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There have been plenty of instances in recent history across Europe where parties want to ban covering of the face:

to name a few...


What reasons could parties have to be proposing face covering bans?

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    Comments deleted. Please don't use comments to answer the question. Also don't use comments to soap-box your personal opinions about the subject of this question. Question comments are only meant to ask for clarification or provide constructive criticism on the question itself. – Philipp Jun 12 '17 at 16:31
  • Don't forget Turkey! – Andrew Grimm Jun 12 '17 at 21:05
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    This is rather broad, isn't it? I mean, there are at least two axii (axes) of differences in your examples: all face coverings i.e. masks, or only veils and burqa components; proposals limited to schools — vis–à–vis attire and degrees of uniformity in government institutions; proposals applicable in all public places. – can-ned_food Jun 12 '17 at 23:03
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    The obvious reason not mentioned: security (concealment of any or all of identity, bombs, weapons). But any law imposed for security reasons would have to apply equally to all sorts of full face coverings, not just one kind. – nigel222 Jun 13 '17 at 15:53
32

There are three interlocking reasons:

  1. Face coverings are perceived as an affront to feminism/women's liberation/etc...

    The fact that women (but not men) are forced to cover their face, is pretty much as naked patriarchal/opposed to feminism as you can get (heck, even most anti-third-wave-feminists agree that it's a valid reason to pro-feminism-protest and is clear inequality). If you recall, in 1960s, feminists vehemently protested bras, and in 1990s, some protested nipple pasties. There are worldwide "slut walks", whose main philosophy is feminism-based opposition to the idea that a woman should dress less provocatively to avoid sexual assault.

    Muslim face covering flies/spits in the face of all that (no pun intended).

  2. It's viewed by Westerners[1] that face coverings are symptomatic and/or symbolic of conservative/radical Islam's treatment of women.

    [1] - I won't discuss whether this view is correct or not - the complexities of Arab/Middle-Eastern/Central-Asian tribalism and ethnography as intertwined with Islam are way outside the scope of the question. It's enough for explaining the OP's question that the view is held, widely.

  3. For those who generally oppose radical Islam, this is viewed as both practical pushback (If you ban face coverings, conservative/radical Muslims wouldn't want to live in that society); as well as symbolic pushback (inasmuch as, per above point, face coverings are seen by many as a symbol of Islam).

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Philipp Jun 13 '17 at 8:17
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    To clarify, most Muslims, in terms of population, consider the face veil to be optional, and forcing it upon someone is considered extreme. In the West, it's almost always the woman opting to wear it. There is no actual evidence supporting the fact that women who wear the veil in the West are forced to do so. "Outsiders" just assume it, based on hearsay – makhdumi Jun 13 '17 at 17:27
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    I can't tell if that's what point 3 is about but otherwise plain old racism is missing. – Relaxed Jun 13 '17 at 19:20
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    @Al-Muhandis, In the west, gays are accepted by an overwhelming majority, but even that doesn't necessarily shield some from the violence done to them by their own family members or by their peers for being gay. And even in the west, there can be muslim related honor killings. There can be plenty of evidence found about that. Also, a survey conducted in France in May 2003 found that 77 percent of girls wearing the hijab said they did so because of physical threats. – Stephan Branczyk Jun 14 '17 at 9:58
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    @StephanBranczyk Have a source for that survey? – Relaxed Jun 16 '17 at 5:15
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In addition to user4012's excellent answer it is worth noting that often security, is given as a concern in regards to the full face veil. As this article states :

Concerns are raised, for example, about the ability of the police or courts to identify and question suspects or witnesses [who are wearing full face coverings].

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    Of course, that only applies to prohibitions that stipulate all methods of obscuring the face, and not those which are limited to certain forms — unless, that is, that the drafters of the legal prohibitions are placing apparently Muslim folks under more scrutiny than others. Is that what you are supposing? Seems at least somewhat probable. – can-ned_food Jun 12 '17 at 23:07
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    @can-ned_food I am not supposing anything, I'm simply outlining that this is an argument used by proponents of bans on a full face veil – SleepingGod Jun 12 '17 at 23:13
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    @can-ned_food Most people aren't covering their faces with other methods and are happy to remove them if they are. Banks don't allow you to wear motorcycle helmets, nor could you wear one to court, but if you could refuse to remove it based on anti-religious-discrimination laws then further legal methods to require it be removed under certain circumstances would be necessary. – MrLore Jun 13 '17 at 7:46
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    Anecdotally, I have heard daycare workers are concerned if they can't verify who is picking up a given child while wearing a burqa. (Logically, this of course wouldn't justify a burqa ban, just a requirement by the daycare that customers need to remove the veil when picking up children.) – Stephan Kolassa Jun 13 '17 at 12:10
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    In some european countries, gathering in public with face obscuring clothing is illegal... And some businesses do have objections to you entering with such clothing on (eg if you enter a bank with a motorcycle helmet or balaclava, this will probably not be taken lightly even if there is not intent at robbery). – rackandboneman Jun 13 '17 at 16:17
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Original answer below. First some notes on the accepted answer. It states three possible reasons:

1) Face coverings are perceived as an affront to feminism/women's liberation/etc...

This is fully compatible with the intro to my answer: "In a nutshell, the European reaction to everything they don't like is to try to ban it or to exterminate its practitioners" ... Europeans think Muslim women wearing the veil is an affront to feminism, so the first solution they come up with is to ban it. To the point of sending the police to the beach to force a woman to undress.

... There are worldwide "slut walks", whose main philosophy is feminism-based opposition

Seemingly missing the point that there is a difference between having the right to organize such protests versus dictating to others how they should dress.

2) It's viewed by Westerners that face coverings are symptomatic and/or symbolic of conservative/radical Islam's treatment of women.

