our faces.

"In a study published in the January 18 issue of PLoS One, subjects were able to accurately identify candidates from the 2004 and 2006 U.S. Senate elections as either Democrats or Republicans based on black-and-white photos of their faces. Subjects consistently associated Democrats with warmth (likable and trustworthy) and Republicans with power (dominant and mature). And subjects were even able to correctly identify college students as belonging to Democratic or Republican clubs based on their yearbook photos."

Further, "In a study published in Science in February 2009, subjects were able to predict from a pair of photos of faces alone which political figure would win an election. Even children could pick the winner when asked who they would prefer to be captain of their boat. And in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November 2007, researchers linked competence perceived from a candidate’s face to his or her electoral success."