A Belgian parliamentary committee has unanimously voted to finally tackle the scourge of creepy shopping centre Santas.
Concern has been growing in the European nation for years at the growth of fundamentalist Santa-ism, as these dodgy looking characters lure children towards their radical ideology with promises of “presents”. Many advocate that the entire Santa-believing world is united in a fundamentalist empire ruled from the North Pole, in which all adults will be forced to become toy manufacturing elves. Many fear the threat of Father Christmasification of Belgium.
The new law will ban appearing in any public place “with face covered or disguised in whole or in part to the extent that she cannot be identified”. Doing so will lead to a fine or up to 7 days in prison. It is hoped that the measure will help prevent Santas from congregating on Belgian streets or shopping centres.
Of course, the anti-Santa move will also have a significant impact on Muslim women. Belgian local authorities already have the power to ban the burqa or the niqab, and the city of Brussels has banned the wearing of headscarves in schools, prompting protests.
But the Belgian MPs have tried to reassure people that they are totally not racist, and the ban is just part of their commitment to a “liberal, open and tolerant society.” Indeed, it’s not as if looking at Belgian history would ever make you think they have a problem with racism.
The committee’s approval is a major step towards the bill becoming law, which would make Belgium the first European country to order covering the face in public places. This may well be followed by the Netherlands, where everybody’s favourite
racist “secularist” Geert Wilders looks set to score big in the upcoming elections. And in France, after getting trashed in the local elections, right wing President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he would introduce a similar ban.
“The all-body veil is contrary to the dignity of women,” he said. “The answer is to ban it. The government will introduce a bill to ban it that conforms to the principles of our laws.”
Quite how characters like Sarkozy expect us to take them seriously when they tell us they’re defending women’s rights by passing a law about what they can and cannot wear I don’t know. The other major defence of this idea is that it’s about secularism. Secularism is the idea that religion should be completely separate from the state, and your religion should be a matter of personal conscience, not state law. Passing a law that makes religious dress a matter of state interest is therefore by definition not secularist.
Belgian Muslims protesting the headscarf ban. Banner reads: "School is my right, the veil is my choice."
The ban on covering the face in public places has united all the major political parties, and indeed the traditionally divided French and Flemish speaking politicians. The fact that there are so few voices willing to stand up against a state that thinks it has the right to regulate how women dress shows just how far the fight against anti-Muslim racism, and indeed against sexism, has to go.
SSY acknowledges that some of the Santa images displayed in this post would disturb even the most staunch defender of human rights. However, we feel that even the enormity of the threat these men pose to our mental health is no justification for a racist law which dictates how women can and cannot dress. As the Vice-President of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, Isabelle Praile, puts it:
“Today it’s the full-face veil. Tomorrow the veil, the day after it will be Sikh turbans, and then perhaps it will be miniskirts.”
Bonus: For sensible commentary on the issue of the burqa (as opposed to posts that steal convoluted Santa jokes from Belgian MPs) check out islamophobia watch and muslimahmediawatch. Santa images via Sketchy Santas.