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Burqa: a liberal society is strong when it convinces, not when it compels

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On March 7 we vote on the initiative to ban hiding the face. The Federal Council and the parliament recommend rejecting this text, which will not achieve the intended goals. During the debates, many parliamentarians, from all parties, whether supporters or opponents of the initiative, spoke to stress their discomfort in front of a woman wearing a full veil. And we all react this way: no one likes to see this garment of political Islam in Switzerland, which symbolizes an obstacle to equality and integration. The initiative therefore seems tempting. The question to ask is: will it succeed in improving integration and gender equality? Unfortunately, there are strong reasons to doubt it and even to think that the opposite will happen.

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First of all, the prohibition on forcing a person to hide their face is already condemnable under duress (art. 181 of the Penal Code). The initiative does nothing more. On the contrary, we can fear that, far from freeing women who would be forced to wear this garment, a general ban will further lock them up by preventing them, in the future, from leaving the home. Only a very limited number of women wear such clothes in Switzerland: an estimated 20 to 30 in the country. And some are converted Swiss who wear it voluntarily. In this case, even if we do not approve this choice, the majority of the parliament considers that there is no reason to forbid others even ostentatious clothing. A liberal society must not immediately ban what disturbs it, it must rather integrate by force of its values.

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