Burqa Ban

Burqa Ban


Much controversy has been concocted in the media about the wearing of a traditional Islamic clothing for women, the burqa (also known as ‘burka’).


The views on this matter vary depending on location and/or opinion, for example that of the leader of the One Nation Party, based in Australia. The One Nation Party is a right-wing populist party, founded in 1997, and led by Pauline Hanson, who has proven to have quite stern views on the burqa, concerning its presence in the field of government. In order to make a point, Hanson wore this Islamic wear into the chambers, and described the situation as ‘really horrible’ and ‘uncomfortable’. She further stated that the burqa is ‘not what should belong in parliament’, thus dismissing her acceptance of wearing the burqa on political grounds.

Image result for burqa

In terms of location, the wear of a burqa is permitted in some places (part ban), while some countries do not allow it to be worn at all (full national ban). One of these countries include Switzerland, where a fine of €10, 000 is used as a penalty for violating this particular law.


UKIP (UK Independence Party) also wants the banning of the burqa, some may say a predictable opinion to have, due to their past views on certain controversial ethical topics. A few of these may be Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, who is proposing to ban those with HIV from the UK and to legalise handguns.


In December 2017, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany since 2005, has said that ‘the full covering… should be banned’. In European countries such as France, Belgium and The Netherlands, the burqa has already been banned in places such as schools, hospitals, and on public transport.


Another controversial figure in the burqa debate is Boris Johnson, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the UK. In a column in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson described the burqa as ‘oppressive’, ‘weird’ and as not having any ‘scriptural authority… in the Qu’ran’ (the Islamic holy book).  He further compared the women who wear them as looking like ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’, giving a sense of criminality to these Muslim women.


Many lashed out at Johnson’s blunt comments, one key figure being Mohammed Amin, the Chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum. ‘Boris is an educated man, he should know better’.


Christine Hamilton was another one of those who responded to Johnson’s comments in the Telegraph. As an English media personality, and a prominent supporter of UKIP (along with her husband), her response was acknowledged by a large number of people. Posting a photograph of the KKK (Klu Klux Klan), she captioned it: ‘If the #burka is acceptable then presumably this is too?’ Here, Hamilton is comparing a violent, racist movement targeting black people in the US to the international religion of Islam. Many replied in disagreement to Hamilton’s social media comment.


As Islam continues to be targeted in the media as a violent religion, and a large number Muslims continue to be verbally and physically abused on the street, decisions on the ‘burqa ban’ are ongoing, and could affect multiple Muslim women worldwide.


Social media and Ethics

The end of 2017 was marked with a scandal that broke the internet. Something more extraordinary than Kim Kardashians ‘champagne butt’ photo, in that, YouTube star and celebrity Logan Paul posted a video exploring the infamous Aokigahara forest with friends as part of his Japan tour. It colloquially known as the ‘suicide forest’ as an infamous destination for the many people who sadly end their lives here. Whilst exploring the forest, Logan Paul and his friends came across a recently–deceased man hanging from a tree. This grim discovery takes a turn for the worse, as Paul insensitively discusses the subject of suicide. He is shown clearly mocking the situation, laughing and joking about the situation with his friends. This comes back to haunt him, as invalidates his initial claims of promoting ‘suicide awareness’. Prior the video’s removal on YouTubenot under YouTube’s community guidelines, but from Logan himselfit had several million views. There was immediate wave of international condemnation, which not only severely damaged Logan Paul’s career as a YouTuber, but, also, started discussions on a very serious subject: the spreading of graphic content on social media. As for Logan Paul’s YouTube video, it is only the most recent of many controversies on the irresponsible spread of graphic content by the media.

One of Sweden’s biggest tabloids, Aftonbladet, recently published an article about a phenomenon that seemingly has become a growing issue; especially in cases when police officers, firefighters and ambulance workers arrive at the scene of emergency. The Stockholm terror attack is a prime example of a recent phenomenon; where the behaviour of a significant amount of the people witnessing a traumatic event can only be described as disturbing. Normally, when a threatening/and or dangerous event occurs, humans respond to this instinctively by choosing the either options of: Fight or flight. Recently, however, another response to catastrophe is capturing the event, whether that may be through photography or video. Emergency events are no longer personal but can be spread through social media for all to see.

