November 18, 2006

Should the Burqa -- and other face coverings -- be banned?

That's the proposal in the Netherlands:
[Immigration Minister Rita] Verdonk insisted the burqa was not an acceptable part of public life in the Netherlands.

"The Cabinet finds it undesirable that face-covering clothing - including the burqa - is worn in public places for reasons of public order, security and protection of citizens," she said.

Critics of the proposed ban say it would violate civil rights.

The main Muslim organisation in the Netherlands, CMO, said the plan was an "over-reaction to a very marginal problem", the Associated Press reported.

But the minister told the BBC that social interaction would be easier if faces were not covered.

"It is very important that we can see each other and can communicate with each other. Because we are so tolerant we want to respect each other."
Because we are so tolerant... It's an interesting perspective. You claim to be tolerant, but then you want to prevent people from doing something their religion motivates them to do. Obviously, some things motivated by religion really are so harmful to public order that a ban shows no disrespect toward religion. (For example: murder.) The question is where to draw the line, and hiding one's face is not an obvious harm. Verdonk cites the need to interact and communicate, and people who cover their faces do seem to be excluding others. Yet, it is part of freedom to decline to interact with other people as you go about your life, walking around in public, and it's a common thing to dress in a way that signals to people you are not open to interaction. But if you lived in a place where more and more people were entirely hiding their faces and signaling exclusion of others, life would feel scarily different. At what point would you want to use government power to make them stop?


knox said...

The Netherlands has to start taking some action if it wants to continue to exist.

Charles Giacometti said...

I heard a very interesting interview about this, where several young Muslim women in America explained why they do or not wear a burqa. Each had very personal, very nuanced reasons why they do or do not wear one. They discussed their own feelings about it, how their families felt about it, and how their feelings had evolved.

This is what it comes down to, doesn't it? Personal, religious freedom? Isn't this precisely the sort of thing the government should stay out of?

As an aside, I wonder what knoxgirl thinks is going to happen to the Netherlands. Is she suggesting that there is some grave threat that must be met with religious oppression?

Simon said...

I reluctantly agree with Gerry (that it is not inappropriate to ban the tools by which a group carries into practical effect their "belie[f] in the forceful domination of women"), although I point out that - while I agree with the Smith doctrine - such an idea simply wouldn't fly in this country.

Let me recount a disagreement I had with a columnist for a local newspaper earlier this year. She wrote a column arguing that "Muslims ... align themselves with a set of beliefs, which even varies often depending upon the individual[,] ... [and] [t]o suggest they need to be integrated into the modern world is insulting," concluding, rhetorically, "why would we want to change their culture and practices?" In essence, it seemed to me, she was arguing that these are people who follow certain practises because those practises are mandated by their religion, and that we as a host culture should not "insult" them by seeking to reform those practises, even those we find a little peculiar.

When I e-mailed her and offered to loan her a copy of Phyllis Chesler's book, which exhaustively documents the gender apartheid Islamic culture seeks to impose, she averred that she "d[id]n't have time for it to be worth" doing the research to understand what it is that she's defending, and that an opinion piece need be no "more than opinion." And to that, I say (although I didn't say to her in so many words), you just have to be kidding. Even once you get past the implied (and plainly absurd) argument that if you only have time to write or research, you should write, that position is still untenable. "Ignorance," Dogbert once argued, "is not a point of view," and an opinion must still be grounded in the facts.

Historically, it has never been the case -- save for a brief period of uneven application that Smith put a long-overdue stop to -- that we, as a society, do not demand compliance with certain standards of behavior, even when the proscribed behavior might force a religious or ethnic grouping to change their culture or behavior. The forced abolition of polygamy in Utah as a condition of its entry to the Union, for example, might be sustained on the objection that, as feminists have recognized for many years, polygamy is an inherently misogynist practise, but in fact, it was actually undertaken because bigamy, then as now, so offended the moral scruples of American society as to require its supression. As the columnist herself admitted, "[w]hen you choose to live in a society that is not your native community, there are certain responsibilities" - among which are to discard those practises which seriously offend the morality of the host culture.

