The fear of the unknown

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2012

The Burqa debate reopened this month when the French Government unveiled plans to ban the item of clothing from being worn on public transport and in civil buildings. Denmark have been quick to follow suit; its Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen announced this week that “the burqa and the niqab have no place in Danish society. They symbolise a view of women and humanity that we totally oppose and that we want to combat in Danish society.” 

The centre-right politician added that “Danish society rests on being a positive [one] in which we meet each other at eye level, in which we can see each other and in which we gesticulate with each other,” It is a flimsy excuse for an argument, made even sillier for the fact that almost no one wears the burqa in Denmark. The burqa issue in France is at least one that carries weight because it involves hundres of thousands, and because the veil does contravene the French notion of “Lacaite”, or “Secularism” – a principle that is sacred to the nation. By contrast, Rasmussen has launched a pointless “us liberals versus them” campaign against the 200 veiled women who live in Denmark, citing vague principles that barely conceal the islamophobia behind the statement. 

Of course this isn’t an isolated incident of public figures across Europe promising to protect their country’s “liberalism” from the “imperial” Muslim world. Geert Wilders, the Dutch populist politician has been pushing not only to ban the Burqa, but also the Koran, Mosques and, well, most Muslims. And though his demagogic manner and insistance on associating all Muslims with terrorists is generally met with derision and disgust, it is no lie that his fanbase is increasing. It is becoming more and more acceptable to depict Islam as an inherently dangerous and hate fueled religion. And the Mineret ban vote in Switzerland is yet another example of the twisted “liberal” logic that makes it o.k. to want to blot out any signs of Muslim life in Europe. The truth of the matter is that this has much less to do with Islamic fundamentalists, 9/11, and so on, and alot more to do with the  petty minded “Fear of the Unknown” complex. As was epitomised by something a German Turisk taxi driver told me the other day; “I won’t even be considered for a flatshare. My family have lived here for four generations. And still, we’ll never be Germans. They just take one look at my name or my face and decide I’m a foreigner. “ 

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