April 3 , 2017
Veiled Threats? By Martha Nussbaum
Burqa & headscarf: forbidden in schools, at jobs, and parliamentary challenges in Spain, France,
Belgium, and Germany (including democratic states)
Question: What is it to treat people with equal respect in areas touching on religious belief and
She limits her question to democratic states.
Unassailable assumption: human beings are equal bearers of human dignity
Some argue that wearing a headscarf infringes the rights of others
John Locke: protecting liberties requires two things: laws that do not penalize religious belief,
and laws that are non-discriminatory about practices.
What about if your state calls you up to do jury duty on a day that is a religious day for you?
How should our state handle that?
Accomodationist principle: where the state is not permitted to impose a substantial burden on
a person’s free exercise of religion without a compelling state interest.
You shouldn’t penalize someone for not working to work on a day that is holy to them or
shouldn’t penalize someone for tempting express their views
This is not without problems: e.g. how do we do this? On a case by case basis?
5 arguments commonly made in favour of bans on burqas:
first argument: security requires people show their faces, and relatedly,
second argument: the kind of transparency and reciprocity which is proper to relations
between citizens is impeded by covering part of the face. (to be good citizens with each other,
we need to see each other’s faces)
good citizenship moves and headsets have no connection. Also technology is advances, finger
print, eyes etc. could be used for recognition.
Third argument: burqa is a symbol of male domination that symbolizes the domination of
All of our major religions are patrionatical, priveledge man over woman. For example, jewish
religion, man have ‘access’ to God through circumstion.
Cultural view: Force women to cover themselves, sister/daughter get sexually harassed, it is
because she didn’t cover herself. Middle eastern societies: men feel like they own the women
hence why they make her cover up.
Democratic: women know that they can’t be forced to do anything and they know their rights.
So it is not a religion thing it is a cultural thing, middle east. If women were to choose then they
wouldn’t choose to cover up which is wrong because they do. Telling the women what they
can’t wear by banning. -They do so because they have been manipulated, influenced by dominant imagery around
their religious commitment, it is adapted preference, they were told this is how this should be
so they still don’t really have their own choice.
But… there are so many other circumstances where men dominate women. What about
sexualizing of women, magazines, plastic surgery, ageism only affects women etc. we better get
rid of all of these, other objectification of women.
Again: then, there is glaring inconsistency with applying the argument – the proponents of the
ban do not propose to ban all objectifying practices.
Fourth argument: women wear burqa only because they are coerced. Middle east: women
making choices is actually compro