During the Stockholm terror attack, victims lied on the ground severely injured, whilst crowds of people started to film and take photographs of them, instead of assisting them. It was even reported that some had taken selfies while at the crime scene, as one takes photos on holiday to show off their experience. Most disturbing of all was the fact a police officer had to forcefully request a blanket to cover a deceased victim who was being photographed by the surrounding crowd. Despite efforts to ensure the victim’s dignity, floods of graphic images from the crime scene were circulated to different social media platforms.

Some might defend the spreading of graphic content as a way of raising awareness for subjects we find it difficult to talk about. Logan Paul defended his video by claiming that he posted it to spread awareness about suicide. When several newspapers in Sweden had the picture of Alan Kurdi, a five-year old refugee who had drowned in the Mediterranean. The extremely graphic image was justified as a way of creating sympathy for the scale and devastating impact of the European migrant crisis. Both of these events were highly criticised as disrespectful to the deceased and for propagating graphic content that was disturbing to see. Graphic content has also been used by political groups to sway public opinion into supporting their political views. Notably, images from the Stockholm terror attack have been twisted and misinterpreted by right wing populists to advocate for more restrictive immigration policies.

This recent incarnation of social media behaviour can be examined through different lens, which may allow us to understand why it occurs. The most obvious being that it is extremely disrespectful. The idea of death to most humans is frightening, and to many, bereavement is the one of the nadirs of human experience. Therefore, it is horrific to imagine that a photo or video is widely available and distributed for strangers to peruse at their behest, yet this graphic content is often exploited.

Another issue of this phenomenon is that the graphic content is distributed recklessly and widely available to anyone, to the extent that it can be inescapable. With the likes of Logan Paul, whose target audience consists primarily of young teenagers, one would expect that an influencer with young viewers to be more responsible. This, however, seems unsurprising considering the desensitisation of violence in media. It can be exceedingly difficult to monitor and filter graphic content, as there are limited systematic controls to ensure that children don’t see problematic content.

This desensitisation to violence also rears its ugly head when victims captured on photographs and video are used as a ‘political football’.  They become a tool for someone’s ideology, and they lose their agency: essentially, they are dehumanised.

There is hope, however, as during = the beginning of 2018, a new legislation was introduced in Sweden. The law, known as the “unlawful violation of integrity” made it criminal to graphic content of other individuals online––without their explicit consent. It is effective in being multi-faceted. As it both tackles the issue of victims of graphic bodily harm (as those in terror events, accidents and disasters), as well as graphic sexual content in the form of ‘revenge porn’. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, there is still much ground to cover. Legislation might help with criminally sanctioning acts that disrespect a person’s integrity and dignity. We must ask ourselves, however, how can we stop dehumanising others? We need to examine the human psychology thoroughly, as we need to realise that behind every graphic post, there will be someone suffering. From a young age, we are all encouraged to show empathy towards others. I believe it is time to understand that this also applies to our behaviour online.


About the author:

Sandra (24) took part in the “My Europe” Workshop in Stockholm in 2014. She is a Juristprogrammet, Master of Laws student at Stockholm University and in her free time Sandra enjoys reading, meeting her friends, travelling and watching documentaries.

Medicinal Cannabis to be Legalised in the UK?

Cannabis is a ‘Schedule 1’ drug, meaning that it is thought to have no therapeutical value, nor cannot be lawfully possessed or prescribed.


However, due to the impact of a number of high-profile cases, such as those of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell, who both suffer from severe epilepsy, the government has decided to review the legality of medicinal cannabis in the UK.


This decision was reached by home secretary, Sajid Javid, who stated: “if the review identifies significant medical benefits, then we do intend to change the rules”.


Alfie Dingley, a 6 year old from Warwickshire (West Midlands), was recently issued with a license to receive cannabis-based drugs. Alfie suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, which causes him to experience around 150 seizures a month. After travelling to the Netherlands, one of the European countries in which cannabis is legal, the conditions of Alfie’s epilepsy improved, due to his intake of cannabis oil over there. Subsequent to this, Alfie experienced 300 days without any seizures.


Another prime example was that of Billy Caldwell, a 12 year old boy from Country Tyrone (Northern Ireland), another sufferer of severe epilepsy. Due to a medical emergency, Billy was granted a 20-day license to take cannabis-based drugs. Prior to this, the cannabis Billy and his family had had with them was confiscated at Heathrow Airport, London.


Home secretary Javid, however, is adamant that cannabis will “remain banned for recreational use”, and that potentially legalising cannabis for medicinal use will not be the first step to legalising it for other purposes.


