Swiss debate over the veil and its relationship to Islamism
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Swiss German-language newspaper of record, has produced another robust contribution to the debate on the full face veil, in the run up to a referendum on whether to ban the garment in early March. The title, “Burka and Niqab are the emblems of a totalitarian ideology and should be banned”, gives a flavour of the piece. The subtitle reads: “Islamism is not an abstract but a real danger. People are harassed and murdered in its name. Its symbol is the full veil. It has no place in a free society”. The author, Eric Gujer, then elaborates on these claims, briefly reviewing the history of Islamism in Europe and the Arab world – including jihadist attacks – and the way in which the veil over the last four decades became, according to Gujer, a mark of political Islamism designed to subordinate women to Islamism’s political goals. He argues that too many people still bite their lip on such matters, uneasy with matters of religion or simply out of liberal embarrassment. Gujer concludes that this is not a matter of individual choice – as Islamists and some liberals allege – but part of an ideological struggle over the nature of the state.
Again, whether one agrees with Gujer or not, his article further illustrates the nature of the fierce public debate in continental Europe on these matters – and the relative absence of such debate in the UK.