McCrea on The Veil Ban and European Law

Ronan McCrea (University College London) has posted The Ban on the Veil and European Law. The abstract follows. NB: The full text is behind a paywall.

This article argues that the fate of veil bans under European law is uncertain. It shows that European commitments to free speech and freedom of religion cannot accommodate an absolute ban justified solely on grounds of the offensiveness of the veil. However, a ban that applies to public face-covering in general (rather than a ban that only targets the veil), that relates to the specific (though admittedly broad) context of social life and that provides some exceptions allowing the veil to be worn in specific religious or expressive contexts, has a reasonable chance of being upheld by European courts despite the significant infringement of personal autonomy it would involve.

Good Thing They Didn’t Try It in France

Anatole France famously observed that the law, in its majestic equality, forbids both rich and poor from sleeping under bridges. What would he have said about this weekend’s events in Marseille? At a rally in solidarity with Pussy Riot, the Russian punk band currently in prison for hooliganism, a group of protesters donned the band’s trademark neon balaclavas (above). The police immediately arrested the protesters for violating the French ban on veiling one’s face in public. The ban, which went into effect last year, was obviously directed at Islamic niqabs. To avoid any appearance of bias, however, the law formally forbids face veils generally. If tried and convicted, the protesters are subject to a fine of €150 and a compulsory citizenship course. CLR published a symposium on the ban and other aspects of church-state relation in France in 2010 – check it out here.

Conference on Illegal Covering (Onanti, Spain)

The International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Onanti, Spain will hold a conference, “‘Illegal’  Covering: Comparative Perspectives on Legal and Social Discourses on Religious Diversity,” this Thursday and Friday, May 17-18. The conference organizers are Valerie Amiraux (University of Montreal) and Pascale Fournier (University of Ottawa). For details, follow the links here.

Ghent University to Host Conference on the Burqa

On May 9, Ghent University (Belgium) will host an international conference highlighting empirical work on the wearing of the face veil, or burqa. Speakers will address not only the sociology of the burqa, but also the possible consequences of laws, like those in Belgium and France, that ban it. A description of the conference agenda is here. H/T: Strasbourg Observers.

Krivenko on the Islamic Veil and Gender Equality

Ekaterina Yahyaoui Krivenko (University of Montreal – Faculty of Law) has posted The Islamic Veil and its Discontents: How Do they Undermine Gender Equality. The abstract follows.

The article addresses the use of notions of gender equality and non-discrimination in the discussions concerning the practice of Islamic veiling by the European Court of Human Rights as well as by French authorities in relation to the recent adoption of the law banning full face veils in public spaces in France. The author argues that the use of the rhetoric of gender equality without the required knowledge and understanding of the justifications for and discussions about this practice existing within Islam is in both cases very inadequate and leads to results opposite to those they intended to promote. Based on insights into the discussions of Muslims about the practice of veiling the author makes some proposals for a more adequate approach to this practice both from the point of view of women’s status as well as from the point of view of relationship between Islam and the West.


Dutch Ban on Face-Coverings in Public Reaffirmed

Just getting to this story from the Netherlands: the Cabinet of the Netherlands has announced a new law (which will go into effect later this year) reaffirming its previous decision banning all “face-coverings” worn in “public spaces, public buildings, educational and health care institutions and public transport.”  There are carve-outs in the law for those face-coverings necessary for “health, safety or the practice of an occupation or sport,” as well as for certain holidays including “Sinterklaas . . . Carnival, and Halloween.”  The justification for the ban is described as follows: “Open communication is vital in public places.  Wearing clothing that covers the face is not appropriate in an open society like the Netherlands, where participation in social intercourse is crucial.”

Canada Bans Veils During Citizenship Ceremonies

Reuters reports that Canada’s immigration ministry has decided to forbid women at naturalization ceremonies from wearing veils that cover their faces, even for religious reasons. The ban will affect Islamic veils like the  niqab, which covers the face but has an opening to allow vision, and burqa, which has a mesh. The ministry argues that its decision will ensure that people who “join the Canadian family” do so “freely and openly,” but Reuters talks about a possible lawsuit by Canadians who believe the ban violates Muslims’s religious freedom. If such a case materializes, the governing precedent would likely be the Canadian Supreme Court’s 2006 Multani decision, the Sikh kirpan case, in which the court held that, under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, any restriction on religious freedom must serve an important government objective and be proportional to that objective — a test that resembles the pre-Smith Sherbert doctrine in American law.