April 23, 2019 | 67° F

EDITORIAL: President Barchi has responsibility to be there for U. students

Plans for veil ban policy could lead to discriminatory outcome


A policy that is created and enforced on the pretense of public safety can be fueled by discriminatory rhetoric. First, it was President Donald J. Trump’s blocking of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries popularly referred to as the "Muslim Ban," and today, it is the Austrian government's move to consider a ban on full-face veils. Primarily Muslim women would be prohibited from wearing full-face veils — known as “burqas” and “niqabs,” — in public spaces. But this is not all. Austria wants to take this initiative one step further and ban the headscarf —  fabric that is on a woman's head and does not fully cover the face — from being worn by civil servants, ranging from police officers to judges and prosecutors.

The Austrian government attempted to provide justifications for considering these new policies. The government has proclaimed that one of its main goals as a nation, is to create an “open” environment to promote communication and understanding. And according to the Austrian government, wearing a veil hinders one's capability to partake in open conversations. As for the ban on regular headscarves, or “hijabs,” on public officials, the Austrian government has claimed that those who work for the government should be representing religious neutrality, rather than expressing an affiliation with a specific religion.

It is hard to imagine that a religious veil could be the reason for the dismantling of open communication.

The Austrian government may have some backing to their other beliefs. In an ideal setting, politics and government would be completely devoid of religious association. But this is not the case. In fact, Austria has been known to promote atmospheres within the country that are favorable to majority religion within the nation, in this case, Christianity. If the Austrian government were really concerned with their ideals of religious neutrality, they would not be unfair in dealing with different religions. In fact, this law solely banning Islamic clothing is not neutral at all. It is specifically targeting one religion instead of the other. Would neutrality not involve banning any type of religious representation, such as crosses around people's necks? And if neutrality were truly the goal, would there be a reason for those being sworn into parliament to do so on holy books?

If Austria’s true reasoning for planning and creating this ban is, in fact, related to its desire to reach religious neutrality, it would be more conscientious of the government to make attempts at neutralizing all religions. But is true neutrality the right way to go?

Sometimes it is difficult to understand policies of other nations when one is living in America, and even more so when one attends a University as diverse as Rutgers. Being home to many Muslim students, including those who choose to wear the hijab, it is difficult for Rutgers students to consider how these representations of religion can hinder day-to-day proceedings and conversations. Without different students of different religious, cultural and political backgrounds, Rutgers would not be what it is today. What the Austrian government may not understand is that visibly seeing diversity can be a good thing. Seeing women wearing hijabs in positions of power can make young girls who also wear the hijab feel as though nothing is out of their reach. It also creates an atmosphere where rather than ignoring differences, people learn to embrace them.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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