ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Burqa: More than a Symbol

The logic of “Burqa Battles” (Editorial, 7 August) revolves around the following point: “Since there is no public ban on wearing other religious symbols like the Islamic or Jewish cap, the cross or rosary, it is unclear as to how and why the burqa alone is weakening French secularism.”

I feel the question why the French have chosen to ban the burqa comes later. The initial inquiry we need to make is whether the burqa belongs to the same class of religious symbols as the cap, rosary and bangles. These markers of identity make small additions to the physical appearance, and thereby the social self, of the wearer. None of them can be compared with the burqa which dissolves the public identity of the individual wearer and thereby imparts to her an overarching religious identification. It leaves no room for individual identification since the person wearing it becomes a non-being whose public presence is wholly reduced to being a member of a religious group. For that reason, the burqa cannot be perceived as being merely a symbol comparable to other symbols.

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