Banning religious garments in public boosts social cohesion
Published: Jun 04, 2018 11:33 PM

France was the first, followed by a string of others including Belgium, Bulgaria and Austria. Country after country in Europe has enacted their own ban on the wearing of full-face coverings - including Islamic veils such as the niqab and burqa - in public spaces. The Scandinavian nation of Denmark became the latest after the Danish parliament voted on Thursday to ban face veils by 75 votes to 30, with 74 abstentions. According to the new legislation, wearing a burqa, which covers a person's entire face, or a niqab, which only shows the eyes, in public, will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156).

In the same week, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 71 percent of Britons said they supported a ban on the religious garment. With the European continent grappling with the influx of migrants and threats of terrorism, more countries in the region have endorsed, or are considering endorsing, a ban on displaying religious attire in public.

The call to ban burqa in public is justified for consolidating social unity, cohesion and stability, especially at a time when religion can easily trigger confrontation and conflicts. Many Europeans have blamed the newcomers from Muslim majority countries for worsening security. Islamophobia has been rising across the continent after terrorist attacks launched by extreme Islamists.

Let's be clear: Banning the display of religious symbols in public is not religious hatred. Public spaces are shared by all and should be dominated by no one.

Displaying one's religious identity in public lacks respect for those who do not believe in any religion and those who oppose the presence of religion in public life.

One's religious belief cannot be built upon infringement of others' freedom of religion and social life. In this sense, a burqa ban is important to guarantee living together in peace, despite race and religion, as well as protecting the rights and freedom of others.

Nowadays religion is one of the toughest challenges facing modern secular societies in their search for equality and cohesion. Secularization is the basic principle of a modern secular society. Bans on certain religious dress and other similar restrictions can help ensure religious equality and boost social unity.

Local or nationwide bans on hijabs, niqabs and burqas have been implemented in countries from Africa to Asia. That's what secular countries are supposed to do. And more countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany are likely to follow suit.

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