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RFD for Niqab Ban Debate

whiteflame
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7/12/2015 10:23:26 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
This is an RFD for the debate found in this link: http://www.debate.org...

I'll start by clarifying that the rule violation really doesn't matter in this debate. Pro didn't add to any of his arguments, he just clarified what questions each of his points imply. Pro isn't garnering anything new, so it's really just a waste of space on his part.

Alright, I'm going to just launch into the arguments.

Pro's Arguments:

1) Niqab Promotes Sexualization

What I get from this is two-fold: that the religious origin of the niqab is related to sexualization, and that it is often employed as a means to prevent men from having feelings of arousal, which presumably result in rape. So there's two impacts to banning here: women aren't treated as sexual objects through the use of the niqab, which results in dehumanization, and victims aren't treated as responsible for what their attackers do to them.

This is really the focus of Pro's case. Most of his beneficial impacts are present right here, and the ones that exist elsewhere are substantially weaker. The links here between what the niqab represents and the resulting dehumanization are well-established.

It's not perfect, though. As Con points out, none of these harms are unique to the niqab. Banning the niqab won't solve for these problems either. I also don't know what the impact of treating the victim as responsible for their attacker's actions. The link to dehumanization is less clear there, and I really would have liked to see Pro argue that the niqab takes the onus off of the attacker, treating them as blameless, much as some people say that a woman wearing a revealing dress is asking to be raped. That should have been brutally clear, and the effects of that shifted onus should have as well.

Nonetheless, the benefit of reduced dehumanization by having a less publicly visible means of treating women as sexual objects is clear. An evaluation of why the niqab is at all unique in this would have helped, but Con doesn't provide examples of how this would persist in Islamic cultures specifically. It might persist by other means in separate cultures, and perhaps even a bit in Islamic cultures, but with this particular means of dehumanization gone, fewer women will broadcast their status as objects.

Again, though, I'd like to emphasize that there are holes in this analysis. I can't give Pro the impact that rape and sexual assault will decrease, since there's no reason to believe that removing the niqab will reduce rates of either of these. These rates are more likely associated with sexualization that goes beyond the niqab itself. So the harm being partially solved for is entirely perceptual. I actually would have bought the turn that rape and sexual assault would INCREASE, as men in society would feel the need to empower themselves over women in other ways without the niqab, but I don't see that argument.

What I do see is a slippery slope turn, which Con uses to argue that there are many other things that should be banned under Pro's analysis. The trouble with this argument is that the link to Pro's analysis isn't strong, and the impact of these expanded bans is unclear. Simply stating that it's "absurd" doesn't tell me much.

So, long story short, Pro's winning this, albeit not with as much strength as he was going for.

2) If the Niqab is banned, it's generally cool with Muslims

As part of Pro's opening arguments, this is the weakest of his contentions. It's entirely defensive. The argument goes that the niqab's been banned elsewhere without major issues, so why should we expect major issues here? This ends up being helpful for Pro because Con never really hits at it hard enough, mainly because he treats it as a non-issue. Con probably should have realized that this was just mitigation, meant to show that there weren't massive riots in France, Turkey or Mecca on the basis of these bans. In the process, he shows that any harms resultant from the ban aren't going to produce any major negative response. That point goes through to the end. It doesn't matter if some women are upset because I have no reason to believe that they will do anything dramatic.

3) Public Policy Isn't Always Rational, Sometimes it is Purely a Values Policy

I can tell where Pro was trying to go with this, but it doesn't go very far. He's arguing that society has reason to ensure that democratic values are upheld, and that policy directed towards those ends, whether it's actually net beneficial or not, should be pursued. Sounds great, except that when we're discussing discrimination and equality, we have to look at all issues of discrimination and equality. If I have any reason to believe that banning the niqab results in either of those things, even to a more minimal extent, then the argument fails because it brings us back to a net benefits paradigm and out of the realm of values policy. Con manages to show this by arguing that the loss of religious equality and equal ability to choose what they want to wear effectively showcases that this is a complex issue. The pursuit of values policy has to be as close to black and white as possible, and this one's definitely in shades of gray.

