June 22, 2007

"It’s abusive, a walking rejection of all our freedoms.”

One use of freedom is to choose -- for yourself alone -- not to be free. Is it not an abuse of freedom to reject the freedom to choose submission?
David Sexton, a columnist for The Evening Standard, wrote recently that the niqab was an affront and that Britain had been “too deferential.”

“It says that all men are such brutes that if exposed to any more normally clothed women, they cannot be trusted to behave — and that all women who dress any more scantily like that are indecent,” Mr. Sexton wrote. “It’s abusive, a walking rejection of all our freedoms.”
So women are supposed to dress in a way that doesn't express the wrong thing about men? What if some other woman wanted to walk around in a T-shirt with the words "All men are rapists" on it? Sexton has homed in on the least valid reason to outlaw the niqab: that it expresses an opinion that offends you.


AllenS said...

The good thing about women who wear the niqab, is that they would never take a man's onion rings away, and make him eat carrots.

Ann Althouse said...

I think it's a rather strong statement that there will be no onion rings for you.

halojones-fan said...

Well, as to the original question: Yes, I think that provocative dress is a part of free speech, as long as the wearer is cognizant of and accepting of the consequences of that speech. If I walk around wearing a shirt saying "NIGGARS R TEH DUMB LOLZ", then I can hardly complain when someone beats my face in.

And, actually, that's what I think about this specific instance. Women who wear the niqab are fooling themselves about what it means. It isn't saying 'I am a disciplined and reserved person', it's saying 'I am chattel and have no independent thought about any topic whatsoever'. It isn't a GOOD THING to say about yourself. It isn't a fashion statement or a declaration of independence and uniqeness.

I recall an article where some woman decided to "see what it was like" and she wore a hijab for a week. What she learned was that she was doing it wrong--making eye contact, initiating conversations, acting like a real person. The hijab is an attitude as much as it is a costume.

KCFleming said...

It is morally wrong to choose to be a slave, and adopting the submissive female role in "modern" Islam is slavery to the worst kind of male abusive dominance. And once chosen, it cannot be rescinded, under penalty of death.

George M. Spencer said...

Lots of wife abuse in Arab countries.

Lots and lots and lots.

And there was a long, long feature in last month's Atlantic about how Saudi Arabia is a gay paradise, in part because of the incredible frustration experienced by young men who can't ever, anyway, no how meet young women.

Veiling supposedly began as a way for bedouin tribes to protect their women from raiding tribes. Much like American Indians, Arab tribes raided each other's settlements in ancient times. Of course, they would want to carry off young girls, just as American Indians did. Veiling prevented raiders from telling old women from the young ones.

Bottom line: It's not by any means a requirement of Islam.

Ann Althouse said...

Pogo: Many women choose marriages where they are subservient. They aren't slaves because they are not legally barred from leaving their situation. Same with religious garb in a free country. You can stop if you want, so you are not a slave.

Halojones, I agree that if you wear something that offends people, they have a right to express themselves too (though not to physically attack you). I refer to "outlawing" the niqab. But clearly, there are consequences from the way you dress in public. People may snub you or think ill of you or be suspicious of you, not just for the niqab, but for any kind of mask (and of course, also, for all sorts of clothes).

Sloanasaurus said...

The thing that makes me mad about the women who choose to wear these halloween costumes is constant whining about how they have the right to wear the costumes anywhere.

The women who flaunt their burkas in this country are rude and offensive. They need to behave in this country as they would expect a woman from here to behave in their country. That means NOT wearing a burka here.

Yeah, maybe they should be free to wear their burkas under the law. But, we should also be free not to hire them or to tell them that if they want to work, they can't wear a burka. If they want to eat at a restaurant or shop at a store, we should be free to tell them to get out and shop somewhere else. If they want to go to school they have to wear the appropriate clothes.

We have traditions and standards in this country and that includes both not going topless while you are eating out and also not wearing a burka.

If they want to wear these costumes all day long, they can go back to Arabia, or buy a farm like the Amish and live out there.

vet66 said...

