In Your Face: Legislative Prohibitions of the Niqab

AuthorNatasha Bakht
[  ]
chapter five
    ban the niqab or burqa have become com-
monplace. Muslim women who cover themselves using face veils, though
relatively small in number, have managed to become front-page news in
many jurisdictions and have regularly captured the global imagination.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated in front of parliamentar-
ians that the burqa was not welcome in France. Former Canadian Prime
Minister Stephen Harper said that the niqab was “anti-women and that
it was “oensive that someone would hide their identity;” and “[it’s] not
the way we do things here. e former Australian prime minister stated
that he found the burqa “a fairly confronting form of attire and frankly I
wish it weren’t worn. Running parallel to judicial decisions prohibiting
or severely limiting the niqab in courtrooms are legislative attempts to
enact laws and policies that prohibit women from wearing the niqab in
public places.
Evidence or logic appear not to be measures used when managing
issues involving women who cover their faces. Rather, one sees a predis-
position, often unstated, toward linking such modest clothing to radical
and violent interpretations of Islam, or persistence in associating the
niqab with women’s oppression. Where such explanations are implaus-
ible, a strident dislike of the niqab manifested as an aront to national
[  ]
In Your Face
values is articulated as though that is explanation enough for the curtail-
ment of rights. No further justif‌ication is required.
is chapter begins with a brief global survey of legal proscriptions of
Muslim women’s face veils, noting where national bans have been imple-
mented and where regional or partial bans are in place. Grillo and Shah
have aptly stated that the way criminalization of face veiling has moved
from country to country makes it seem like a form of political swine
f‌lu. e global circulation of niqab bans means that while this book
gives particular attention to Canada, a full contextual understanding
requires reference to what is happening internationally. e several inter-
national “occurrences” of niqab bans are both sobering and supportive of
the idea that discriminatory laws and practices in one county lend back-
ing to similar strategies in other countries. Bans of the face veil reveal a
perseverance on the part of the political elite to exclude niqab-wearing
women from narratives of national belonging despite valiant eorts by
the women themselves to insist that they belong. Part II of this chapter
closely examines Canadian attempts to prohibit face veiling through law
and policy. Federal attempts at banning the niqab are examined, fol-
lowed by an analysis of the province of Québec, where the only legis-
lation in Canada prohibiting face veils has been enacted, though it is
currently being constitutionally challenged through the courts. Finally,
in Part III, the harmful political, social, and economic consequences of
niqab bans are examined, with a focus on the detrimental eects of such
exclusionary laws and practices on niqab-wearing women’s capacity to
enact belonging.
National Bans of Face Coverings
France was the f‌irst country to criminalize face-veiling in all public spaces.
A French member of the Conseil d’Etat stated that “Islam frightens, and
this law [banning the niqab] is an expression of that fright. Although
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, conf‌licts with this
community have increased dramatically. In , France banned female
students from wearing headscarves in public schools using the doctrine
of laïcité, or secularism, which, grounded in the principles of French

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT