Denmark’s groundbreaking ban on artificial beards, becomes law today. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.
The aim of the law is to compel Muslim women to become more integrated in Danish society, because nothing says integration like banning artificial beards.
It’s nonsense of course. Denmark doesn’t have a problem with people wearing artificial beards. It doesn’t even have a problem with women wearing burkas (all 50 of them, according to yesterday’s Woman’s Hour), which is what it’s really about.
The ban on beards is to prevent the legislation being sexist, because that would never do in tolerant, egalitarian, liberal Denmark.
The problem is that there is nothing tolerant about this intolerant, inegalitarian and illiberal law.
It’s about telling women what they may and may not wear. You would have to go back to the 1746 Dress Act – the one banning Scotsmen from wearing kilts – to find a law which told men what they could and couldn’t wear.
Today, girls in some schools must wear trousers – as far as I know, there are none where boys must only wear skirts. (I am old enough to remember when female teachers were first allowed to wear trousers, although, funnily enough, there was never any constraint on the shortness of skirts in the age of the terrifyingly short mini-skirt).
In the same spirit – the spirit of bigotry dressed as tolerance, the French have issued an 80-page guide to banning religious symbols in schools.
At the same time that the trouser wars of the 1960s were in full swing, girls at my school would often wear small crosses round their necks. Some, including one of my friends, would wear a Star of David. My friend’s Jewishness was important to her and this symbol of her identity was also important. Yes – it was against the rules, but it was against the rules on personal jewelry.
Now, banning teenage girls from wearing jewelry is about as achievable as banning Scotsmen from wearing kilts – so, in practice, it was tolerated. But it was the jewelry that was tolerated, not the symbol. The symbol wasn’t an issue – it simply wouldn’t have occurred to anybody that a cross or a Star of David or any other religious symbol worn in this way might be something to object to, let alone be the subject of an 80-page ban.
There are a few circumstances in which people can legitimately be expected to show their faces or constrain their dress for clearly practical reasons – the problem is when the driver is abstract and ideological.
Continental Europe is following a path of increased intolerance – it’s a path that we join at the cost of our humanity.