The niqab is a means of controlling and subjugating females. It is an outward expression of honor killing, female circumcision, arranged marriages, and a constant reminder to the women who wear them that they are chattel.

In western religion, women are celebrated as females like Mary. In Islam, the role of women is usually prefaced by words such as complex and controversial.

Islam is not a religion of peace or respect. It is a religion of death and destruction. Words to remember are: apostates, non-believers, infidels, dhimmitude.

Know your enemy and suffer no illusions. They want anyone in the first three categories subservient or dead.

Bissage said...

I'm sure George is right about that being a justification.

But somehow I got the idea that concealing women was chiefly to maintain traditional clan structures by arranged cousin marriage.

I thought that sort of thing was pretty much passé in Britain, nowadays.

Maybe not.

Howard said...

All of you miss the real deal here by assuming that all Muslim women are just puppets or terrorized weak females. The facts are that most Muslim women are eager to wear the covering and that the wearing of it is a signal for rebellion against the ruling classes. In Turkey, the near establishment of an Islamic state has been set off by the girls defiantly wearing head coverings on campus; the French have recognized the deep meaning of the wearing of niqab and have actively acted to ban them; the same is happening in Holland. The niqab is s sign of revolution, not subjugation. Wake up.

Sloanasaurus said...

The niqab is s sign of revolution, not subjugation.

Yeah, in the West it means I piss in your face.

We should start pissing in their faces for a change.

Anonymous said...

Howard, couldn't it be both Islamist politics and cultural subjugation?

Would society be comfortable if men on our city streets, walking through our neighborhoods and entering our buildings or working alongside us at the office, started covering themselves up from head to toe in loose clothes that obscure their shape (and what may be under the robes) and hide any identifying physical characteristics except for perhaps the eyes, when not wearing dark sunglasses? And if more and more men of a certain cultural/ political identity that’s hostile to their host country’s western traditions and policies did so? Somehow, I think our principled approval of freedom to wear whatever would be more quickly challenged if this were a matter of men concealing themselves behind bolts of fabric and all looking alike.

I can’t talk to people who have fabric over most of their faces and sometimes sunglasses on, as well. It’s impossible to read facial expression or body language, so I don’t even try. And it feels as if the trying would be to sanction their Muslim gender apartheid.

Makes me sad to see little African girls in the public school system who have to cover themselves and hold scarves to their heads at all times. They’re not so free so run and play as the other boys and girls- they’re hobbled. They aren’t so free to talk with the boys and, increasingly, to make friends with the Christian girls. They are controlled and isolated even in the midst of American dailyness. They are growing up to know that females are the cause for all immodest thought in the world and so must abide by far more restrictive rules than males. They are growing up separately from the rest of our culture, and their garb is the curtain between us.

George M. Spencer said...


I agree with you; however, veiling places like the Gulf States and Afghanistan is part and parcel of being forbidden to drive, segregation in the workplace, and the fear of having a new, younger wife suddenly appear.

KCFleming said...

Re: "Same with religious garb in a free country. You can stop if you want, so you are not a slave."

I think this is incorrect. Women who attempt to leave Islam are threatened with death. Women under Islam who do not wear the correct clothes may be killed. Once adopted, it cannot be rejected.

Britian is already succumbing to sharia law as evidenced by the rise in honor killings there.

"Here, I intend to emphasize on Niqab as an obvious oppression, wall of segregation between women and men, or leaves the hands of backward tradition and religion open to interfere with the lives of individuals. Most importantly of all I need to highlight role of Niqab as banner of political Islam with its entire agenda.

If one does not see the role of Niqab in today’s society then he or she will easily fall for these false arguments, that Niqab is just piece of cloths and women have rights to wear them or not to, or if we oppose it then it goes against the freedom of choice of clothing for Muslims.

