The European Court of Human Rights has shown tremendously poor judgment with its decision to uphold a French ban on veils.
The decision to legislate against facial coverings — including the niqab and burka — was made, ostensibly, to empower Muslim women and stand up for their right to go into public without wearing one.
However, in endeavouring to empower women and fortify their rights, the French government — and the European Court of Human Rights — may have achieved the opposite.
In the sake of fairness, I must note that I believe it is admirable for lawmakers to seek a way to empower women who may be oppressed by the men of their cultures and forced to wear facial coverings.
Not all Muslim women are forced to don a veil.
However, some sects of the culture do demand that their women wear the facial coverings.
In some areas of the world, women are persecuted when they do not.
It is important that lawmakers try to find a way to solve this cultural problem. But passing a law that forbids a woman from making the decision for herself about whether she would like to wear the veil is no better than commanding her to wear it. It’s the opposite side of the same coin.
The ban doesn’t address the root cause of the situation, it just thrusts the problem to the nearest neighbour as though playing a game of geopolitical hot potato.
It’s hard to determine what informed the European Court of Human Rights’ decision on this matter when it is so very obviously a violation of the universal right to freedom of expression that every woman should be afforded, the same as every man. Ordinarily, a decision made in a single nation would not be of much concern.
But the decision was made in a G8 country, adopted in a second country (Belgium), and upheld by a multinational court of human rights with jurisdiction in many other European nations, all of which are geographically close to the Middle East and many Muslim nations.
It is obvious that the goals here are more than they first appear.
One of those goals would seem to be the advancement of very simple and very ugly xenophobia.
The ban’s supporters in France were open about their desire to maintain the status quo in their country and declaw any potential Islamic separatist movement.
The writing, as it were, is on the wall. We can only hope this poor form of lawmaking doesn’t leap across the ocean.
Justin Crann can be reached at 306-691-1265 or follow him on Twitter @J_Crann