IE_University_courtyard_300pxIE Humanities Discussion Series
Does the Burqa Take Away Our Freedoms?
Tuesday, October 21 at 7 pm at Refectorio (Room 142B)

The 21st Century seems to have started with a ‘clash of civilizations’ between the West and the Muslim world.  The ‘burqa’, a garment that completely covers the female body except for the eyes, at times even occluding those, has become a symbolic flashpoint of this purported civilizational clash.  For many in Europe, the burqa not only robs the women who they see as coerced to wear it of their freedom.  It is seen, more broadly, as a sign of misogyny in Muslim countries and of the capacity of Islam in this context to turn women into second-class citizens.  For others in Europe, the burqa represents by contrast precisely the freedom to excersise one’s religion according to one’s beliefs, without circumventing others from doing the same.  Hence, the question of the ‘burqa’ is today at the forefront of what personal, political and religious freedom mean and who should define them.  Those who advocate the banning of the ‘burqa’ point to it to justify claims about Islam and Islamic traditions as intrinsically incompatible with the liberal, secular, and democratic society that exists in Europe today.  Those who oppose such bans see them instead as mere hypocrisy on the part of liberals who do to Muslims what they accuse them of doing to others: imposing a uniform that goes against deeply held beliefs.  In our dicussion we will ask not only about extent to which the ‘burqa’ represents Islam and is a symbol of the repression of women, but also the kind of plurality and diversity that our idea of freedom can or must tolerate.  Two IE students will begin our discussion by providing opposed points of view on this question and our conversation will follow their introductory presentations.  The Humanities Discussion Series has become a forum, whereby students come together alongside faculty to move beyond the easy comfort of their own beliefs, to share and think through their differing ideas within an atmosphere of informed discussion and debate.  We invite you, in this spirit, to talk though what you take religious and political freedom to mean today.


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