|by A. Christine Maxfield||Europe, France||39|
On Tuesday, Sept. 14, France went down in the history books as the first European country to ban veils that cover the face—namely, the burka that's worn by some Muslim women. This inflammable decision was won in a 246 to 1 vote by the French senate, with the government stating that the head-to-toe covering is "a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil." (CNN World) This new law will be enforced starting in the spring with a $190 dollar fine or a mandatory citizenship course, and a year in jail or $19,000 dollar fine if someone forces a woman to wear the traditional clothing.
Even though the majority of French citizens agree with this ban, France just can't ignore the fact that the reaction around the world is mixed. The ban is supported by European countries like Germany, Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands, but two out of three Americans disagree with the law and clearly it hasn't been well-received in the Middle East. Not surprisingly, a flurry of terrorist threats followed the announcement.
Now the question is, will tourism be affected? We're currently seeing this in Arizona, where about $90 million dollars have now been lost due to meetings and conventions being canceled by businesses protesting that state's strict immigration law.
And how about when a nation's human rights are threatened, like in Tibet (now the Tibet Autonomous Region) or Burma (now Myanmar)? Every traveler has the responsibility to consider their ethical beliefs about political protest at least once, and there are arguments for both sides of the issue. For instance, after the Dalai Lama and his government were exiled from Tibet, they still encouraged foreigners to visit their conquered land to act as witnesses to the oppression and inform others upon their return. But others argue that travelers will need to comply with the conquering regime in order to travel in Tibet, so visitors will be providing legitimacy to the occupying Chinese, and any money spent will eventually end up in the pockets of the Chinese enterprises that have headquarters outside of Tibet. Another option for travelers that are torn between the desire to see Tibetans, but are concerned about sponsoring the oppression, is to visit one of the adopted cities of the exiled—like Dharamsala in northern India, which is the current home of the Dalai Lama and is surrounded by Buddhist temples and beautiful views of snow-capped mountains.
So what's your take: Would you boycott a state or country out of political protest, and if so, what would it take?