Thursday, April 14, 2011

Clothing and liberty

As with a number of commentators, I don't really think the French burqa ban is a terribly good idea but I'm intrigued by the way people argue against it. What I have in mind is this idea that liberty has to do with 'controlling your own appearance'. I'm not saying this isn't so but if it is then liberty isn't very advanced, even in those societies thought to be the most free.

Whilst not being in favour myself, I have a couple of problems with some of the arguments made against the state enforcing dress codes:

1) Why is it only a problem when the state does it, when even in the freest societies workers and school-children regularly have to conform to some kind of dress-code imposed on them by their schools and their employers?

2) Why do even secular liberals insist that exemptions made on religious grounds are better than those made for any other reason? Freedom of religion is being infringed by the burqa ban, we are told - but a freedom infringed that was argued on any other kind of basis would be unlikely to attract the same level of pious indignation, I would guess.

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