The burka (burqa) is a garment worn by women in Islamic tradition to cover their bodies. It’s a part of the Muslim belief system that requires women to dress modestly in public.
For centuries no one had a problem with the burka. But for some reason — you can probably figure out why — the burka has recently become a symbol for Western hatred of the East.
Maybe it all started on that fateful day in September, 2001. Maybe it bubbled and brewed during the horrific attacks in Madrid in 2004 or London on July 5th, 2005. Maybe it all came to a head in November in Paris just over a year ago.
Maybe the Western view symbolising the burka as a reason for hatred goes all the way back to the 30s and 40s, when the Americans and British pillaged the Middle East for oil.
It matters little. What is of importance is how one traditional, religious item of clothing could bring down an entire union — the European Union.
Isolation, protectionism, ‘patriotism’, and the end of the EU
France was the first European country to ban the burka. In April 2011, they put a ban on the clothing. Wearers face a €30,000 fine.
Not too far behind, the Belgians also passed a law banning the burka in 2011. And in December 2015, Lombardy (a region in Italy) put a ban in force also.
But it’s been 2016 that other parts of Europe have really gone full force at the burka.
Bulgaria implemented a ban in September this year. Switzerland also put a ban into full force this year. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has been calling for a ban on the burka for years. And with the UK leaving the EU there are renewed calls to ban the burka.
The Dutch have tried to pass a complete ban on the burka. That didn’t pass. But another version banning the full veil in schools, hospitals and public transport made it through just last month.
These changing attitudes and growing disdain towards what is essentially just a piece of clothing is astonishing. But the pressure to ban the burka has mainly come from the right and far-right political parties across Europe.
As mentioned above, UKIP has been a big supporter of banning the burka. In France the increasingly popular leader of far-right party, National Front, Marine Le Pen want to ban it. She also wants to ban ‘all religious symbols’ including headscarves, veils and kippas.
But while most of the shift towards banning the burka has been from ‘the right’ something astonishing just happened.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a ban on the burka.
Don’t underestimate the significance of this move. This is a leader who decided to accept over one million refugees in 2015. A leader of Europe’s largest economy. A leader whose party, the CDU, is liberal-conservative.
The significance of this move is because next year Germany goes to the polls. Merkel’s position is on the line, and her move to ban the burka is clearly from the growing popularism of far-right parties.
The BBC explains,
‘Mrs Merkel was re-elected CDU leader but faces a tough challenge by the right-wing anti-immigration AfD party in next year’s polls.
‘She has seen her approval ratings slip since her decision to allow about a million asylum seekers into Germany during last year’s Europe-wide migrant crisis.’
If Merkel is worried enough about the right that she’ll ban the burka, what hope does the EU have?
The most important year in the history of the EU
German isn’t the only country in Europe that’s showing signs of pressure from the right.
Austria narrowly saw far-right party leader Norbet Hofer concede defeat just a week ago. While he lost, it was close (again). And they still polled around 2.2 million votes.
Marine Le Pen is also a growing voice of opposition to the ruling elite in France. Her Front National Party will run for office next year as France decides on a new leader.
Many of the early polls suggest that conservative leader, Francois Fillion will crush Le Pen. But we all know how accurate polls are these days, don’t we?
And let’s also not forget that Italy just voted against constitutional change, with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stood down after defeat. Now there’s a caretaker Prime Minister, and far-right populist parties are calling for a new election.
There’s a good chance Italy too will head to the polls next year.
That means 2017 is shaping up to be perhaps the most important year in the history of the European Union.
It is quite likely 2017 will shape up exactly like 2016. Full of shock and surprise. It will likely end up much like the situation in the US.
And it’s these European far-right parties making the most noise and growing the most support.
They want to curb immigration and bring back economic strength to their country. They want to bring back jobs, look after the little guy and disrupt the political elites.
That’s exactly how Trump got into office. That’s exactly why Britain is leaving the EU. It’s exactly what will be the downfall of the European Union.
If the dominos fall, kiss the EU goodbye
Imagine what will happen if the dominos fall the way they did this year…
If Italy’s MS5 gets into power you can almost be sure of an Italian referendum on leaving the EU. That would almost certainly bring back the Lira.
If Le Pen and Front National Gets into power, expect the French to head the same way. And welcome back the Franc.
And if the worried CDU in Germany loses more power…well. You would think Germany too will test their membership to the EU. And we might once again see the Deutsche Mark.
The right and their views on protectionism, isolation and patriotism spell one thing for Europe. The end of the EU and a return to multiple currencies.
I don’t think the EU will see out the current decade. By the time 2020 rolls around, the British will look across the pond at the mess in Europe and thank their lucky stars they got out when they did.
And for the rest of Europe? Well maybe disbanding the EU will do wonders for the region. It won’t be the end of the single market. It probably won’t see the end of free movement (assuming you were born in Europe). But it will give each country back control of their economies and currencies. And it will enable them to adapt to changing conditions.
That might actually be a better situation than currently exists. After all, it can’t get much worse…can it?
Banning the burka is a sign of current political pressures. It’s a symbol of the troubles in Europe. But it might also, ironically, be the thing that leads Europe to a better place, long term for everyone.