The Fight Against the Burqa

May 25th, 2010 at 7:50 am David Frum | 22 Comments |

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Courtesy of Ezra Levant, remedy a remarkable image of the harm done by the burqa.

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22 Comments so far ↓

  • Slide

    The fight against the Burka should be waged by those within the Islamic community. The group (ICFM) that sponsored the above ad says this about their beliefs:

    “The Salvation of Man – We believe the only means of our reconciliation to God is through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is essential for personal salvation and eternal spiritual life. The born-again believer is to separate from that which is evil and live a life of holiness unto God.

    The True Church – We believe the true Church is composed of all those who are born again, as taught in the scriptures. Through this new birth, we are united together in the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Lord and Head of the Church. Every local church has the right under Christ to decide and govern its own affairs.

    The Millennial Reign of Christ – We believe in the second coming of Christ with His saints to rule on the earth for a thousand years.

    The Lake of Fire – We believe the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, and anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life, shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. This is the second death.”

    http://www.icfm.org/cgi-bin/gx.cgi/AppLogic+FTContentServer?pagename=FaithHighway/10000/1000/199/beliefs_06

    Can you see how a Muslim might resent such an organization meddling in their religious beliefs and traditions?

  • thijsvn

    @ Slide

    Nice catch and I agree to some extent that it is a fight that should be held within the Islamic community. Though I would feel better if government came down hard on religious nutjobs (christian or muslim, makes no difference) who seek to impose their views on others.

    With that in mind, I think the burka is a form of oppression/submission of women in general. They’re the symbolic chains that allows for this oppression, because they allow for an entire group to be silenced. I think this kind of thing affects us all therefore and the fight should be joined by anyone who believes in true freedom of religion.

    It depends on how you want to interpret freedom of religion. Personally, I think people also need protection from institutionalized religion, because if you don’t, you stop being a secularized society.

  • sinz54

    You’re treading on very thin ice here.

    When you enter into a religion, you agree to its rituals, however bizarre they may seem to you.

    Many Hasidic Jewish women shave their heads.

    Because of our First Amendment and subsequent Amendments that extended the proscriptions to state and local government, NO GOVERNMENT in America can take an official stance against any religious ritual which applies only to religious adherents and which does not violate the law. The mayor of New York cannot recommend that Hasidic Jewish women stop shaving their heads. And he can’t recommend that Muslim women stop wearing burqas.

    The only exception is national security. The burqa makes it impossible to see who’s underneath–and in an airport, security guards have to know who’s getting on board a plane. If a women insists on putting a bag over her head, she has that right–but in today’s sad world she does NOT have the right to walk through a security checkpoint that way.

    The REAL issue is what happens if a woman becomes so disgusted with these religious rules that she attempts to leave the faith. In Islam, apostasy is a capital crime, punishable by death. That’s where the First Amendment comes down on the side of the woman. Muslims don’t have the right to murder her in the name of their faith.

  • thijsvn

    @ sinz

    All of them good points and I think I might have gone a little overboard there. It’s so easy these days to see the burka as the representation of all sorts of negative denominators, attached to Islam.

  • elizajane

    I happen to think that the burqa is an appalling means of using religion to manipulate and silence a whole class of people (women) to the benefit of another (men). However, I also happen to think that homeschooling is often–not always, but often– an appalling means of using religion to brainwash and control one generation (children) to the benefit of another (parents). If you doubt that this is often homeschooling’s explicit intention, see the website of Arthur Robinson, which explains that parents must homeschool to keep their children absolutely isolated from the World.

    But in America we permit this, and worse, in the name of Christian religion. Indeed, we applaud it. Robinson is the Republican nominee for Congress from Oregon’s 4th district.

    As a country that permits all sorts of coercive, anti-social manipulation in the name of Christianity, we have no grounds to forbid the burqa as a religious practice. I’m glad that countries in Europe are moving to prohibit it, but they also prohibit a lot of things we allow to Christians, so they have the strength of consistency here. We do not.

  • buddyglass

    Sinz: “If a women insists on putting a bag over her head, she has that right–but in today’s sad world she does NOT have the right to walk through a security checkpoint that way.”

    Accommodations could be made. The point of the burqa is to hide the feminine form from men to whom a woman isn’t married. So the TSA could potentially institute a policy such that at each airport there must be at least one gate with a female TSA official. Women who don’t want to unmask themselves to a man could then use that gate, and wait to be screened by the female official.

