The French government and the so-called “European Court of Human Rights” has no right to tell women how the hell are they going to dress up
By Jose Mario De Vega
I refer to the AP report, “French Face Veil Ban Upheld By European Court”, July 1 with regard to the decision of the so-called European Court of Human Rights which has recently “upheld France’s law banning face-covering Muslim veils from the streets”.
Said case which is the first of its kind was “brought by a woman who claimed” that “her freedom of religion was violated”.
As narrated lucidly by the said report:
“The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court was the first of its kind since France passed a law in 2010 that forbids anyone to hide his or her face in an array of places, including the street. The law went into effect in 2011.
“The court’s Grand Chamber rejected the arguments of the French woman in her mid-20s, a practicing Muslim not identified by name. She said she doesn’t hide her face at all times, but when she does it is to be at peace with her faith, her culture and convictions. She stressed in her complaint that no one, including her husband, forced her to conceal her face — something of particular concern to French authorities.
“The court ruled that the law’s bid to promote harmony in a diverse population is legitimate and doesn’t breach the European Convention on Human Rights.”
I perfectly understand the real reason of the French government in promulgating this law three years ago: that is for security (the threat of militants and terrorists) and for diversity (French culture and assimilation, etc.) yet, having said that, I question the propriety and wisdom of the court in arriving at their judgment.
The state has the right to defend itself from harm and injury. There is no debate on that. The government has the power to lay down rules, regulations and stipulations that the citizens must obey. The same is true most especially to the foreigners and immigrants who must comply and abide to the said laws in order for them to legally stay to the said society that are living in.
Nonetheless, I regretted that France (especially that so-called “court”), who’s culture, sense of civilization, judicial system and way of life which is being admired by the international community had made a big mistake with regard to this specific case.
They failed miserably to forge a sense of equilibrium and moderation in balancing the public interest (the right of the state to protect itself) from that of the right of the citizen (the right to choose and to decide willfully).
As reported, “under the law, women who cover their faces can be fined up to 150 Euros ($205) or be obliged to attend a citizenship class, or both.”
Further, “when enacted, the law was seen as a security measure, with veiled women considered fundamentalists and potential candidates for extremist views. Another concern was respect for the French model of integration in which people of different origins are expected to assimilate.”
The two primary reasons behind the law is contradictory and in direct opposition to one another. The first one is aimed “at potential candidates for extremist views”, while the other is for integration and assimilation.
How the hell could France integrate people of different origin for purposes of assimilation if the said law behind the said aims is zeroing and/or targeting some people who are profiled or stereotyped or tagged or considered or suspected of fundamentalism and extremism?
I have no problem with the French authorities asking some women or people to take away their veil or head scarf or headdress on the ground of investigation, identification, verification and for purposes of documentation, but to give authority and power to those powers that be to arrest and accost and harass people and women who are wearing their veil, scarf and/or headdress on the street on their way to their places of religious worship in my view is a grave violation of their constitutional and international right to religious freedom.
In a truly democratic society, people are penalized, punished and condemned for the wrong acts that they committed, not for what they think and believe, because the right to think, the right to believe and the right to act on those beliefs are beyond state regulation and no government has the right to invade those rights!
Consider the idiotic conclusion reached by that so-called court. They justified their ruling by saying that the ban is a “choice of society”.
Can there be a society without its inhabitants?
Does the bloody court have forgotten that no society can exist without its people and citizens?
Did they forget also that society is a mere collection of individuals that agreed to bond themselves?
When they speak of the choice of society, do they speak on behalf of the said society or are they speaking for that society?
To do or not to do
My view on this whole controversy is: those women (whether they are Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jew, etc.) want to wear that veil (or whatever headdress), then let them do so, so long as no one is forcing them to do so! In the same vein, those women do not want to wear that (whatever headdress is that), then so be it. Again, so long, as long it is their will and no one is forcing or compelling them not to do so!
It is my firm belief that the government has no right to legislate and regulate how the hell should or must women dress up!
The government does not own them, but rather they owned the government and so as their bodies!
France and that so-called “court” in my view had indeed violated the right to religion of that woman petitioner and so as all the women being prejudiced by their “law”.
It is on this sense that I concur with the critics of the said ban, which includes human rights defenders and overwhelmingly agree with their contention that the law “targets Muslims and stigmatizes Islam”.
Said ban in my view is not only stupid but undeniably preposterous and sadly France has deviated from its glorious reputation and history from this ridiculous ruling of this impertinent court.
Louise Roug writing for Mashable, “Why France’s Ban on Face Veils Is Bad News for Women”,
July 3rd has brilliantly argued that:
“The ban is also likely to further stigmatize Muslim women — some of whom do choose to wear the veil.
““The argument that the law protects women has no foundation,” said Geneviève Garrigos, president of Amnesty International France, according to France24. “Many [Muslim] women wear veils of their own free will,” she said, adding: “The state does not exist to tell people how they should dress. Rather, it should allow them to make their own choices.” (Amnesty International supported the appeal by the woman who brought the case before the European Court of Human Rights.)
“In addition to the argument that the veil is degrading to women, French officials have asserted that the veil is an affront to French secular traditions. But that is clearly a slippery slope. For one thing, it negates the idea that different cultures and religions can live side by side. Plus, it raises questions about who gets to determine what are the right and proper cultural norms. Finally, there is a specious argument about terrorism and security: that the veil hides people’s identities. But so do certain hats, scarves and beards.”
What’s to be done?
Unfortunately, “the judgment cannot be appealed since it was handed down by the Grand Chamber of the European Court.” Nonetheless, it is my take that the matter is not yet over. The said woman, “a 24-year-old French woman of Pakistani origin had brought the case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, arguing that the original 2011 French ban on face-covering veils, intended to protect her against oppression, instead violated her rights to freedom of religion, expression and assembly, and was discriminatory” can bring this issue of humanistic and universal importance to the United Nations.
Article 18 of the United Nations INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON
CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS expressly provides that:
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
Therefore, anyone who is aggrieved by the stupid and preposterous French law banning the wearing the veil can invoke this international law and sue France before the United Nations.
To France, shame on you and quote the words of Louise Roug: “So much for Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité.”
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
Philosophy and Social Science lecturer
Polytechnic University of the Philippines and Unibersidad de Manila
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