Two arrests and a fine in France have sparked innumerable protests with words like “discrimination” and “bigoted” drowning out all reason. French police arrested two women for participating in an illegal demonstration against the banning of face-covering garments. A third was fined for wearing a face veil, which violated the recently enacted law. Muslims and Muslim sympathizers around the world have complained that the police are discriminating against Muslims by arresting and fining the women. Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood chief Hammam Saeed stated that he considers the ban part of “a new crusader behavior targeting Muslims everywhere.”
What people fail to recognize is that the act prohibits the “concealment of the face in public space” by any citizen. It never specifically mentions the niqab, the Muslim face veil, though the niqab is a face-covering garment so it falls under the scope of the law. Therefore, in accordance to the law, the police were right in fining the woman as she violated the ban. It wasn’t because she was Muslim; it was because she broke the law. The other two women were arrested, not because they belonged to a certain religion, but because they were illegally demonstrating. It is not discriminatory to arrest criminals just because they all adhere to the same religious beliefs. The ban is not discriminatory, either, as it applies to people wearing ski masks, balaclavas, hockey masks, or any other type of face-covering garment in public. Muslims want an exemption from a law they don’t like and it should not be granted.
Both critics and supporters of the ban have made it seem like niqabs are the only garments banned. Fox News reported that France was “brave and right” to ban face veils. That report is wrong for two reasons. France did not just ban face veils and it was not brave of them to make a law that applies to all “face-coverings.” All face-covering garments are banned in public, from Halloween masks to niqabs. This is not discriminatory, but it is also dumb. French President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted that he “wanted a ban to uphold French values of equality and secularism” because niqabs “imprison women.” Also, the fine can be waived if the offender takes citizenship classes. Clearly kids wearing ski masks and balaclavas don’t need citizenship training. Muslims do, though. In 2004, France banned all religious clothing from public schools, as well. It is not hard to see that the ban is intended to curb Islamic religious practices. This is why I find it not brave, but cowardly, of the French government to try to hide its intentions behind a vague law that clearly targets a specific group. A stronger message would be sent if the government passed a law stating that signs of Islamic oppression are not welcome in France. As it stands, however, the ban is not discriminatory and should be enforced against everyone equally.
Gay rights groups in California have taken the same stance as Muslims in France, claiming that they should be exempt from retailer Target’s solicitation policy. The policy states that Target “does not permit solicitation or petitioning in front of any of our stores, regardless of the cause or issue being represented.” When Canvass for a Cause volunteers showed up outside of Target’s stores to get signatures supporting gay marriage, they were asked to leave. This wasn’t because they supported gay marriage, but because they have to abide by the same policy as every other person. The policy is a good one, too. I don’t want to be harassed when I’m shopping. Canvass for a Cause was treated the same was the Salvation Army has been treated by Target. Unfortunately, Judge Jeffrey Barton of San Diego has just made everyone’s shopping experience a little more unpleasant.
Judge Barton recently ruled that store entrances are a public forum under California law. In Robbins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center (1979), the California Supreme Court ruled that regional malls with common areas and public amenities are the equivalent to the town squares of the past century. This means that some shopping areas are public forums, but individual stores are not. They are private property and do not have to allow solicitation. The decision from Costco Companies, Inc. v. Gallant (2002) held that Costco stores were not “miniature downtowns” and so were not public forums. This supports Target’s argument that their store entrances are not public forums, as they are similar to Costco. Activist judges are famous for ignoring precedents and casting stare decisis aside, though.
Muslims in France and gay marriage activists in California need to stop complaining about how they are treated. They say they want to be treated equally. Well, they are being treated the same way as everyone else who goes against federal law or store policy. They have the same right to obey as everyone else does. If I can’t wear a mask, then why should they be able to wear a veil? If I can’t solicit at Target, how can they complain when asked to leave?