Niqab or hijab, the Islamic dress code are the banner of this political movement. Wherever this movement gained power or managed to get upper hand their first attack was to impose Hijab on women by hunting women in every way possible. In Iran for example the special patrols, armed with weapons were in charge to arrest women who fail to properly use Hijab in all work places, schools and streets. Bearing in mind that the leaders of this movement do not hesitate to kill, arrest, and torture. This movement is well known as anti-women, anti-freedom of expression and anti-Western values."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali lives under a death threat for challenging Islamic patriarchy
"So for me, the debate that is raging about the veil, particularly the niqab, which covers most of the woman’s face save for the eyes, goes to the very heart of the matter of liberty for Islamic women. Not just freedom for its own sake, but from a life of repression, subordination and violence.

In Islamic societies the veil functions as a constant reminder to the outside world of a stifling morality that makes a Muslim man’s honour entirely dependent on the respectable, obedient behaviour of the female members of his family.

The existence of this noisy female minority ["...young women in the West who are out to make a statement by wearing the niqab..."], many of them wealthy and educated, hides the fact that there are thousands of poorer women in Europe and millions across the Muslim world who have no voice and no choice. They are punished and threatened for daring to follow a different path.

...Some of these girls are imported as brides or domestic workers from the country of origin of the immigrants with whom they come to live. These girls are removed from school once they attain puberty and locked up at home. Their families get away with this form of modern slavery because the authorities rarely take notice of these young women. "

"The niqab was common in the Arabian Peninsula centuries before Islam and was not imposed by this religion," said Amnah Nousir, a professor of Islamic philosophy."*

Anonymous said...

"Same with religious garb in a free country. You can stop if you want, so you are not a slave."

Ann, this isn't necessarily so. There is tremendous pressure, sometimes to the point of violence, for good Muslim girls and women to conform to their fathers' custom no matter where they live. Liberal groups have documented how in the banlieues of Paris Muslim women get beaten and raped if they don't conform. Germany and the UK are having problems along these lines. In Sweden, Muslim on Muslim and Muslim on gentile rape, used as a form of social control, has become epidemic. I've known Muslim wives here in the States who've been beaten and punished in other ways for trying to be less strict and more western, etc.

Anonymous said...

Oops. I see that point was already addressed and better!

Unknown said...

Actually, it makes profiling easier.

And before too long, I fear we'll need to be doing so, although I obviously hope we never have to.

paul a'barge said...

Isn't anyone going to make the obvious observation that Islam is a cult, and that women who wear this horrible thing are brainwashed?

Islam is an mental illness, not a religion.

Ann Althouse said...

All I said was that Sexton picked the worst reason, which was that they are expressing the opinion that men are dangerous to women.

In the comments, the point about slavery was just that they were not by law slaves. Now, if you want to say that there is private oppression and that banning the niqab would work as an effective means to fight that oppression, that would be a new reason, much better than Sexton's.

vet66 said...


Your logic and conclusion fails the reality test. The moral police appear out of nowhere and beat the unfortunate female who has the affrontery to display ANY skin at all.

The niqab is symptomatic of a powerless culture that looks back to the not-so-glorious old days. The impotency of the men is displayed in their deadly requirements of female attire to soothe their lack of masculinity and wounded egos.

The niqab is one of many symptoms of a failed culture.

Laura Reynolds said...

I am one who believes that sexual frustration is a major component of the hostility and anger seen in Islamic societies.

The impotency of the men is displayed in their deadly requirements of female attire to soothe their lack of masculinity and wounded egos.


uwes98 said...

I agree in principle with AA, that banning the expression is morally wrong, even if the expression is wholly incorrect and offensive*.

However, if I were a education administrator, politician, business owner, etc I would reserve the right to prevent a white Christian woman from wearing a shirt proclaiming "Men cannot be trusted to not rape me" from teaching in my school, working in my shop, being admitted to my office.

What sort of peripheral vision does this garb allow? Is it safe for the wearer to drive.

* Many countries have outright bans on Nazi imagery and propaganda, so that ship has already sailed, actually.

Randy said...

I, for one, am glad that I live in a country where a woman can wear whatever she wants and anyone who wants to can express their opinion about what she is wearing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, theoretically we men and women are free to wear black ski masks and kevlar on the streets and in public facilities, or to culturally require/ convince gays in our religious community to wear pink stars on their shirts, or to wear wet tees and sheer skirts, since they nominally cover...

