Personally, I am sick and tired of governments telling humans what they can and can not do with their bodies. Though I personally am anti-abortion, I am fervently pro-choice in terms of reproductive rights. If a woman opts to have the procedure, that is her right, and I should have nothing to say about it.
A similar situation exists in France, where President Jacques Chirac announced last week that head scarves and other conspicuous religious symbols, including Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses, should be banned from schools to protect French secularism. Now, I am all for separation of church and state, God knows. But a kid in the US should be free to wear, say, a pro-Christian or pro-Muslim T-shirt or a Star of David pendant in or out of school. They have that right. And while I am all for French secularism, it is ludicrous and unjust to tell people that they can not wear the symbols of any faith to which they belong.
Hearteningly, thousands of protesters have taken to Paris’ streets to demand people’s right to choose what they wear.
From the Associated Press:
Paris police put the number of marchers at 3,000. More than half were women, girls and even young children wearing head scarves. They marched in a boisterous, flag-waving column hundreds of yards long through rain to the Place de la Bastille, where the prison stormed at the start of the French revolution in 1789 once stood.
Protesters said Chirac’s proposed measures stigmatized France’s estimated 5 million Muslims, the largest Muslim community in Western Europe, and made a mockery of cherished French values.
“Liberty, equality, fraternity — apart from women who wear the veil,” said Fatima Boicha, a housewife and mother of two from a town west of Paris whose head and neck were covered with a brown scarf.
“The French state wants us to submit, to tell us what to wear and what not to wear,” she added. “None of these women here will take their veils off.”
Protesters sang the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, waved French tricolors — red, white and blue — and shouted “Beloved France, where is my liberty?” and other slogans. Some held their identity cards above their heads or pinned enlarged photocopies of their voter cards on their chests to show their French citizenship.
“Proud to be French Muslims,” read one banner. “I vote!” said other placards.
In Germany, officials are dealing with the same question, however, in a different manner. Last September, the nation’s highest court ruled that public-school teachers could wear headscarves unless individual states forbid it. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said last week that he believes teachers should not wear them, but added that Muslim school girls have the right to cover their heads in the classroom.
In my opinion, the bottom line is that while a government itself must be secular, individuals should have the right to express themselves freely no matter what. A woman wearing a headscarf or a man wearing a yarmulke does not impact anyone else’s liberty. These fellow humans deserve the same liberty and should be left alone to wear what they want.
In other news: The Sydney Morning Herald reports excellent news for a Pakistani woman who defied her family by marrying the partner of her choice in 1996.
Pakistan’s human rights commission has hailed a Supreme Court ruling that a Muslim woman who married for love had been entitled to choose her husband without her parents’ consent.
Her father had been fighting a legal battle to invalidate the tradition-defying 1996 marriage.
The court on Friday rejected the final appeal by the father, Hafiz Abdul Waheed, ruling that his daughter, Saima Waheed, had been at liberty to wed whom she wanted.
“The consent of the wali [guardian] is not required and an adult and sane Muslim female can enter into a valid nikah [marriage contract] of her own free will,” the three judges said in a 26-page ruling.
Hundreds of women are killed or maimed by close relatives if they take such a step, seen as betraying the family’s honour.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan – which had helped protect and give legal support to Saima Waheed after she married – praised the judgement.
Excellent — an enlightened decision in an increasingly enlightened, at least in some cases, Pakistan. I still suggest that Saima Waheed watch her back.