    Alternately, the TSA could accept alternate means of identification besides “comparing your face to the picture on your passport”. Maybe burqa-clad women could have the option to be identified using biometric data (fingerprints, etc.) encoded electronically on their passports.

    If neither of these is available, though, I agree with you that security is security. My point is that the security issues caused by the burqa aren’t insurmountable.

    elizajane: “I’m glad that countries in Europe are moving to prohibit it”

    I’m not. And I’m not sure how, as a woman, you can really support their stance. I found this article fairly convincing:

    http://reason.com/archives/2010/05/24/unveiling-the-truth-about-burq

  • mpolito

    Banning the burqa is wrong, and I would vote against a ban like that if it was introduced. I would be against it for the same reason I am against the rules about “Islamophobia” that got Mark Steyn in trouble in Canada. They are part of the freedom of religion, and if a woman wants to wear one, lay off and let her.

    If the concern is that Islam becomes too public in the society, then the way to change that is not through law but culture. Maybe if Europeans stopped being post-Christian and became Christian again, and stopped apologizing for their culture, and starting having children again, things would change. But the law really cannot make any of that happen (and should not to the extent that it can).

  • forkboy1965

    And while we criticize the burqa and the way so much of Islam oppresses women, they see our women as fast, loose and immoral.

    The problem, on both sides, is religion. Religion is used for the purpose of control. To instruct folks on how to live and usually to suggest that those who do not live such lives are damned or should be killed.

    Forget about the burqa…. let’s move the world towards rational thought and bury religion in the dark ages where it belongs.

  • Smarg

    Islam is an evil ‘re;igion’ that glorifies death, violence, and the subjugation of women.

  • Rabiner

    Sinz54:

    Want to be more insulting to Muslim’s by calling the Burqa a ‘bag over their heads’? As a Jew I’d vote against a Burqa ban because the next thing to go would be the Yarmulke.

    Smarg:

    You’re funny.

  • ktward

    sinz54: When you enter into a religion, you agree to its rituals, however bizarre they may seem to you.

    The vast majority of religious practitioners do not ‘enter into’ their religion. They are born into it.
    Religion is a cultural inculcation: a seemingly simple statement, that, but one that manifests in many complex layers of inter-sociocultural dynamics.

    —-

    I’m not the least bit surprised that this ICFM ad came to FF courtesy of Levant. Like all rabid Z/Neocons, David and Ezra wield Christian-right extremism to further foment anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment. Every chance they get.

    Disgraceful, of course, but comically hypocritical where Ezra, in particular, is concerned: he recently displayed his worst manners–a neon indicator of a weak argument–in interview with a Canadian author who concludes, evidently, that the Religious Right that so successfully enslaved the US GOP now perniciously threatens present-day Canadian governance via their conservative movement’s biggest players.

    Ezra, at his charming ‘intellectual’ best (even the gracious interviewer thought Ezra had amusingly built a bridge too far):
    http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100516/tories-christian-agenda-100516/20100516?hub=TopStoriesV2

  • Chekote

    When you enter into a religion, you agree to its rituals, however bizarre they may seem to you.

    The burqa has nothing to do with religion. It is not mandated by the Koran which says that women should “dress modestly”. The burqa is a cultural tradition. In any case, it doesn’t matter. The question before us is whether we are going to protect our values of equality regardless of gender and human dignity all in the name of religious tolerance. If a religion that teaches that blacks are inferior and second class citizens were to wash on our shores, would we accept it? Would we ignore all the people who died, were beaten to win civil rights all in the name of religious tolerance?

  • Chekote

    Burqa ban because the next thing to go would be the Yarmulke.

    The Yarmulke is not a sign of oppression like the burqa. The burqa sends a message to women everywhere: You do not matter. Your opinion does not matter. You are to be invisible. No, shut up and walk two pace behind the men. As a feminist, I will be damnned if I am going to stay by and let people roll back the gains women made in our society all in the name of religious tolerance.

  • TerryF98

    Why cant we just butt out of other peoples lives and leave them the heck alone!

    The right wants “Freedom” but wishes to impose it’s own kooky bible bashing dumb ass mores on anyone a little different.

    Let people be who they want to be. Get out of peoples lives.

  • Slide

    Chekote // May 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm : If a religion that teaches that blacks are inferior and second class citizens were to wash on our shores, would we accept it?

    Catholicism doesn’t treat women very well either. They are not allowed to be ordained as priests (one of the seven sacraments) and have almost no say whatsoever in the Church hierarchy and are generally considered “second class citizens”. Should we accept it? As a feminist are you going to stand by while the Catholic church treats women in this way? Or is your outrage only directed at Islam?

