Reader’s letter: France takes action against Muslim dress


Herman Toerien writes from Paarl:

The news that the French authorities sent 67 Muslim schoolgirls home after they refused to remove traditional Muslim clothing continues to make headlines.

France was previously in the news because of its opposition to the wearing of the veiling burqa, but the court set aside an attempt to ban the wearing of the so-called burkini as a swimwear. This time the wearing of the abaya was banned from September 4.

The French government believes that wearing it, and certain other items of clothing, violates French laws governing secularism in schools.

However, an attempt to stop the ban through an interdict was turned down by the court.

However, it is not only in France where the issue is controversial. Under new proposed guidelines for the dress code for South African nurses, the wearing of headscarves with uniforms would be prohibited. However, it is now being revised after opposition from the Muslim community.

However, the wearing of clothing that conceals women’s heads and their bodies is not only unique to the Muslim world. For about three hundred years there was also an action by women in Lima, capital of Peru. It has as the tapada limeƱa was known, and means “the veiled one of Lima”.

Indeed, it had nothing to do with religion, but was a way in which women could protect their identity against women-oppressive practices and attitudes. Only one eye was visible.

The Roman Catholic Church has at times prohibited the wearing of this garment. Women of higher status could end up behind bars for ten days, and women of the lower classes a full month.