There were 136,352 recorded drug offences in England and Wales (2016/17), most of which were due to possession of cannabis. Such statistics lead many to believe that the medicinal legalisation will lead to further allowances in the weed industry.


Diane Abbott, shadow home secretatary says that reviewing the legalisation of medicinal cannabis is a process “long overdue”.


20,000 children in the UK do not respond to medication prescribed by the NHS (National Health Service).


There are ongoing discussions about whether the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes will be permitted in the UK, as it already is countries such as Israel, Romania and Macedonia (only in severe cases).






The position religion holds in modern Europe

Over the last few thousand years, ever since the dawn of the first civilizations, our ancestors were desperately craving for an explanation  of their surroundings and macrocosm (1).To do so, they had created an innumerable amount of gods in order to satisfy their need for order and security. This has left a great mark on our history and from their creation and survival, nowadays beliefs have emerged to become worldwide dominant religions. This itself, has shaped and developed the way we understand the world and the people around us. We see how these changes have affected us, but the bigger question is- how it will affect us in the future…

According to a research made in 2015 about self-described religious/non-religious perception in the European Union, 71.6% of the people consider themselves Christians, non-believers/Agnosticism makes for about 13.6% on the statistic; Atheism takes 10.4% while Islam is about 1.8% and other religions- 2.6% ( the statistic has been taken from an Eurobarometer survey (2) made in 2012).Having these religions and convictions on the territory of our prosperous EU, today’s society has been greatly influenced in more ways than one- art, music, culture, law and even cuisine are all due to people’s perception, projected through their belief system or in other words-religion.

However, before making any assumptions about the dominant faith in the Union, that is, of course Christianity, we ought to take into account the refugee crisis happening in this very moment with its main mindset- Islam. Bringing these people on European lands and having them crossing our borders, there is no doubt, and I truly believe it, that in 10 years or so, there will be upcoming changes in the jurisprudence system, dress code and ultimately- in our every-day-life and hopefully, these changes will be for the better!

There are two kinds of these people, entering our alliance- the ones who are trying to escape the horrors and nightmares of war and those so called ”economic immigrants’’. Now the question is- how are we supposed to help hundreds of thousands of people, flooding across our borders with their families, belongings and hopes for a better life, seeking peace and safety , because it directly concerns religion, but before we answer that, we have to completely examine the situation- in fact, more and more refugees are actually economic immigrants, seeking the benefits and utility of our European Union’s social help services -”According to the available statistical data, at the end of the third quarter of 2017, authorities in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Spain and Cyprus registered 146,287 newly arrived migrants – less than half of the total arrivals recorded by the end of September 2016 (322,299). Overall decrease is mainly due to the significant drop in arrivals through the Eastern Mediterranean route, namely Bulgaria and Greece (96% and 86% respectively). However, when analysed closely, these two countries have rather diverse monthly and quarterly dynamic in arrivals between 2016 and 2017.” (The information is taken from The Migration Flows to Europe, provided by the UN Migration Agency (3)).And even though most of the the people are the victims of these tragic events, there is still this percentage of them, whose intentions were, initially and still are, fully profitable.

We seek co-operation. It is obvious that we have to show empathy for the terrors most of these people had to endure, because it is not only our moral right, but also- our human obligation. However, the process works in both ways and they will also have to show respect and regard for the way we choose to live by or in other words- make some adjustments to their characters in order to improve themselves if they are planning to stay, study, work and live here. If they are the victims, trying to escape the terror and chaos they were made to endure, aren’t they the ones to be understandable and happy we have offered them safety? A society that prohibits its women from working and voting does not correspond with our understanding of values and human rights. Such mindset should not be allowed on our territory. You see , these people have to help themselves first, so that we can help them subsequently.

Due to our millennial- long religious and traditional differences, I propose- and this is possibly the best solution for the ongoing crisis- integration, and to be more specific- the integration of these people into our social, political and economic sphere. Integrating them in our educational system in order to learn the language, traditions and history of the country, in which they want to stay into; integrating them into our economic system, so that they can assist and supply the state’s economic sectors ( primary, secondary and tertiary ), but also those of the EU’s as well and lastly- integrating them into our law and political system, when of course, they meet the requirements and are fully aware and qualified for the position on which they will be applying for. In other words – they will have to adjust themselves to our political and juridical system in order to not only vote , but to also represent themselves if they happen to participate in a political election. In this way, we shall make these people fully authorized citizens on the territory of our European Union and prepare them for the future – a future which they will be ready for.