My concern is she - and blithe multicultural apologists like her - are failing to confronting the scope of the practises which the blanket rule that she (and they)would protect; one cannot divorce a discussion of what these practises are from the discussion of whether they should be subject to proscription. It doesn't suffice to opine that we should just leave Muslims (or anyone else, for that matter) alone to their cultural practises, if we fail to inquire what those practises are. It might be convenient to believe that this impulse to leave alone extends extends merely to banning children from wearing crucifixes, yarmulkes and hijabs in schools, as France has done, or banning teachers from wearing the Niqab in Britain, but that is not the limit of the rule of "let them do what their culture demands." I believe that, to the extent that the culture and practises of Islam include, inter alia, polygamy, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault in the home, female genital mutilation, honor killings, gender apartheid, mutilation as punishment for petty crimes and capital punishment for heresy and apostasy, as Chesler asseverates, we should desire to change that culture and those practises. It's shocking to hear someone arguing the contrary, and while I'm sure it wasn't your intention to defend those practises, that is the practical effect of your voicing the opinion without qualifying which practises should be tolerated.

Charles Giacometti said...

Here is the link to the story if people are interested.

Unknown said...

I think a certain amount of intolerance and discrimination is called for, but not by the government.

If Dutch citizens find the veiling of women abhorrent, then they should say so and act accordingly. The Dutch, and all of us, should stand up for our cultural norms if we truly value them. That's, in part, how the melting pot works.

My father was first generation American. His father, as do many immigrants, partially resisted American culture and he was disdained for it, even by his own family who wanted to be Americans.

I'm not necessarily arguing for cultural exceptionalism, but I would argue that dominant cultures have always created strong pressure to adapt. When in Rome...

mtrobertsattorney said...

It sounds like the anti-Burqa's are really arguing that every male has a right to a clear view of a woman's face. Have we discovered a new constitutional right here? But why stop at the face? After all, there's much more to a woman than just her face.

Harsh Pencil said...

Society has every right to ban masks in public. Is it even legal for me to walk around in a ski mask inside a mall or Klu Klux Klan hood? There are plenty of social aims, including crime reduction, that make it so that society has the right to know whom they are dealing with. Is there a civil right to anonymity?

Randy said...

Charles wrote: Personal, religious freedom? Isn't this precisely the sort of thing the government should stay out of?


Charles also wrote: Is she suggesting that there is some grave threat that must be met with religious oppression?

Perhaps. Are you suggesting that everything is fine and dandy today in the Netherlands? Would you care to explain why, in a free country, Theo. VanGogh's 13-year-old son needs around-the-clock protection and essentially live in hiding lest he be murdered simply because he is the sole surviving son?

Can you imagine a member of our Congress having to flee the country for her life simply because whe disagrees with, say, the Catholic Church?

Did you know that many Dutch citizens are too frightened to speak out about what is happening in their country today because they fear retribution?

Emigration from the Netherlands is rising, BTW.

(I don't mean to overemphasize the problem but it seems to me that you may be trivializing it.)

Randy said...

Harsh Pencil: Yes, it is legal for you to walk around wearing a ski mask or KKK hood. Do not expect, however, to be complimented on your choice if you do.

The Drill SGT said...

Internet Ronin said...
Harsh Pencil: Yes, it is legal for you to walk around wearing a ski mask or KKK hood. Do not expect, however, to be complimented on your choice if you do.

Or board a public transport, or enter a security area, or get polite service from merchants and bystanders.

Randy said...

Drill SGT: True, but there would likely be many, many opportunities to meet and greet the local constabulary, courtesy of his fellow citizens!

Unknown said...

You cannot compare their society with ours. Muslims are now at about 20% of the population and rising, as is radicalism. Many Dutch are under police protection or in hiding--or have emigrated--due to threats of murder from native jihadists. A radical group has promised, re Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "a woman will kill her." Can you still doubt after they came back to finish the WTC that they don't mean what they say?

