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Banning the Burka? An Ethical Appraisal

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This ethical research paper was prompted by the French government’s recent action to ban the wearing of the burka by women of Islamic religious persuasion with legislature because the government regards the burka as a symbol of the inferiority of women in Muslim communities. According to president Sarkozy this symbol infringes on the fundamental human rights of women, and such a view of women should be renounced in the French Republic. Firstly, the article investigates the history and the meaning of wearing the burka and the veil. This investigation reveals that these symbols were cultural symbols that have no real bearing on gender inequality yet have become powerful religious symbols due to rising fundamentalism in the Islamic tradition Next, the article discusses the content and implications of two models of religious freedom: the active neutral model and the active plural model. Finally—with the active plural model as an angle of approach, and in view of the constitutional values of equality, freedom and the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion—the investigation concludes that legislation against the wearing of these religious symbols violates the rights of Muslim women to wear the burka.

Affiliations: 1: North-West University Potchefstroom Campus South Africa, Email:


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