Without a doubt, not everyone will agree or even try to acknowledge the positive side of these transitions, because xenophobia or simple antipathy are not uncommon, but what people must realize, is for without these changes, I fear that racial and ethnical tension and cultural collision with the local population will be inevitable. Moreover, according to the EU Law system – ”Discrimination on the basis of religion is strictly prohibited under European law”. This is maybe one of the biggest and greatest challenges the European Union has faced up to in 21st century, concerning the belief system of all European

As I said, our society has been enormously influenced by the belief and moral systems of all the people, working and living under the protection of the EU. We might all be different, that including gender, race, nationality, ethnicity etc. and believe in different projections of God, including me too, but there is one thing that we all have in common- our human passion, which unites and bonds us together. We cannot stop change- it’s in the natural order of things to not be at one state and to alter, but it is upon us and only us not only to make these changes for the better of our Union, but to also ensure the well-being of the future generations that are yet to be born. Jesus was not a Christian, Mohammad was not a Muslim and Buddha- not a Buddhist. They were teachers who taught love and respect. Love was their religion.

Compassion, peace and tolerance are essentially what a religion has to stand for, in order for us to accept it- among our hearts and ourselves, and we must not stand for anything else, rather than these values. Religion has helped and guided us throughout our history and in our darkest times and there is no reason to believe that this won’t continue in the future. As a great man (4) once said- ”We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell again when touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature”.


About the author:

Radoslav Stefanov (17) goes to high school in Sofia. He is a member of the Working Group Religion. He likes to study languages, especially English and Spanish, and recently started learning Hebrew too. Whenever he has free time he goes to the gym, as his life motto is ‘A sound mind in a sound boudy’.



  1. macrocosm: the whole of a complex structure, especially the world or the universe, contrasted with a small or representative part of it
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20121202023700/http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_393_en.pdf
  3.  http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/index.shtml
  4. That great man would be Abraham Lincoln

How is religion represented in the media?

How is religion represented in the media?

When talking about the representation of religion in the media, it is important to ask oneself whether and how these stories affect the understanding and attitude towards specific religions.

Usually, when the media reports about religion, it is shocking news about a crisis, a scandal, conflicts, or violence in the name of religion. This makes sense when considering that bad news receives more attention than everyday news. Also, it is the media´s responsibility and duty to report on this negative news about religious leaders and communities as well as on good news in order to inform about injustice. However, journalists need to reflect about what they write to not misrepresent entire religions.

Christianity is the most and in general best represented religion. Since the 1980s, references to Islam have increased a lot so that it has become the second most represented religion in the media. The majority of these references is framed around negative news relating to terrorism and/or extremism.

One of the problems when representing religion in the media is that sometimes bad stories about one certain religion dominate, even though it is only a small number of people that is responsible for it. This can confirm the prejudices of many people, can lead to a series of stereotypes, distrust, suspicion and to a misrepresentation of the beliefs of numerous people of an entire religion.

About the author:

Paulina (19) took part in the “My Europe” workshop in Vienna, Austria, in 2013 and became a member of the Youth Council for the Future. Personally she is interested in reading, swimming, playing the piano and cooking. Professionally Paulina would like to become a pilot in the future.

Gender Imbalance in University Staff

Universities are known as liberal institutions. They are usually urban and their student populations are both highly educated and traditionally politically active. However, they are also places of privilege: attendance at university is more accessible to those from privileged socio-economic backgrounds, and there is a problem with gender imbalance among academic staff. I attend university in Ireland, and I can see how this lack of women in high-profile positions directly affects the education I receive.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) of Ireland released a report on the 2015-16 academic year, with a follow-up report due in 2019, examining women’s position in academia. It found that although women made up roughly half of lecturing staff in Ireland that year, only a shocking 19% occupied academic professor positions. (This was shocking to me when I first encountered the statistic, but is not unusual in Europe in general). In non-academic staff, women were 62% of the workforce but men held 72% of the highest paid positions. A woman has never been president of a university in the Republic of Ireland.
It can be clearly seen, therefore, that the issue is not just getting women jobs in universities, but also helping them to advance. The HEA report states that the limits to women’s advancement were not due to a lack of talent or drive, but due to factors “conscious and unconscious, cultural and structural” not experienced by men in the same position. It points out that international evidence has shown that progress towards equality is “not automatically linear or inevitable”, but that gender balance when achieved is beneficial to organisations and correlates positively with improved performance. I use Ireland as an example, but it is important to note this is an issue across the world: in 2014, for example, only 20.9% of senior academics and 20.1% of heads of higher education institutions in Europe were women. In the U.S., women held 48.9% of tenure-track positions in 2015 but only 38.4% of actual tenured positions.