So, yes, the Netherlands has a perfect right for security purposes to ban the burka, a misogynistic artifact and darned good disguise.

The Drill SGT said...

Internet Ronin said...
Drill SGT: True, but there would likely be many, many opportunities to meet and greet the local constabulary, courtesy of his fellow citizens!

Ann, what do the courts say about the fact that a policeman can require you to produce identification in some circumstances? Does that also mean that you can be compelled in the same circumstances to remove your mask, hood, burqa...?

I'm Full of Soup said...

No the burqua should not be banned. In fact, I believe it should be the required attire for actresses like Camryn Manheim. Or the station should give the viewers some sort of "advisory notice" that she is on the upcoming show.

No, seriously, think about this. What if blacks in America had been evil and decided to use terrorist-type means to fight back against years of horrible discrimination? They could easily have determined their path to equality was to bomb restaurants and other buildings. Thankfully, they did not choose such unlawful and extremist methods.

The burqua is an issue only because Muslim extremists are very evil. They don't want equality or to assimilate. S0 the burqua becomes a valid issue.

MnMark said...

Someone wrote, and I think it is very true, that muslims are nature's way of telling us that multiculturalism doesn't work. The commenters here who are arguing that we shouldn't ban burqas or other muslim religious or cultural practices because that would be discrimination are essentially advocating cultural (and by extension, national) suicide. You can't base a culture or a nation on the idea that the only thing that matters is that nothing matter more than anything else, which is what the liberal belief in non-discrimination amounts to. A people who are strong and self-confident about their culture and way of life will simply move into your territory and through immigration and higher reproduction rates take over and impose their way of life on you. Along the way they'll insist that you "respect their culture" as a way of refusing to assimilate to yours.

See, actual believing, practicing muslims are not interested in assimilating into our culture and nation. Assimilation means becoming like us, becoming one of us, indistinguishable from us. That's not what they come here for. They come here for economic opportunity, and they set up muslim colonies in our countries so they can live in their own culture while they take advantage of the environment of economic opportunity we create here that is unavailable in their own lands. As their numbers grow, they will do as the larger muslim colonies in Europe are doing, and begin to insist that their own laws apply to their people. See? They don't think of themselves as one of us. They don't want to assimilate.

You have to have the confidence in the rightness of your own culture and way of life to say "this is how we live here. If you don't like it, if you don't want to completely assimilate and become one of us, you don't belong here. Leave." You can't just say anything goes, or in short order you will have nothing at all.

What scares me is how oblivious liberals are to this. Alien people - people so alien that their women walk around in bags! - are moving into our nations and growing their colonies, and even though Islam is fundamentally incompatible with almost every basic tenet of liberalism, liberals insist on making no distinctions. It is so obviously suicidal that it is frightening. And what's frightening is not the muslims so much as the liberals among us who refuse to see the danger.

The Drill SGT said...

summarizing Mark's excellent last post.

Muslims aren't immigrants to Europe (and perhaps the US), they are colonists.

knox said...

Charles G: As an aside, I wonder what knoxgirl thinks is going to happen to the Netherlands. Is she suggesting that there is some grave threat that must be met with religious oppression?

I am surprised you have to ask. Theo Van Gogh's assassination (because of his film "Submission" about how Muslim women are treated) was largely ignored by the MSM--and Hollywood--but anyone who pays attention to this stuff shoud know about it--and the very real threat Dutch "tolerance" of its extremist population has created.

Many Dutch women--who aren't Muslim--feel compelled to wear a veil or headscarf in certain areas for their own safety, and to avoid hostility and taunting by Muslim males. This is happening across Europe, by the way. (In France, something like 100 cars are burning at any given point in time--fires set by disgruntled Muslim youths.)

