In April of this year, the lower house of the Parliament of Belgium approved a draft law prohibiting women from appearing in public places wearing clothes covering face. In May the resolution condemning wearing burkas was unanimously accepted by the French Parliament. At the moment it is of a declarative nature, but French officials are preparing to give it a legal status.
Prior to that, in the end of the last year, a referendum was conducted in Switzerland banning construction of minarets. Earlier, in November of last year, European Court of Human Rights banned placing crucifixes in Italian public schools to satisfy the appeal of the country’s citizen Soile Lautsi. Does the European society reject religious symbolics in general or just Muslim symbolics? What can be the consequences of such bans? Pravda.ru asked experts for answers.
Geidar Jemal, chair of the Russian Islamic Committee:
“Today the country we are used to calling the European Union that consists of approximately 40 countries, is falling apart. The reason of the collapse is not the economic crisis alone, but the false basis contemporary Europe is built on. This is because the largest part of it is Western Europe that lives in the shadow of the defeat of 1945. It remains the country that is still occupied, the country rigidly controlled by the US through NATO, through the fifth column of officials, and political parties fed by the United States. Let’s not forget that this is the country where Judophilia was forced on people after the defeat. In most of these countries you can go to jail for doubting the existence of Holocaust.
"If you pay attention, all Islam-phobic initiatives originate from government circles – from parliaments, courts and political parties, like it happened in Sweden with minarets. Islam-phobia in Western Europe is a lever for managing the territory that acutely feels that it is secondary, that it has lost the status as the center of history because in 1945 Europe turned into mere economic territory controlled by foreign forces, the US from the West and the USSR from the East.
"Today there is such thing as Islam-phobia used as a tool to control frustration of the masses. Muslim Diasporas in the West and frustrated people in the East have to couple because class solidarity pushes the lower classes of former socialist Europe to get support of poor Muslim Diasporas of the West. Of course, it will be of anti-American and anti-Israeli nature. Therefore, the more European Parliaments accelerate tension, the more they discriminate Muslims in the European society, the more social cataclysms we may expect in the near future.
"Burkas are, of course, an innovation and it does not comply with Shariah. But the parliament did not know that. I think the parliament did not try to get into the subtleties of Islamic legislation and so on. Objectively speaking, if the subjective component is taken away, burkas should be banned by Shariah because it does not comply with the laws of Islam, Sunni of the Prophet, Quran. Quran says that only the Prophet’s wives should be fully concealed from people’s eyes, and they are different from any other woman. This is God’s provision. It means that any other woman cannot imitate the Prophet’s wives in this sacredness.
"So any other woman must cover herself leaving her hands and face open. This is Shariah. If she covers her face, it is a violation of Shariah. But this is an objective side. The subjective side is that the parliament did not know about it and tried to hit a blow to the Muslims. The parliament decided to touch the Muslims on a sore spot on the territory that obeys its legislative acts. This is obvioud and this does not add to mutual understanding between the Diaspora and local population.
"Do you remember what happened when people from Diasporas in the outskirts of Paris started riots? Among them, by the way, were not only Muslims, there were many Serbs, Portuguese and Romanians. Then they were joined by students. The second wave of arsons of cars and buses was done by French students exclusively. Therefore, sooner or later, I think sooner, we will face the repetition of 1968, only the Soviets will not be there along with the international department of the Central Committee that could negotiate with NATO like it happened in 1968."
Father Georgy Zavershinsky, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate :
“The ban for wearing burkas, as explained in the documents regarding a fine charged to a woman wearing a burka by the Italian police, first of all has to do with protection from terroristic threat. This is precisely why it is not allowed to wear motorcycle helmets covering face and so on in public places. There is a difference between bans on religious symbols and bans on wearing clothes that cover people’s identity. This is number one.
"Secondly, unfortunately, Europe’s deviation from its Christian roots is a sign of our time. They explain doing it by their intention not to provoke conflicts or confrontations over religion. This is exactly why the laws banning religious symbols were enacted. This is somewhat different area, and I have to say that Church has a mission, and certain church symbols is a significant part of this mission, therefore the Church cannot refuse them.
"The type of these symbols and the way they are used is another issue. In this respect, there is a difference between Orthodox and Catholic traditions. For example, crucifix is not very traditional for Orthodox Church. The protest expressed by an Italian mother of Finnish descent was aimed at the image of suffering, dying Jesus. She could have had different reasons for the protest, not necessarily religious. I would be more traditional for Orthodox Church to place icons with the image of Jesus or the Mother of God, angels or saints. Icon is a life-asserting symbol.
"It is not very likely that there could be a protest and court appeal against placing icons in our homes, schools or a public places. Even in a European country, for instance, France, Belgium, Germany, or Italy. An icon is a completely different image that shows us a person the way God sees a person. This is the evidence of faith in humanity as it was designed by the Creator. It’s hardly likely that there could be any legal basis for banning icons in public places. Besides, Orthodox Church usually uses an octagonal cross and not a crucifix, although crucifixes are also present but are usually placed inside temples.
"As for the processes that have to do with banning of religious symbols in general, these are natural consequences of de-Christianization of Europe. Orthodox Church had never supported and still does not support these processes and does not speak in their favor. Violation of human rights can be found in other things as well – clothing, behavior, lifestyle, etc. As a result, bans on one or the other behavior may become ridiculous. Although Orthodox Church does not support bans for religious symbols, it fulfills its mission through placing icons in places where religious people may be present and where it can be an evidence of Church and not the reason for negative reaction from non-believers."
Elena Chudinova, a writer, author of “Notre-Dame Masque”:
“The West is starting to realize that ideology of tolerance was not a panacea but merely a one-sided contest. Their civilized self-preservation instincts are waking up. But now we can see how deeply the European identity is damaged. The attempt to stand by non-Christian values fundamental for Europe, secular values, societal values, is the first panic attempt which, obviously, will not be successful.
"Some time ago I said that we had to realize that society has no chances against religion. Religion is a powerful driving factor. Therefore we are observing a paradox where on the one hand there are attempts to refuse the ideology of tolerance expressed as a ban for headscarves in schools, ban for burkas, and recent Swiss referendum that introduced a ban for minarets. But on the other hand, in these attempts we see blinders installed by this tolerance.
"Seeing a threat to religion, unusual for Europe, Europeans are trying to separate from religion in general. It causes ugly incidents like banning crucifixes, bans for priests visiting schools in garbs in catholic countries and other such things. As we know, mentioning of Christian origins of Europe has been excluded even from global documents of the EU. This means that, on the one hand, I can see some hope that self-preservation instinct is developing, but on the other hand, I do not see the reasons to rejoice about it because the European identity is deeply damaged, and this instinct is on crossroads, unable to choose a path to follow.
"The European identity is damaged in secularity. The global documents display refusal from acknowledgement of European Christian roots as the base of civilized European foundation. The holy place is never empty. It is not that Islam is treading, it’s that since the second Vatican Council in the 1970s, not only Catholics but Christianity as a whole had been retreating. This causes the Europeans not to know themselves. Abstract freedom is a subjective thing. Religion is something that had been there for centuries and let us be the “salt of the earth.”