So, the accepted answer agrees with mine that it is part of the de-Islamization drive ... similar to France's de-Christianization. They did not like Christian believers, so they chose to try to ban practices and exterminate practitioners.

3) For those who generally oppose radical Islam, this is viewed as both practical push-back (If you ban face coverings, conservative/radical Muslims wouldn't want to live in that society); as well as symbolic push-back (inasmuch as, per above point, face coverings are seen by many as a symbol of Islam).

And this is what I am warning against. First, the ban is not symbolic if people are fined for dressing a certain way, their children possibly taken away, or made to strip by police. 75 years of experience in Turkey shows even much stronger forms of repression does not dissuade the practitioners. Instead, such repression over trivial things creates becomes the rallying cry.


With that out of the way, here is my much down-voted answer:

This is an answer about the actual reasons behind these campaigns rather than the public excuses used to justify them.

Because there is a reason freedom-loving Europeans left Europe for America.

In a nutshell, the European reaction to everything they don't like is to try to ban it or to exterminate its practitioners:

During a two-year period known as the Reign of Terror, the episodes of anti-clericalism grew more violent than any in modern European history. The new revolutionary authorities suppressed the church; abolished the Catholic monarchy; nationalized church property; exiled 30,000 priests and killed hundreds more. ... New forms of moral religion emerged, including the deistic Cult of the Supreme Being and atheistic Cult of Reason, with the government briefly mandating observance of the former in April 1794. (emphases mine)

As Ben Cohen observes:

American Jews are fortunate to live with a constitution clearly demarcating religion and state. European Jews don’t have such clear guidelines, and therefore become hostages to the fortunes of political clashes in which their freedom of worship is just one consideration among many.

That's why French laïcité is oppressive whereas American separation of church and state (that is, no government at any level has the power to regulate people's religious observances) is liberating.

The freedom not to adhere to a specific set of religious rules is vacuous if one does not have the right to adhere to one's chosen set of religious rules:

The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore ... Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”.

European countries would do well to learn from the experience of Turkey which banned specific forms of dress for decades (and some people hanged for not complying with Atatürk's dress code):

REFİK BEY (Konya) — Bügünkü hakimiyeti milliye gazetesinin neşrettiği giibi Sivas'da ve Erzurum'da şurada bura­da bazı masumlar, sırf (burada yapılan tahrik âmiz irticalkâr fikirlerin itesiriyle ızlâl edilerek ahkâmı kanuniyeye karşı hareket ederek müçrim vaziyetine düşmüşler, mahkûm olmuşlar, bunlardan bazıları idam bile edilmişlerdir. Nurettin Paşa da maksadını bu suretle istihsal etmiştir.

...

Ne günahı vardır Sivas'da asılan Necati'nin, ne günahı vardır Erzurum'da asılan bir kaç masumun? Doğrudan doğruya Nurettin Pa­şa tarafından verilen takrir memleketin dört köşesine yayılmış ve efendiler görüyorsunuz ya, bu kanun Teşkilâtı Esasiye Kanununa münafir, bu kanuni hürriyeti vicdana münafidir, (emphasis mine)

In this snippet, Konya representative Refik Bey expresses the view that the so called Hat Law violates the constitution of the Republic of Turkey and violates freedom of conscience during a debate on the law to ban certain religious institutions (Full disclosure: As far as I know, my great grandfather voted for both of these laws which I have considered for a long time to be, at the very least, misguided, to the consternation of many in my family).

That was Turkey's attempt to impose the French way and change people's behavior by coercion. In late 20th century, the headscarf ban became the rallying cry of political Islam against the establishment. The consequences are now here for all to see. Clearly, even very strict bans against religious expression did little to convert supporters of such religious expression over a period of 75 years. This establishes that such bans and repression do not improve domestic security, reduce conflict between different groups. Nor do they improve women's rights. Therefore, the real motivation behind such repression must lie elsewhere.

Current attempts at banning certain religious practices are not limited to just regulating dress, and are part and parcel of continental Europe's habit of ghettoizing people whom they consider to be beneath them.

As Yaakov Menken points out:

Given that kosher slaughter is in fact at least as humane as “stunning” via either electrocution or driving a peg into the base of an animal’s skull, to deny Jews and Muslims the ability to practice their religions, and claim it has nothing to do with bigotry, fools no one.

Update:

And, today, we have another gem:

“The still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action,” Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said in a statement. “Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet.”

In the United States, despite the desire of many to institute Euro-style controls, hate speech is still protected speech.

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    "Because there is a reason freedom-loving Europeans left Europe for America." The Mayflower sailed a long, long time ago... – Rekesoft Jun 13 '17 at 14:50
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    -1 If you're going to make such significant leaps in judgment as stated in your third paragraph, you'll need significant evidence that supports the claim. – Drunk Cynic Jun 13 '17 at 15:40
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    How dare you attack the peaceful, progressive, and culturally sensitive people of Europe! Its not like they have been responsible for half a dozen genocides in the last century alone! Those are fox news lies you link too... must be. – SoylentGray Jun 13 '17 at 16:28
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    user4012's #2 and #3 address similar reasons with much less inflammatory language. – user9389 Jun 13 '17 at 16:44
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    I feel much of this is generalised or patently false e.g. "the European reaction to everything they don't like is to try to ban it or to exterminate its practitioners" or dips into unnecessary and irrelevant topics such as the banning of kosher or circumcision. Indeed their are equivalent calls to ban circumcision in the US which overall makes your answer unreliable. Also using such phrases as "Europe's habit of ghettoizing people whom they consider to be beneath them" brings us right up to the very edge of defamy and violation of our be nice policy. – SleepingGod Jun 13 '17 at 18:46

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