PatCA also mentioned Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Google her if you don't know the background. Like Van Gogh's family, she received repeated death threats over her criticism of Islam's treatment of women. She had been living under 24-hour police guard, but has since moved to the US.

I am not saying banning burqas is the answer, but again, something has to be done. What could be considered Europe's most liberal, tolerant society is slowly eroding. Liberals should take notice!

Tim said...

"This is what it comes down to, doesn't it? Personal, religious freedom? Isn't this precisely the sort of thing the government should stay out of?"

This same religion condones and permits polygamy and clitorectomy, albeit not widely practiced by most adherents.

So do western societies have the right to ban those practices? We and other nations have done so. Do you object? And if personal, religious freedom is the only criteria by which these practices are judged permissible, why wouldn't you allow them?

Anonymous said...

Liberals should take notice!

Welll, yeah. But until now they've been too busy dealing with the much scarier threat of out of control conservatives and the Christianist threat at home!

Anonymous said...

In general I thinks it's a matter for a state to decide. For instance, if jihadists are terrorizing women into wearing the burqa or else, that's a challenge to the law that must be met. I don't think the Constitution as amended is an obstacle to outlawing the burqa, which may be the most prudent policy. I also cannot see how any judicial proceedings could tolerate the face covering by witnesses or judges, and perhaps other officers of the court as well.

Synova said...

I can't remember which author, but there's some somewhat dystopic science fiction where the primary social law is a ban on 'masks'. Any sort of mask, a face covering or a holographic prosthetic to make you appear differently... anything that makes you less identifyable at a glance.

The idea being that the only reason for a mask is deception. Therefore mask wearing in itself is criminal, and proves criminal intent.

For a while now I've felt that Moslems in Europe are responding to a situation of intolerance and exclusion no matter the rhetoric about tolerance and inclusion. I wonder if people there even know what that is? It reminds me of an interview after Columbine when a parent said that *no one* was mean or excluded those boys, that all they would have had to do is show some school spirit and they'd have been accepted.

We'll accept you for who you are just so long as you act like us.

Yes, Europe has to do something, the Netherlands has to do something, but the things they chose to do are just about the stupidest things I can think of. Does banning head scarves or banning face coverings do anything constructive? Or does it just make people feel like their faith is being spat on?

Requiring a *face* on driver's and I.D. cards and passports and in particular security situations is one thing, requiring one's face and vision to be unobscured while driving makes sense... but just generally on the streets or even in the workplace? Who cares?

From all accounts, to be successful in Europe a Moslem has to abandon all the trappings of their religion, even just a scarf that covers hair and not the face, if you want to work, to be employed. Is it any wonder that Moslems who move to Europe begin to be even *more* observant rather than less?

Does that mean I agree with the Moslem religion? No. I just understand how human beings react to religious persecution. Tell a Christian that she may not wear a crusafix as jewelry and see how that impacts her observation of her faith... She *may* comply, but she's not going to become *less* religious.

knox said...

From all accounts, to be successful in Europe a Moslem has to abandon all the trappings of their religion, even just a scarf that covers hair and not the face, if you want to work, to be employed.

huh? From what accounts?

altoids1306 said...

Being able to cover your entire body without being suspected by police or security would be a boon to criminals.

"Sorry, I can't show ID."

"The bank robbers were wearing burkas, we couldn't get a look."

Unknown said...

It is absolutely a violation of freedom. But the adherents of this religion are adamantly against freedom as well. So in some respects it is an act of self-defense.

I think the goal is probably to stop the fanatics from moving to the Netherlands and it might work, although there will be a backlash from existing residents.

If it were up to me, I would let people who live there continue to wear burkas, and I would simply prevent immigration of any more Muslims.

Randy said...

From all accounts, to be successful in Europe a Moslem has to abandon all the trappings of their religion, even just a scarf that covers hair and not the face, if you want to work, to be employed. Is it any wonder that Moslems who move to Europe begin to be even *more* observant rather than less?

