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Argument: Religious freedom has limits; head scarves are outside of protections

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"Banning the hijab". Workers Power. Feb 2004 - "The second key objection is that the ban contravenes the right to religious (and cultural) expression. First, yes the left should support this right but my argument is that not to the point of religious and cultural oppression. Left organisations do not explicitly make clear this distinction but do implicitly recognise it for some egregious practices (such as, in Hinduism, the caste system, not least the role assigned to the "untouchables" - dalits - or widows immolating herself on husband's funeral pyre -Ê suttee; or clitoridectomy, or death by stoning for sex outside marriage - zina - or amputation for theft under Islamic sharia laws and so on.). Also, freedom of religious expression does not imply that Christians, Jews, and Muslims can insist that their children are taught Creationism, or that the Earth is at the centre of the universe, and so on. It therefore follows that the left should oppose religious oppression and obscurantism.

Now in regard to the Islamic veil (full or partial), make no mistake: this is clearly the oppression of women. The stricture for veiling of women is given in the Koran in the following key verse (though there are others) in Sura XXIV:31: "And say to the believing women, that they cast down their eyes and guard their private parts, and reveal not their adornment save such as is outward; and let them cast their veils over their bosoms, and not reveal their adornment save to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands' fathers, or their sons, or their husbands' sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or what their right hands' own, or such men as attend them, not having any sexual desire, or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts...

Because there is ambiguity in this, some Muslims do not accept that this implies veiling in the manner of the hijab or burqa, and so many devout Muslim women do not veil themselves. But for socialists and progressives, the stricture, whether ambiguous or not, is intolerable and oppressive and, therefore, they should not take a neutral stance on the practice. On the contrary, they should argue against it."

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