Banning the burqa.

Giles Fraser explains the point of Martha Nussbaum’s new book after sitting down with her in Chicago:

Those who associate the burqa with violence against women are often inconsistent, for instance, in not also wanting to ban alcohol, which is strongly associated with violence against women. Even during prohibition, she points out, alcohol was allowed for religious purposes, such as the eucharist. Many argue that the burqa is something forced on women and that the issue is one of choice. Certainly, if physical coercion is involved or threatened, the law must step in. But what of non-physical forms of cultural or community pressure? Yes, says Nussbaum – such as forcing your child to play the piano or dress smartly or to go into accountancy. The strategy of the book is to reveal the inconsistencies and double standards that we apply to minority religious positions and from there to plead for a more sympathetic hearing of those whose worldviews we do not share.

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