And downtownlad's suggestion at the end is as fair as any for those states facing this decision: those already within the country were admitted under different rules, but those nations have a right to set new rules for those entering the country today.

Yes, it is. Don't like the rules in France, for example? Don't emigrate there. That seems pretty simple to me. Many nations permit their employers to have dress codes. If the boss says no scarves, then no scarves. No beards, then no beards. Don't like it? Get another job. But don't complain about the limited choices that are a direct consequence of personal decisions. Accomodation need not equal catering.

Synova said...

knoxgirl, It was on blogs and hearsay from people who'd met Muslims in Europe and news reports interviewing women who said that they couldn't expect to be employed if they wore a veil. The one account was a train conversation admiring someone for going for yet another university degree only to be told that university he could do as a Muslim, employment was another question.

I've had internet aquaintences from Germany explain that Muslims really didn't care about the veil, that it wasn't a religious issue at all and that claims that it was were just lies, proof being that in past generations immegrants gave up all that without complaint. The veil was just about oppressing women.

As a Christian I understand that faith is an individual thing and I know Christians who feel that head covering for them is required. What does that have to do with anyone else going bare headed without complaint?

The fact is that European Muslims seem to be far more observant with each generation, more than their parents or grandparents. They are not assimilating into the population at all but are separating more and more with each generation. Why?

That seems opposite of common sense. There is a reason that young people are turning to strict religious observation. What is it?

Randy said...

Ataturk had many good ideas. Unfortunately, 80 years after his death, many have not come to be, are paid mere lip-service, or are imperiled. What happens is the choice of the Turks, however.

Synova said...

When is it catering and when is it discrimination? When is it an excuse?

Is a scarf over your hair offensive to anyone? A beard? A star-of-david pendant or a little cap?

When faced with (percieved) persecution people do not become *less* religious. They become more religious. Much more.

Randy said...

Synova: No jobs. Failure of their families to assimilate earlier. Not allowed by the dominant culture to assimilate. Radical education. Radical clerics. Need for structure in their lives. Need to believe in something that makes them feel unique. The list is undoubtedly a long one.

Randy said...

Whether it is catering, discrimination or abuse is up for the people of the nations involved to decide, not me. They are entitled to set their own ground rules, I think.

Randy said...

Hanging Chad: I hope you are right. Alternatively, it could be that until recently, the numbers here lacked sufficient mass to make a noticeable difference.

(I wonder if anyone has done any research on the long-term assimilation, or lack of it, of Sikhs in America.)

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"Internet Ronin said...
Harsh Pencil: Yes, it is legal for you to walk around wearing a ski mask or KKK hood."

Not in Moscow on the Hudson!

Simon said...

Alcibiades said...
"Well, yeah. But until now [liberals] [ha]ve been too busy dealing with the much scarier threat of out of control conservatives and the Christianist threat at home!"

Many Christians are opposed to gay marriage, but I'm not aware that anyone has seriously suggested that homosexuals should be publically executed, as is the practise in Sharia jurisdictions such as Iran. The "Christianist" threat just seems a little hard to take seriously placed next to what I agree with Mark and Sarge is basically a colonization. And at the same time, compounding the error, liberals do not believe in a program of integration for immigrants. Has anyone looked at the immigration test? The first question is "what three colors are on the flag." They dive into such deep, searching questions as "can you name the Vice-President of the United States." The requirement for citizenship has basically dropped to the physical presence on American soil for a period of time, and a pulse.

Randy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Randy said...

RE: KKK masks: Really? I stand corrected. Learn something new every day! Thanks!

Jeff with one 'f' said...

The Dutch burqa ban would be a finger in the dyke against the colonization of the culture and public space of the Netherlands by Islamic culture and law. It's a legal attempt at assimilation, something that Dutch culture has failed to enforce.

"What could be considered Europe's most liberal, tolerant society is slowly eroding."