Too bad Wiccans and the rest of us can't go naked everywhere on account of obscenity laws. Should we be against those, as well?

George M. Spencer said...

Some years back a Saudi man spent time explaining to me why Islam was enlightened (at least in Saudi Arabia).

Totally straight faced, he said to me, "Well, the Prophet Muhammad put an end to female infanticide..."

And I thought, "Yeah, well, anything else positive happen in the past 1,400 years?"

MadisonMan said...

Should we be against [obscenity laws], as well?

Yes we should. I've never really understood why the naked body is viewed with such alarm by some busy-bodies.

And what internet ronin said. Instead of banning the niqab, we should ridicule it. Ridicule the notion that men have no self-control, and because of that women have to be hidden away. Ridicule the parents who want to control so much their nearly-grown children's lives.

Randy said...

Well, Jane, since you like to draw lines and all, start drawing them for the rest of us, and let's see how many of them the rest of us like. Hip Huggers, bare midriffs & short shorts on fat people, Jane. Yes or No? What about those baggy pants the boys wear that barely really their ass? Ban them, too? How about all those people who insist on showing their butt cracks in public?

Me? I'm satisifed with the way things are and am not threatened by some woman who prefers to walk around in a XXXL potato sack.

KCFleming said...

Re: " not threatened by some woman who prefers to walk around in a XXXL potato sack"

You're not.
But the woman in the sack is. And the women not wearing sacks start to get harrassed in Muslim neighborhoods (as seen in France and England), so soon they are scared as well.

If this were merely a matter of fashion, I wouldn't care. It's a political act, a mark that one accedes to a barbaric culture that subjugates women and means to subjugate all women. It expressly says they reject the West and want to destroy it. They themselves have used these words, not just in Iran but in England.

Why not take them at their word?

Heck, I'm not threatened by some woman that got a clitoridectomy or has run away from an honor killing. But I oppose them just the same.

Anonymous said...

You missed the point, Internet Ronin. Lines have been drawn wrt to attire already, we don't live in a society where anything goes. If what you're proposing is just that, then fine, but don't justify people covering themselves up from head to toe in ways which make social interaction difficult and security identification next to impossible as a "woman's right to wear whatever she wishes" in the US. It's never been so here, and in the fundy Muslim community a woman's freedom to wear what she wants isn't at all the case. You've got your eyes covered by blinders, maybe (which by rights you may wear, I suppose--)

And I rather doubt society would be sanguine if a popular and growing skinhead group started wearing masks and disguising garb on the city streets.

tjl said...

"am not threatened by some woman who prefers to walk around in a XXXL potato sack."

What if the woman in the potato sack is an elementary-grade schoolteacher? There was a case in Britain inolving a sack-wearing teacher who claimed she'd been the victim of discriminatory firing, despite the fact that her pupils couldn't see or understand her. Fortunately, reason prevailed, and she wasn't reinstated. It's offensive enough that she was a walking message board for the concept of female subjugation, but she couldn't even do the job she insisted on retaining.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"Veiling prevented raiders from telling old women from the young ones."

Sort of a surprise grab bag event?

We can't tell other cultures how to dress in their native countries, but we can certainly demand that people adhere to the rules, regulations and cultural norms in our own country. One of which is that you don't go disguised in public in a way that people are unable to know who they are dealing with and unable to have normal social interaction.

Paint yourself blue and wear a couch throw on your own time.

From a feminist (sort of) stance, I am dismayed by women who want to take on the garb of subjugation and second class citizenhood. Would they bind their feet to cripple their ability to walk or wear corsets that deform the rib cage and damage bodily functions? I don't think so. For some reason, that I can't fathom, these women seem to find the burkha romantic. Maybe they read too many Arabian Nights fairy tales when they were young.

Another point about the women in the article is that they really do have a choice to not wear the demeaning garb, unlike women in Afghanistan and Iran who are stoned to death for non-compliance.