4) Illusion of Choice

This sort of links up to the first contention. The argument goes that women feel obligated to wear the niqab, and that that obligation ensures that a substantial portion of women who claim to choose to wear the niqab are actually being pressured into it. However, this doesn't go very far. We cannot glimpse the thought processes of Muslim women everywhere, and therefore we cannot determine that there isn't a substantial portion of them who are making this choice. Pro provides enough reason to believe that a substantial portion of these women are coerced into doing it, which does a bit to further his argument that the niqab is effectively dehumanizing them by removing their choice, but that was pretty much assumed out of Pro's first contention. As long as I have any reason to believe that any woman would willingly choose to wear the niqab, this contention doesn't do much.

5) Slippery Slopes, Slippery Slopes EVERYWHERE!

Probably not the best of titles if Pro was hoping this would go somewhere important. Slippery slopes like this lack a piece of analysis that is exceedingly important: an evaluation of the brink. Why is the imposition of the niqab, specifically, the straw that broke the camel's back? I don't buy the reverse slippery slope that Con discusses later in the debate since it doesn't follow the same logic, but I also don't see why the ban of the niqab will not simply shift the problem with to the hijab or any other clothing that covers much of the body. It seems that if people are going to have a problem with uncovered skin on women, that problem is merely facilitated by the presence of the niqab. Its absence doesn't affect its incidence. Pro might have argued that it's a message to these people who seek to harm women in their culture with uncovered skin that the law will do whatever it can to avoid facilitating their mistreatment of women, but that argument would also require some impact, and I just don't see it being elucidated here.
whiteflame
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7/12/2015 10:24:05 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Con's Arguments:

1) Infringes on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion

This is where I start desiring something that's absent from both sides in the debate, and that is a comparison of rights. Should I care the most about freedoms or equality? Should I care the most about human rights or dehumanization of women? I think both sides really should have recognized that this debate was going to end with each of you winning certain arguments. Neither of you just took this whole thing down with ease, and so I start to wonder which of these points is most important and why. You guys leave that to me, and you don't want to risk my opinion being against you.

It's clear that any human rights loss is focused on freedoms, so the title of this point is misleading. It infringes on freedom of religion, which Con argues is a human right. Con doesn't really argue freedom of choice outside of the religious views argument, so there's nothing else to go by here.

This is pretty clearly a harm. Pro basically admits that the loss of freedom occurs, but argues that it's reasonable to restrict this freedom in this way. That's fine, but it's clearly dependent on his other points. It also doesn't change the fact that restricted religious freedom produces a clear harm in that freedom is good and we should endorse it based on much the same reasoning as Pro provides " it's an integral part of a democratic society.

What I don't get out of this position is further elucidated reasoning on why this loss of freedom is bad. As I pointed out above, Pro's C2 preempts many of these potential harms, but I think there was room to argue the point. Con really should have done more than just say that some people would be unhappy with a perceived loss of freedom.

2) Harm Principle

Much like Pro's C2, this one is just defensive. All Con argues here is that Pro has to meet a certain threshold of harm before he can claim that banning the niqab is a reasonable course of action. What would have been more interesting is if Con spun this into offense, and talked about the importance of not taking action so long as basic rights could be harmed. If you're going to set a threshold for Pro to meet, set it higher than "Pro's case has to remove a substantial harm." Set it to "Pro's case has to substantially dwarf any potential rights loss that it can produce." Given how this was set, I just can't do much with it. It seems to me that the loss of equality is not subjective, or at least not any more so than the loss to freedom that Con himself discusses.

3) Discriminates against Muslims and Adverse effects

I'm not clear on what discrimination results in for any person or group of people. Some discussion of equal treatment under the law, and specifically of equal treatment of religions under the law, would have been warranted here. Really, the only explanation I get here is an argument that either there will be discrimination or similar bans will have be levied against other religious symbols, but the latter is just a slippery slope argument without a clear harm (except maybe a linear increase in effects on freedom of religion), and the former stops at stigmatization bad. I can't weigh stigmatization because all I get is the term and nothing more. I think some good argumentation could have started here about how the meaning of a symbol can change and how Pro is effectively painting every Muslim man whose wife or family member wears a niqab as a destroyer of women's rights, but I don't see that.

Still, I can see this as, at least, a partial counter to the equality point. Presumably, if you're discriminating, you're treating Muslims differently than you're treating other religions. The lack of equality in treatment of religions is something to be aware of, though the effect is at least somewhat difficult to distinguish from religious freedom.