This is the natural result of a society becoming too liberal and tolerant- erosion by societies that are decidely illiberal and intolerant. The failure of Dutch culture to assert itself has created a space for Islamic culture to assert itself. Nature abhors a void.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Thanks, but I'd rather continue living in a country where "the fashion police" are a joke instead of the real deal.

The pro-burqa Muslims would prefer REAL fashion police!

knox said...


It's scary, isn't it? The vast majority of Americans have no idea what's going on in Europe; a lot of them, the very people who profess to be the watchdogs for civil liberties, human rights, etc. Go to dailykos, and you'll see they are too busy telling their readers that Iran is really quite a progressive society to be bothered with what's going on in Europe. Meanwhile, to exploit a cliche, "Paris is burning..."

The Drill SGT said...

knoxgirl said...
It's scary, isn't it? The vast majority of Americans have no idea what's going on in Europe;,

Youths those pesky undefinitized Youths who burn 100+ cars a night in France and set ambushes to kill or maim cops. Who set fires in their own apartment buildings and snipe at Fire trucks that respond.

However, because France is egalitarian, it is against the law to keep track of race and religion, so all we know is that they are Youths with names like Mohamed.

Beth said...

I believe it is illegal to wear a mask in New Orleans, other than on Mardi Gras day. I think this applies pretty much throughout the state, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were a result of KKK activity post-Civil War. A common question here is "Are you going to mask for Mardi Gras?" and the phrasing strikes me as specific. "Mask" is used as a verb, and the question indicates it is an unusual activity.

The point of the burqa isn't just a sexual mask, meant to protect women and keep men from temptation. It's about obliterating identity.

Josef Novak said...

"...the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any one of their number, is self protection."

I think that Mill set the mark in a good place.

Anonymous said...

Banned, or required.

Unknown said...

Oh, Sippican, well said.

I don't know that Muslims are doing better here; I think the difference is only one of scale. If there were 60 million Muslims in America (instead of 5), or 20% of our population, we would all feel the cultural pressure, instead of the occasional taxi passenger or resident in a Muslim area or unfortunate Jew.

My Dutch friend has many secular, successfully integrated Muslim friends who hate the radicals in a way that makes my friend squirm, but they feel beaten by sheer numbers. Let's hope the US comes to its senses sooner than the Dutch and learns to support the secular.

Unknown said...

Well, TW, what would be a "fass-orward" way of integrating Muslims? And what is the "underlying issue"?

Various strategies by European countries are eliminating religious garb from secular places, education and training grants, banning extreme dress that pose security threats or are seen as mysogynistic.

saber tooth owl said...

I believe there are still laws on the books in many places -- Virginia in particular -- that forbid the wearing of masks or hoods in public, with an exception for children (Halloween). Those laws were passed basically to prevent Klan rallies, but the argument was also made that some robbery prosecutions had been thwarted when a cop mailed someone leaving a bank in a ski mask, saying that he had no probable cause since he only observed a perfectly legal act, exiting a bank. At least a few years back the mask was a no-no in Virginia and, I understand, a number of other states. I only recall this because it struck me at the time as pushing the boundary of privacy right to the very edge.

saber tooth owl said...

As someone who lived in a Muslim country for several years, living among the people and not in some hotel or barracks in the Green Zone, I believe we had better get ahead of the problem while we still can. While not all Muslims are jihadists, so one can honestly say the extremists are a minority, a very large percentage of virtually ALL Muslim populations are either supportive of most of jihad's goals (including the adoption of sharia and the suppression of all other religions) or at least completely unwilling to side against the extremists. Pretending that our only danger is from a few percent of Islam's followers is simply absurd, and the expanding Muslim voting blocs in the U.S., their huge funding, and their skill at using our own legal system and public relations gimmicks against us is going to leave us in a very precarious situation in a very short time.

You cannot solve a problem until you recognize it, and most Americans are simply hoping that everyone will eventually make nice and people will stop trying to kill us and destroy our culture, which is the aim of a huge percentage of the Muslim world.

The current problems in Europe should be a heads-up.