It's easy to make a political stand when you are in no danger. There is nothing brave or noble about that.

Randy said...

tjl: I believe that employers such as schools have a right to enforce a dress code. Those who do not wish to follow it do not have to work there. What I am talking about is what people wear walking down the street.

(I imagine that one could make a good argument that wearing such a religiously-oriented costume in one's capacity as a public school employee violates the law.)

Anonymous said...

Right, DBQ, and yet, increasingly, less educated Muslim women in the West are being disenfranchised by family and community edict. They do not have the choice we easily assume they do, we who have daughters who speak their very independent minds...

Randy said...

Apologies, Jane, I guess I did miss your point.

Lines have been drawn wrt to attire already, we don't live in a society where anything goes.

Although we are damn close to "anything goes," I agree.

As to the rest, I'm not justifying anything. If a woman wants to walk around wearing a sack of potatoes in my local supermarket (and some do), I don't care. If someone wants to stare at them, I don't care. If someone other than the proprietor wants to ban them from walking around in their potato sack because it makes those others uncomfortable, then I'm interested. If the idiot walking around in the sack demands that everyone avert their eyes, then I'm interested. (If she doesn't want to be stared at, don't wear the sack.)

I'm all for the government saying "No ma'am, you cannot have a driver's license without a picture of your face." That's common sense, and driving is not a constitutional right. Any employer should have a right to set the dress code. Those who don't like it can find other employment. All proprietors have the right to refuse service to anyone they wish. They can say, "We shall serve no one wearing a ski mask," or "We shall serve no one wearing a veil." Public schools have the same rights to enforce dress codes. Those who do not like the dress codes have two choices: send their children to private school or help elect a majority to their school board that will change the dress code.

Randy said...

Pogo, once you have a critical mass of evidence that such things are happening here in the United States, we might have something to talk about. Until then, I refuse to live in terror with those who, like Debbie Schlussel, cry, "The Muslims are coming! The Muslims are coming," every five minutes. They aren't.

I believe that we already have laws against the other things you mentioned, and prosecute when they are discovered.

Randy said...

Another point about the women in the article is that they really do have a choice to not wear the demeaning garb, unlike women in Afghanistan and Iran who are stoned to death for non-compliance.

You can say that again!

It's easy to make a political stand when you are in no danger. There is nothing brave or noble about that.

Right again. In my neck of the woods, however, those wearing the sacks are not upper middle-class second-generation or later fashionistas making absurd political statements. That type usually wilts when confronted with the reality of everyday life in the "homeland" they've never had to endure.

Anonymous said...

Am very interested in whether employers or store proprietors can be taken to court for banning certain garb, on religious grounds. Expect to see more of this tussle as the niqab catches on in unassimilating communities.

I've read too many reports, however, to believe that Muslim women, or even most, happily wear the niqab, especially in the West. It's resurgence since the '79 Iranian Revolution and the Saudis' funding of Salafist madrasses and mosques round the world over the past couple of decades makes its popularity a fairly recent (cultural/ political) phenonemon. Some women willingly wear it for tribal/ Islamist political identity, some for a renewed imterest in fundy (misogynist) Islam and still others, maybe a majority, because they HAVE to, or else. It's for these poor women I dedicate this song by the Moody Beards:

Bolts of black fabric
never reaching the end
Fatwas we’ve written, oh
never meaning to rescind

Beauty I’d always covered
With the Book and whip
That’s what your truth is
don’t give me any lip

‘Cause I control you
Yes, I control you
Oh, how I control you--oo.

I have to run to a lake party where the women will be wearing skimpy things, so the last word's yours, IR. But don't think for a second that I have something against Muslims per se, only against the *fundy* teachings that lay the responsibility for dark deeds at the feet of women. And upon Jews. And its preaching against the West, against individualism and free thought.

KCFleming said...

Re...once you have a critical mass of evidence that such things are happening here in the United States

Not live in terror, just with your eyes open. It is taking place across the EU. It can happen here. Mistaking the niqab for anyhting less than an anti-West political move is a big mistake. Once here, it would be difficult to uproot, using democracy's own principles for freedom to permit and litigate unfreedom.

