Important lessons from the protests against the ban of wearing face veils
A Commentary by Almedina Gunić, 4th August 2018, www.thecommunists.net
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France and the Netherlands have already implemented a legal ban on wearing of the Burka respectively the Niqab. The same is true for Bavaria in Germany, some towns in Italy and some cantons in Swiss. In Denmark a new law to ban any wearing of face veils was adopted in May 2018 and came into effect with 1st August.
However, on the same day impressive protest in Copenhagen and the second biggest city of Denmark, Aarhus, took place. More than 2,000 people rallied against women's oppression and Islamophobia. However, the most interesting aspect was not so much the number of participants. It was the composition of the protesters and the organizers.
Many of the activists on the streets were Muslim women as well as some Muslim men. So far, this is logical and important but not surprising. What made the protest in Denmark unique compared to any protests which took place in the others countries prohibiting Burka and Niqab is the number of activists from a non-Muslim background who supported and even co-organized the protest.
In Copenhagen, the rally itself started in the district of Nørrebro which is a working class district with a very high number of migrants. Since the 1980s, a number of youth-led protests took place against police violence, unemployment, racism and other progressive issues. Violent protests against the police took also place in 2007 after the local government decided to demolish the Ungdomshuset building in the district. Ungdomshuset was a historic symbol of the revolutionary labour movement as the International Socialist Women’s Congress in 1910 was held in the building, which was the starting point for the international tradition of the 8th March as a proletarian Women’s Day. Ungdomshuset was visited by Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin and other revolutionaries. Unfortunately the building was demolished despite of these protests.
The district of Nørrebro is therefore not only a working class and migrant district but also a centre of the labour movement in Copenhagen. The protest on the 1st August reflected this with a big number of activists from an anarchist respectively communist background who marched side by side with the Muslim women and men against the ban of the face veil.
The so-called left in its very big majority in all other European countries either ignored protests against the ban of Burka and Niqab or even sympathized with such undemocratic and oppressive laws. It is a disgusting bigotry that the petty-bourgeois women’s movement of the 1970s is praised so often for its “liberating” character because it challenged the bans on short skirts in schools, universities and other public places as well as it challenged other clothing prohibitions. But the same leftists who praise the protests of the feminists in the 1970s fail to support protests against the ban of veils (or are even in favour of such bans).
The principle must be “Every woman has the right to wear whatever she wants to wear” and not “you have the right to be naked but not to cover yourself as you like”. This is the reason why we say: Do it like the Danes! Protest against the ban on wearing face veils in all countries affected by this Islamophobic and sexist law.