Thursday 14 October, 6.00pm until 7.30pm, House of Literature, Wergelandsveien 29, 0167, Oslo, Norway
Venue: House of Literature, Wergelandsveien 29, 0167, Oslo, Norway
Last year, the debate in Norway sparked by a police officer who wanted to wear the hijab as part of her uniform led to the Justice Minister having a breakdown and the burning of veils in the street. Across Europe there appears to be growing intolerance of religious symbols, and Islamic ones in particular. Belgium claims to be restoring national pride by banning the burqa and niqab. France claims the veil is ‘contrary to the values of the Republic’, the Swiss have halted the building of minarets and the Spanish proclaim that the ‘values of our society cannot go into retreat.’
Are democratic secular values really under so much threat from the tiny numbers of women who wear the full-face veil? What does the demand for bans tell us about contemporary European societies? As Europe faces increasing economic challenge, the energy put into this issue might seem misguided. Although opposition to the veil is often made in the name of women’s rights, some feminists argue it is wrong to focus on the symbols rather than the reality of women’s oppression. They suggest the best way to liberate women is to improve their standards of living, and encourage them to engage more in public life, not to shun them on the basis of their clothing choices.
Is there a danger that such bans will increase intolerance towards Islam? Pushing it out of sight rather than finding a place for it within society? Should modern democracies always be tolerant of religion, or only when religion itself is ‘tolerant’? Is it consistent for liberal states to have illiberal attitudes to what people choose to wear? Are Western countries really at threat from fundamentalism or does the fear of Islam reflect a lack of confidence in the West itself?
This event will be attended by Dr Tiffany Jenkins, as a guest representative of the Battle of Ideas Organising Committee
assistant professor of journalism, University of Oslo; author, My Holy War
editor, spiked; columnist, Big Issue; contributor, Spectator; author, A Duty to Offend: Selected Essays
|Merryl Wyn Davies|
director, Muslim Institute, London; co-author, Distorted Imagination: lessons from the Rushdie affair
digital business consultant and writer; co-author, Big Potatoes: the London manifesto for innovation
TOLERANSE: Burkaforbudene, som sprer seg som en kreftsvulst, viser at verdiene fra opplysningstiden er i krise i dagens Vest-Europa.Brendan O'Neill, Dagbladet, 11 October 2010
Roma in Italy, burqas in France, minarets in Switzerland: the idea of European citizenship recedes with each affront to equality and solidarityJames A Goldston, Guardian, 24 August 2010
Sarkozy's legislation is only the latest move in a centuries-old grapple between the French state and organised religionRuth Harris, Prospect, 14 July 2010
In Spain earlier this month, the Catalonian assembly narrowly rejected a proposed ban on the Muslim burqa in all public places — reversing a vote the week before in the country’s upper house of parliament supporting a ban. Similar proposals may soon become national law in France and Belgium.Martha Nussbaum, New York Times, 12 July 2010
Europe and the Arab street are both grappling with a fast-changing world where Asia is becoming more important for the first time in centuriesMichael White, Guardian, 1 December 2009
Taking the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa as his starting point, Kenan Malik examines how radical Islam has gained hold in Muslim communities, how multiculturalism contributed to this, and how the Rushdie affair transformed the very nature of the debate on tolerance and free speech.
Kenan Malik, Atlantic Books, 1 April 2009
"The Battle of Ideas is where we can step out boldly where the angels – or should that be demons – of conventionality fear to tread."
Nicky Charlish, participant, 2009