Conclusion:

The balance in this debate is struck between what is basically religious equality and gender equality. Each issue is a little muddled. We care about religious equality in 2 regards: equality across religions, and equality within religions. Pro argues the latter, stating that women are dehumanized within the Muslim religion. Con argues the former, stating that the denial of religious freedoms in one religion versus another effectively discriminates against Muslims.

Which of these should I care about more, and why? Neither debater is really garnering their strongest impacts; these are entirely perceptual, and their effects on the physical realities these women face, as well as the realities of the world in which these religions reside, are challenged successfully at several points throughout the debate. So neither of you is winning by establishing a solid link to a more substantive impact. Neither of you quantifies your impacts either. It doesn't help that, in voting for either side, I can value both equality and freedom, whether in the latter case I support the freedom of women to show more skin in what they wear, or I favor the desire of some women to continue wearing a symbol that means something important to them.

I've written and re-written my concluding analysis here, and I'm still not pleased with it. If there's anything I can say that both debaters did wrong here, it's the failure to compare impacts. Focusing on why we might be allowed to abridge certain rights in favor of others, as Pro did, is not enough " it should be clear why the freedoms and equality Con argues for are outweighed by the freedoms and equality Pro argues for. Both of you had opportunities to do this. Pro, you could have argued that the effects on women are more broadly impactful, that the U.S. taking this symbolic gesture is a stance against the coerced treatment of all women as objects instead of just Muslim women. I get the start to that anlysis out of his R3, but it's never a clear statement of what it means beyond the Muslim community. Con, you could have put more effort into your slippery slope arguments, examining what other bases can be used to restrict religious freedoms and their outcomes. Merely pointing to examples of other things that could be banned is not enough " tell me why this represents a substantial shift in U.S. policy that risks dramatically altering our ideas of religious freedom for all religions.

But I digress. The basis for my decision ends up being a very simple one, and it comes from way back in R1. Pro is the only debater to take the time to examine the effects of perceptual shifts. While I'm not buying that sexual assaults and rapes will go down as a result of banning the niqab, I am forced to buy that depression rates accompany the dehumanization these women feel, and that the accompanying eating disorders and drug usage are potential problems. These impacts could have been expanded upon, but the argument that it's correlation and not causation from Con isn't good enough. Pro is giving me reason enough to believe that dehumanization accompanies the religious usage of the niqab because it represents the sexual desires of men being imposed on women. It's not the sole thing responsible for these problems, but I cannot ignore its contribution to them. Since that is the only impact I'm getting sufficient links to that isn't entirely based on image and desire alone, it becomes where I vote. A note here, though: this point wouldn't have been sufficient if it weren't so close to begin with. Pro brought this up way back in R1 and never really picked it back up again. It becomes the slightest of differences that shifts the debate in his favor.
salam.morcos
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7/12/2015 5:49:22 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Thanks for the RFD. It's always a pleasure getting feedback from you.

I was a bit disappointed however, especially about Pro's first contention that the niqab promotes sexualization. This appears to be the strongest impact which prompted you to vote for him, and that would be understandable. But what I struggle with a bit, is that Pro needs to establish a link that niqab promoted sexualization and sexualization ought to be banned. In this case, Pro would have established a strong link that the niqab ought to be banned. If that's the case, I would agree with your RFD.

But my challenge is that Pro simply stated that the niqab promoted sexualization without providing any evidence that it is the case. If I didn't challenge him, you might agree with him, but I actually showed that his evidence was based on a link about the niqab that doesn't reference sexuality or dehumanization, and another about sexuality that doesn't reference the niqab. If based on this I could argue anything - That marijuana promotes sexuality by showing a link of marijuana and another of sexuality. It's the responsibility of the debates to support his argument.

The second point, even if the sexuality link was established, Pro must show why it ought to be banned. I showed exampled that other activities such as video games and music videos actually promote sexuality (supported with sources). So Pro must show what the niqab is different, and he didn't. He also could argue that video games and music videos should also be banned. But he dropped these points entirely.

So I don't understand how this contention goes to Pro? I am actually doing this debate as a devil advocate, and I actually can show how that's the case with sources to such. But since Pro didn't show why, then I find it difficult that he can still win the contention.

As always, thanks for your feedback. I will continue to ask for your votes, you're not going away :).
whiteflame
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7/12/2015 6:16:02 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/12/2015 5:49:22 PM, salam.morcos wrote:
Thanks for the RFD. It's always a pleasure getting feedback from you.

