Posted by: becketfund | January 30, 2008

Op-ed: Balancing rights and burqas

The Becket Fund’s international director, Angela C. Wu, is in today’s Washington Times on the Netherlands’ proposed burqa ban in certain public buildings, excerpted:

A reasonable accommodation by government of religious exercise is good for everyone in a free society, and protects religious expression just like other forms of expression. At the same time, just because dress or an action is religious in nature does not offer it complete protection under the law.

Fundamental freedoms and public interests are not absolute, and need to be balanced against one another…. How that balancing act is accomplished will mean the difference between the ban being seen as addressing legitimate public interests or as mere pretext for discrimination against Muslims.

The banning of religious wear in several states has become a lightning rod issue for the growing Muslim minority in Europe, and the Netherlands need only look at bans in neighboring countries to see how effective legislating this issue will be. The BBC reported that the police in Belgium “are not too happy with the [burqa] ban,” which carries penalties of 150 euros, or eventually, jail. “They say it has made relations with the Moroccan community worse and gives young people a reason to resent society.” This sort of resentment — a dissimilation from the larger culture — is exactly what the bans are meant to avoid.

Read on at the WT. (Yes, it’s a version of what I printed in The Jurist.)

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