Kommentar

British Council inviterer til debatt om burkaforbud på Litteraturhuset neste torsdag. Debatten er på engelsk, og inngår i en serie. Tittelen lyder: From open values to burqa bans: have Europeans lost the habit of tolerance?

CHAIR:
Martyn Perks, Director Thinking Apart
PANEL:
Merryl Wyn Davies, Director The Muslim Institute
Hans Rustad, Editor document.no
Brendan O’Neill, Journalist and Editor Spiked online
Nazneen Khan-Østrem, Assistant Professor and Author

Across Europe there appears to be growing intolerance towards religious symbols and Islamic ones in particular. Belgium claims to have restored national pride by banning the burqa and niqab. France claims the veil is ‘contrary to the values of the Republic’, the Swiss have halted the building of minarets and the Spanish proclaim that the ‘values of our society cannot go into retreat’. Are democratic secular values really under so much threat from the tiny numbers of women who wear the full-face veil? What does the demand for bans tell us about contemporary societies that appear obsessed with the symbols rather than the reality of women’s oppression?

As the Eurozone faces increasing economic challenges this energy might seem at least misplaced if not misguided. Although opposition to the veil is often made in the name of women’s rights, some feminists argue that the best way to liberate women is to improve their standards of living and for them to engage more in public life, not be shunned on the basis of their clothing choices.

Is there a danger that such bans will actually increase intolerance towards Islam? Pushing it out of sight rather than finding a place for it within society? Should modern democracies be tolerant of religion or only when religion itself is ‘tolerant’? Is it consistent for liberal states to have illiberal attitudes to what people choose to wear? Are Western countries really at threat from fundamentalism or does the fear of Islam speak to a lack of confidence in the West itself?

Join in the debate at Litteraturhuset – in a true Battle of Ideas spirit we expect a lively exchange of views.

The debate launches the British Council’s Our Shared Europe project in Norway. The Our Shared Europe project is the British Council’s response to one of the major cultural challenges facing our continent today – the growing mutual mistrust between Muslim communities and wider European society.

More information
Battle of Ideas: www.battleofideas.org.uk
Our Shared Europe: www.oursharedeurope.org