    It’s not for the government to accept or not accept a religion’s dogma. Of course as a nation we enact laws that protect all. Even if the Koran or Torah or Bible says its ok for a husband to beat his wife, we cannot of course accept that.

  • ktward

    If a religion that teaches that blacks are inferior and second class citizens were to wash on our shores, would we accept it?

    How many burqa-wearers have, er, washed up on our shores?

    The burqa is a facet of tribalistic Islam.
    You’re correct, in that it is a form of oppression in this context, but no more so than tribalistic–or fringe–Christian sects that demand the subjugation and submission of their women to men. But then, you don’t see a whole lot of that on CNN to fuel your ‘feminist’ outrage, do you?

  • buddyglass

    Chekote: “If a religion that teaches that blacks are inferior and second class citizens were to wash on our shores, would we accept it?”

    What do you mean by ‘accept’? I would personally reject this hypothetical religion as being totally abhorrent. At the same time, I wouldn’t forbid anyone from practicing it. Would you?

    Chekote: “As a feminist, I will be damnned if I am going to stay by and let people roll back the gains women made in our society all in the name of religious tolerance.”

    How is *allowing* women to wear the burqa “rolling back the gains”? You realize you’re arguing in favor of the state dictating to women what they can and cannot wear?

  • charlesreardon

    Great ad. But if we are going to ban burqas can we also get rid of other undesirableclothing too (like Serena Williams’ french open tennis outfit, oh, and how about harem pants too?)

  • msmilack

    The only reason I can think of for denying Muslim women the right to cover their faces (imagining that it is their choice and not a custom forced on them) is the most obvious one: fear of terrorists using the burqa as a disguise. At n a time when we know that terrorists exist among us, the very least we can ask of our citizens is to show their faces for reasons of safety.

    Under other circumstances (pre-911) I would be the first to say we must respect the customs and beliefs of different cultures; but I also believe that if a person chooses to move to a western country they have to adapt to the degree that their identities are literally transparent.

    As for the inhumane treatment of women generally, I believe that is an entirely different subject but one certainly related (when it is forced on women) and always which is appalling. One of the most surprising things I have read lately was about a woman who dared to deck one of the religious police when he attacked her male companion. I hope she is the first of many to stand up for herself.

  • Slide

    Gerson has a column today on this very issue that I agree with 100%. Here is one snippet:

    “But at issue in Europe is not social disapproval; it is criminalization. In matters of religious liberty, there are no easy or rigid rules. Governments apply a balancing test. A tradition that burns widows or physically mutilates young girls would justify the Napier approach. Some rights are so fundamental that they must be defended in every case. But if a democratic majority can impose its will on a religious minority for any reason, religious freedom has no meaning. The state must have strong, public justifications to compel conformity, especially on an issue such as the clothes that citizens wear. ”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/25/AR2010052503969.html

  • Smarg

    Muslims destroy every community they join with glorification of death, violence, and the subjugation of women. Their own Arab-led countries are ruined, corrupt basket cases. They are a midieval throwback.

  • Diomedes

    “It’s not for the government to accept or not accept a religion’s dogma. Of course as a nation we enact laws that protect all”

    Well stated.

    Ultimately, as idiotic the whole concept of a burqa may seem to those of us in the west, the final decision is up the practitioners of the religion. I think forbidding one’s children from eating pork or shellfish is equally stupid. Yet I don’t expect the government to step in to undermine people’s faith if it cannot be justified.

    There are instances where tolerance to a religious practice has boundaries. Like the uber religious who believe that prayer and holistic medicine are a substitute for doctors and hospitals. As a result, their children die in diabetic comas. In a situation such as that, the religious dogma is trumped by our laws on child neglect.

    Similarly, if one’s religion instructs them to be intolerant of others due to their faith, we have (supposed) to have laws in place to over-rule that as it is trumped by our constitution.

    Now one can make the argument that a burqa is a symbol of female repression. I firmly believe that is the case. But for many in the Islamic faith, it is more about modesty. What about banning the headscarf? Or Shikh turbans?

    In the end, unless there is evidence of some type of endangerment to the individual, it is not the mandate of the government to make blanket rules and infringe on religious freedoms. Regardless of how strange or bizarre they may seem. Not allowing Catholic priests to marry or have sex seems like cruel and unusual punishment to me. :-)