Thorley Winston said...

Not live in terror, just with your eyes open. It is taking place across the EU. It can happen here. Mistaking the niqab for anyhting less than an anti-West political move is a big mistake. Once here, it would be difficult to uproot, using democracy's own principles for freedom to permit and litigate unfreedom.

Oh please, if the EU is losing its “principles for freedom,” it’s because they never had any to begin with. If they want to create a culture that values freedom, they can start by liberalizing their anemic economies and begin weaning people off their cradle-to-grave welfare states before their baby-boom generation begins retiring and collapsing the Fabianist house of cards.

KCFleming said...

Very Steynian. And I agree.

Cedarford said...

From early history, Western and Asian societies have always had powerful taboos against anyone in masks. It is rightly associated with criminal or poltically violent behavior. A threat to the citizenry and the State. And those taboos actually get stronger in any society that has free movement between tribes, towns, diverse cities.

A group of masked people is, and was, a near automatic response to call out police and soldiers to deal with the threat.

Niqabs, burquas adapted in an "in your face manner" are meant to at least in part say: "Muslims are a conquering people that do not respect others norms and culture. As Allah made us supreme, it is for you to adapt to us, not our task. And wherever we go we try to use your tolerance and liberties against to and to further our "aggression" - but don't ever think that tolerance will ever be reciprocal when you come and foul our neighborhoods, or native lands other than as submissive workers or dhimmis."

Radical Islamists have already found women in Niqabs and burquas well suited to smuggling weapons (caught repeatedly in Iraq, West Bank doing so), and recently, in 2 Israeli suicide bombings and the fully veiled woman who had undetected bombs strapped to her at the Jordan wedding Party.

Just as we can't tolerate gangs of thugs freely running about Asia and the West in public, in black ski masks to preserve their anonymity in crimes and violence - we cannot tolerate women similarly disguised when they pose a legitimate state security threat.

Not even getting into "saving the women from their choice of Muslim oppression" arguments.

The security argument, and the long-standing Western and Asian taboo on members of society to publicly mask and disguise themselves to protect us from anti-social activities done by people wishing to avoid identification as parties to that - more than suffices.

The cancerous Lefty arguments of "freedom to mask", "honor all cultures equally!!" nonwithstanding.

If Islamoids, citizens or not, cannot stand Western and Asian rules that go back thousands of years, - they can elect to leave to Camel Land as an option of other lands not bowing to Muslim ways. More culturally self-assured lands like Rising China, Japan, Australia, Poland are none too subtle on the "do as we do, or get out" argument.

Chip Ahoy said...

Say I'm a teller at a bank and one of these black-potato-sack-with-slits-for-eyes-wearing ghouls comes up to the counter and, because it's against her religion to speak to strangers, passes a note reading

"I'd like to withdraw $10,000"

Would it be wrong for me to wonder if we were being robbed? Would I be fired if I slipped on a black ski mask, and returned a note asking,

"Sure, where's your trick-or-treat bag?"

Never trust a person who is hiding -- the whole thing about observing people without allowing yourself to be observed is creepy.

knox said...

In theory I support musliim women being allowed to wear burkas/niqab/hijab whatever, whenever.

In practice however, as a female, I look at the very "liberal" countries of western Europe, and read that, as Pogo put it: the women not wearing sacks start to get harrassed in Muslim neighborhoods and it scares the shit out of me. Alarmist? Schlussle-esque? Maybe... but I would have no problem--in this case--saying don't even try that sh*t in this country: Assimilation Required.

Kirk Parker said...

Internet Ronin,

Until then, I refuse to live in terror with those who, like Debbie Schlussel, cry, "The Muslims are coming! The Muslims are coming," every five minutes. They aren't.

That's the big secret--invade slowly. We in the West all have Sesame Street-sized attention spans. Too bad Al Queda blew it with 9/11, otherwise far fewer of us would even suspect an invasion was underway.