Last month Tory backbenchers launched 42 broadly right-wing Bills, one of which was a ban on the burka. At first glance this policy would seem to be massively anti-libertarian. But is it?
Some Muslim women argue that they choose to wear a veil as a symbol of their faith, but there is a suspicion that others are coerced or even forced to do so. And isn’t submission to any religion an affront to liberty and freedom of thought? Jean Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 work Du contrat social (The Social Contract) states in one terrifying but apt passage that man must “be forced to be free”.
Is a ban on the burka an affront to liberty or a forceful application of freedom?
Another striking example of enforced freedom is the current malaise in Egypt. Surely this is the only occasion in recent years where a military coup has increased liberty. The Muslim Brotherhood, a strict and powerful Islamist sect, achieved power by democratic means and immediately went about shutting down freedom to practice other strands of Islam, to be an atheist or to be a Coptic Christian. This is, once again, a stark reminder that the concepts of democracy and liberty are often diametric opposites.