I was a bit disappointed however, especially about Pro's first contention that the niqab promotes sexualization. This appears to be the strongest impact which prompted you to vote for him, and that would be understandable. But what I struggle with a bit, is that Pro needs to establish a link that niqab promoted sexualization and sexualization ought to be banned. In this case, Pro would have established a strong link that the niqab ought to be banned. If that's the case, I would agree with your RFD.

I didn't feel that you were fully responsive to the point. You showed that he didn't have any direct evidence of it being used for sexualization, and that diminished the point to a degree. It didn't, however, cancel out the logical analysis he gave. He showed that the evidence in the text shows that the chief justification is sexual. He argued how that justification links up to its current usage. I think that logic was sufficient to show some likelihood, especially since I didn't feel like I ever got an alternative for how Muslim society views the niqab beyond a desire to adhere to tradition (which really isn't much of a reason for societal adherence, just individual).

But my challenge is that Pro simply stated that the niqab promoted sexualization without providing any evidence that it is the case. If I didn't challenge him, you might agree with him, but I actually showed that his evidence was based on a link about the niqab that doesn't reference sexuality or dehumanization, and another about sexuality that doesn't reference the niqab. If based on this I could argue anything - That marijuana promotes sexuality by showing a link of marijuana and another of sexuality. It's the responsibility of the debates to support his argument.

I disagree. There's a clear link in terms of the function of the niqab as compared to other pieces of clothing to sexuality. Marijuana wouldn't have that clear link. I agree that, if he'd just asserted the link, I shouldn't have bought it. But I saw a logic to it, even if it wasn't well-supported.

The second point, even if the sexuality link was established, Pro must show why it ought to be banned. I showed exampled that other activities such as video games and music videos actually promote sexuality (supported with sources). So Pro must show what the niqab is different, and he didn't. He also could argue that video games and music videos should also be banned. But he dropped these points entirely.

You didn't really set a high standard for him to meet. You presented the harm principle, and then you presented this slippery slope argument. But he showed that, as long as he proved a harm exists (he did), that it's sufficient to defeat the harm principle limitations. I'm not clear on how these other examples would limit his capacity to implement this particular ban. You could argue that to do so for the niqab and not for these others would be hypocritical, establishing precedent that either would later be followed by others, dramatically restricting these activities and producing some unknown harm, or just argued that the government should not act hypocritically and produced from harms from that. Otherwise, this point is toothless. I didn't see any major reason why it should matter within the context of the debate.

So I don't understand how this contention goes to Pro? I am actually doing this debate as a devil advocate, and I actually can show how that's the case with sources to such. But since Pro didn't show why, then I find it difficult that he can still win the contention.

As always, thanks for your feedback. I will continue to ask for your votes, you're not going away :).
salam.morcos
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7/12/2015 6:27:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I'm not entirely convinced, but I appreciate your explanation. And I'll look into this to strengthen my arguments in future debates.
whiteflame
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7/12/2015 6:30:28 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
We can discuss it more in depth sometime if you'd like. Honestly, my vote barely swung his way as it was, and I'm still a bit uncertain on it. I don't like justifying votes by looking at something said in the opening round that was never brought up later in the debate.
salam.morcos
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7/12/2015 6:50:29 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
It appears that my main weakness is regarding defending basic rights. E.g. To show the importance of democracy, freedom of opinion... Etc. In all 3 votes you had towards my debates you showed that as a weakness. I seem to struggle to overcome this challenge. Is there another debate or article that you can guide me too that can help me understand how to establish it better?
whiteflame
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7/12/2015 7:49:50 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/12/2015 6:50:29 PM, salam.morcos wrote:
It appears that my main weakness is regarding defending basic rights. E.g. To show the importance of democracy, freedom of opinion... Etc. In all 3 votes you had towards my debates you showed that as a weakness. I seem to struggle to overcome this challenge. Is there another debate or article that you can guide me too that can help me understand how to establish it better?

Freedom impacts are never simple, though they always appear to be. You could take a look at bsh1's debates where he talks about autonomy. It's far more in-depth than you'd need, but it contains a lot of that useful material. Note how he never assumes that freedom is an apparent good.
salam.morcos
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7/12/2015 8:51:24 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/12/2015 7:49:50 PM, whiteflame wrote:

he never assumes that freedom is an apparent good.

Thanks. That my mistake and presupposition.