The recent vote to ban the burqa in France has awakened predictable outrage from the human rights industry in Western countries. Similar initiatives have met stiff resistance in the United States and Britain on the grounds of religious freedom.
Strangely enough, Muslim authorities aren’t so finicky about religious freedom in their countries, even when the religion in question is Islam. First it was Egyptian universities banning the veil, and now Syria. According to The Daily Mail:
Syria has banned the face-covering Islamic veil from the country’s universities.
The Education Ministry’s ban comes as similar moves in Europe — and calls for one in England — spark cries of discrimination against Muslims.
An official told local media: ‘Our students are our children and we will not abandon them to extreme ideas and practices.’
Syria is not a Muslim country. An official at the ministry says the ban affects public and private universities and aims to protect Syria’s secular identity.
Sunday’s ban does not affect the headscarf, which many Syrian women wear.
The secular, authoritarian government has recently tried to curry favour by rallying to the cry of moderate Islam at home.
But it remains wary of Islamic fundamentalism, which is a threat to its power — especially in education.
Last month, hundreds of primary school teachers who wear the niqab were moved to administrative jobs, local media reported.
“We have given directives to all universities to ban niqab-wearing women from registering,” the [Syrian] government official told The Associated Press on Monday.
The niqab “contradicts university ethics,” he added.
He also confirmed that hundreds of primary school teachers who were wearing the niqab at government-run schools were transferred last month to administrative jobs.
Syria is the latest country to weigh in on the niqab, perhaps the most visible hallmark of strict, conservative Islam. European countries including France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands are considering similar bans on the grounds that the veils are degrading to women. Opponents say such bans violate freedom of religion and will stigmatize all Muslims.
British civil-liberties advocates maintain that wearing a burqa is harmless, and allowing it respects the rights of women. Nicolas Sarkozy does not agree:
[French] President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that the burka ‘is not welcome’ in his country. He claims that it is ‘oppressive’ to women and reduces them to ‘servitude’.
He said: ‘The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience.’
Hat tips: Insubria and Gaia.