Citizenship Confusion: "Should Christians Support a Burqa Ban?"

Christians have an odd relationship with Muslims. In certain times and places this relationship has been defined by bloodshed and hatred, suspicion and prejudice, condescension and evangelism, and general ignorance. And this has been true for both groups. In recent years, Islam has come to be viewed by some Christians as an invading force, undermining our country’s ideals, freedoms, and government. And in a few, isolated cases this has been true. But, one area where both Christians and Muslims should find common ground is in opposition to an even more dominant and destructive religion: civic religion or the worship of the nation state, premised upon the myth of objective, secular discourse.

One recent instance of civic religion coming in conflict with Islam is the recent Burka ban in France. Dianna Anderson, writing at Relevant Magazine, addresses the question of whether Christians should support this ban. She observes that this law is challenging for Christians to sort out. On the one hand, it is right and good to oppose a cultural practice that encourages and promotes oppression and abuse. On the other hand, wearing a burqa is not necessarily oppressive. Dianna concludes, “No matter which way you slice it, the burqa ban does not save the woman involved—it punishes her, either for choice she didn’t make (i.e., an abusive family who makes her wear it) or for the choice she did.” I might add to her well-argued post that for other Christians the temptation might be to support this ban not for the welfare of the women involved, but because it would be seen as an opportunity to silence or fight against a pagan religion. But this position is also unjustified.

As long as Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and other major faiths openly and publicly exercise and practice their faith, they will be perceived as a threat to national unity. The state cannot tolerate its citizens having divided or multiple allegiances. Personal, individual, private faith is fine because it does not challenge national unity. It is a lot easier for us to get along if we are nominal “Christians.” This fact is at the heart of our dilemma as American citizens and Christians.

In this situation, Christians should support French Muslims’  choice to practice their faith by wearing burqas, not only because if we allow governments to infringe upon the rights of other religions we can expect them to oppress us in the future as well, but primarily because whenever a government works to make any religion a private, silent, invisible, inner-belief, we can trust that their true motive is to usurp all other gods so that the only tolerated and honored practices of faith are devoted to the state: festivals and holidays honoring our nation and its military, pledges of allegiance, flags, songs, patriotic fervor, idolization of political leaders, the eschatology hope of the American Dream, etc.

Edited: I was made aware that I had misspelled Dianna’s name as “Diana.” So that has been fixed.

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  • Rana

    as a Christian from the Middle East with many Muslim friends here are my thoughts:

    1. not all Christians have an odd relationship with Muslims, the majority of Christians in the Middle East and those of us of Middle Eastern origin in the West get a long just fine with Muslims. not pretending that life is perfect, all people have relationship problems with others, we shouldn’t place expectations that we ourselves don’t meet on others and then blame it on religion. it’s probably something much more central, like that fact that we’re all imperfect humans.

    2. i would add that the burqa wearing woman also did not choose to be a woman and should not be punished by society, since DIana was making points about burqa wearing women’s choices, i figured why not this one as well?

    3. “As long as Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and other major faiths openly and publicly exercise and practice their faith, they will be perceived as a threat to national unity. The state cannot tolerate its citizens having divided or multiple allegiances. Personal, individual, private faith is fine because it does not challenge national unity. It is a lot easier for us to get along if we are nominal “Christians.”

    This is an interesting idea given what Middle Easterners are seeing that religion is a tool to divide us and more easily conquer, show us that we can’t get along without a strong dictator. Few of us of course believe this reasoning and we believe it is just another tool to control us. Chess games are not far from our minds.

    Personally I think gov’t and their benefactors fear equality and freedom, democracy, in the social order across the board, for gender, sexual orientation, religion, everything because then the bogeyman of gays or Islam or Arabs can longer be a tool to incite fear and intimidate.

    Just my 2 cents, hope you don’t mind my sharing them.

  • Alan Noble


    thanks for your comment! Two thoughts:
    1. You are certainly right that not all Christians have an odd relationship with Muslims. That was a generalization and one that applies primarily to American Christians. As a writer I am still struggling the balance between modifying my language and claims in order to be precise and using generalizations to make the reading experience more palatable. If I gave in and qualified everything that I say, which is what I would like to do, my articles would be rather tedious to read, or so I’ve been told. Regardless, or irregardless, you are right that not all Christians have this odd relationship.

    2. On the issue of religion being the source of violence and division, I highly recommend William T. Cavanaugh’s book, The Myth of Religious Violence.

  • Interesting note on Xian/Muslim relations. In medieval times (not the dinner theater), as continental Xian thinkers first came into contact with Muslim thinkers, there was present a spirit of interest and curiosity, as well as a sense of discovery. Theologians in the church carried on correspondences with Muslim theologians, sounding out areas of agreement as well as areas of doctrinal contention. There was initially even some thought toward incorporating Islam into the stream of Xian thought, at last, after nearly two hundred years of back-and-forth, it was determined that Islam was indeed not Xian and the relationship ended—though, so far as I’m aware, without animosity.

  • There are places in which this law makes sense. For example, you are not supposed to wear a hat and sunglasses into a bank, and you might be asked to remove them if you do. Also, it is not unreasonable to ask for such things to be removed for official government ID’s and such. But a pure public ban is ridiculous.

  • Rana

    I did not say that religion was the source of violence and division, I said we see it used as a tool in a chess game on real people in the Middle East. The source of the violence is from the people using the tool for less than benevolent means.

    I happen to agree with Seth’s anecdote that people are much more inclined to draw on their similarities like when my husband and in-laws play Dutch-bingo, or when my kids ask their friends what their favorite color is, or when I had a 5th grade crush on a boy who also shared mint-chip as his favorite ice-cream flavor. I could be wrong but I think it may be a more human inclination to assimilate on those things that we share in common.

    Dividing and discarding people is, ironically, something I learned from other Christians, in the name of worldview and doctrinal purity of course. My secular friends would describe that kind of isolationism cultish and not in the purer Klinean sense of the term.

  • Alan Noble


    I’m sorry if my comment seemed to imply that you were claiming that religion causes violence. I meant it as an extension of your previous comment, not a challenge.

  • Steve Schuler

    Christians who want to use state power to suppress competing religions should take a good, hard look at the late Roman empire, especially under Theodosius. Of course the American situation and the Roman situation are different in many ways, but American Christians have a bad habit of not knowing church-state history and thus not learning anything from it.