Banning burqa or Saint George's Ribbon is not a solution, says Kross ({{commentsTotal}})

As long as Estonia has not banned wearing the Russian military symbol Ribbon of Saint George in Estonia, it is ridiculous to talk about the dangers of allowing burqa in Estonia, Eerik-Niiles Kross, a former spy master and now a Reform Party MP, said.

Kross said in an interview with Õhtuleht that it is unnecessary to ban burqas in Estonia before anyone actually wears one – the representatives of the local Muslim community have confirmed that currently, no one does.

“As long as the Estonian government has not found it necessary to ban the Ribbon of Saint George – a symbol of occupation among other things in Estonia – it is a bit absurd to talk about the dangers of someone wearing a burqa. I'm convinced that neither banning the Ribbon of Saint George or burqa will solve the problems that may lie behind wearing one,” Kross said.

The Ribbon of Saint George is a widely recognized military symbol in Russia, consisting of a black and orange bicolour pattern, with three black and two orange stripes. It appears as a component of many high military decorations awarded by the former Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and the current Russian Federation. It is fairly common in Estonia to see ethnic Russians sporting the ribbons on their cars, which has raised eyebrows by some Estonians.

Kross said that the police would still have the right to ask someone to remove their burqa for identification purposes, therefore there is no need for a ban.

“For example, in Britain – home for one of the largest Muslim communities in Europe – the Conservative government has clearly rejected calls to ban burqa, saying that it would go against the norms of free society. Same principle is in place in Sweden and Denmark,” he said, adding that by the same token, Estonia could also ban Kotekas – the penis sheaths worn by the tribes of New Guinea, because “they might look sexist for our women”.

Kross said that he has met some Muslim women who consider wearing burqa their personal right, but some – in Iraq – who said that it is against human dignity.

“But we have to ask from women who want to dress in one, not let 'angry men' to decide,” Kross said.

Social Protection Minister Margus Tsahkna has asked Urmas Reinsalu, the justice minister, to analyze possible problems from the inflow of asylum seekers. The majority of asylum seekers coming to Estonia will be from predominately Muslim nations and there is a chance some immigrants will want to observe strict religious rules, including clothing. Tsahkna, therefore, proposed banning clothes which cover the face, such as burqas. “We have become accustomed to be able to identify people in public spaces,” Tsahkna said.

The head imam of the Estonian Muslim community, Ildar Muhamedšin, has voiced his opposition to the proposal and said that the initiative is a serious violation of Estonia's constitution and went as far as to call it a "blasphemy", whereas Timur Seifullen, the leader of Estonian Multicultural Association and an ethnic Tatar by background, has said that banning burqa would be reasonable as there is no ground for Estonian residents covering their faces.

A burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions, but not all, to cover their bodies when in public.

Editor: S. Tambur

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