The lack of women in senior positions in universities indicates a lack of diversity, reduces other women’s chances of career advancement within these institutions, and can give rise to a male-dominated, misogynistic culture which further hinders progression. It also sends a message to female students about what they can realistically achieve in the world, and to male students about what they are entitled to. (Students can avoid taking messages like this one on board, and this is where the tradition of student activism and political awareness is beneficial, but they exist all the same.) This is important because university degrees bestow all kinds of privilege and university students will most likely form a large part of the next generation of politicians and CEOs. If they consume discriminatory messages, they may carry that prejudice into later life and into the workplace. One of the significant points made in the HEA report is that “education plays a vital role in the socialisation of citizens into an expectation of certain roles as ‘women’s work’ or ‘men’s work’.” While there are barriers to the career progression of women in all kinds of industries, as young people in Europe we must be particularly aware of this issue with regard to universities, because it affects the education we are receiving right now.

I am in my second year of a joint History and English Literature degree. At the end of this academic year, in my English course I will have studied the literary works of 62 men and only 26 women. (My focus in this article is gender imbalance, but it is important to note that those contained within a single lecture on Afromodernism, a single module on post-colonial literature and two slave narratives) Furthermore, women’s work is sometimes included only to address so-called women’s issues – despite the overall lack of female representation, I have now studied Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman twice. Even in the arts, which have a higher proportion of female academics than STEM subjects, the voices and stories deemed worthy of study are predominantly male. Low numbers of female staff and low representation of female writers are both part of the cultural norm which makes it standard to see few high-profile women throughout academia. These are both symptoms of the same issue. Therefore I believe an improvement in one area (a greater number of female staff) would lead to improvement in the other.

I understand that there are some practical reasons for the disparity in authors studied: because female authors have traditionally received less attention, there is less secondary material focusing on their work, making it difficult for students to research them. I also understand that a course focusing on Victorian literature (for example) must include the heavyweights such as Charles Dickens, and I appreciate that when studying more recent literary movements, the gender balance of authors is often (but not always) more representative. But a lack of female writers can also perpetuate the harmful ideas of the period being studied. For example, in the Victorian period, women wrote huge amounts of literature that was highly popular, but these were looked down on as commercial rather than seen as art; they were seen as less worthy or less literary or less interesting. The works we now consider to be the greatest of the period are largely by men. The women whose work receives recognition today are, strikingly frequently, the ones who used male pseudonyms (the Brontë sisters, or Mary Anne Evans, better known as George Eliot, for example). These ideas persist to this day, in that women are huge writers and consumers of fiction, but books by men or featuring male protagonists are statistically more likely to be recognised through modern literary awards.

This is not to say that this perpetuation of privilege has been done deliberately or maliciously, but to point out that we as students must think actively about the way we are being taught, or not being taught, or else our education in liberal universities may further reinforce ideas which lead to discrimination. If, as in this example, the number of women deemed worthy of study is so significantly less, we must be aware of the biases of the period being studied and also of the biases which persist today (such as the lack of high-profile female staff in universities) which make writing by men the status quo. We must be aware of the ways in which historical oppression reappears in our learning. Otherwise we risk taking its messages on board; in this example, we risk perceiving work by women as actually, inherently inferior.
In November 2014, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington won €70,000 from her former employer, NUI (National University of Ireland) Galway, because they were found to have discriminated against her for promotion on the basis of her gender. This was heralded as a landmark victory. Since 2014, there have been moves within Ireland to address the issue. The HEA’s comprehensive report in 2016 laid out a plan of action. The very existence of this report and plan is encouraging, but change has been slow. Sheehy Skeffington wrote in 2017 of her disappointment at the lack of meaningful improvement. It is clear there is much work still to be done.

While I hope for continued improvement in the future, it will take time; I doubt there will be significant change before I finish my degree. As young people in Europe, we must be aware of the issue of gender imbalance in our academic institutions, but we must also actively think about how it affects us right now and how it impacts the education we receive.

About the author:

Carol McGill (19) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Dublin in 2014. She is a student of History and English Literature and loves to write in her free time. Carol also enjoys drama and reading. After completing her degree she would like to be involved in promoting human rights and preventing discrimination.