The burqa issue resurfaces

First, let’s review what a burqa is, as it’s often confused with other Muslim garments and even with headscarves. It’s the full-length body covering worn by some Muslim women, and usually includes a head covering with a veil over the eyes, completely obscuring the face. Here are two women wearing the garment:

Burqa_Afghanistan_01

Three years ago, France banned any face-covering garment in public places, including the burqa if it obscures the face.  That law was controversial, for some Muslims see the garment as a religious mandate and its prohibition infringes on freedom of religion.  Some argue that it’s a form of oppressing women, and I tend to agree; although some burqa wearers argue that they want to wear it, many would gladly wear more revealing dress were it not for their faith and pressure from male and female coreligionists. Indeed, when I visited the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, a few years back—a school that bans even headscarves—several Muslim women told me they were happy about the rule.  If headscarves were permitted, they said, they would be pressured by other Muslim women to conform and wear them, for otherwise they’d be accused of being “bad Muslims.”

The question of banning such garments thus sets freedom of religion squarely against civil law and national custom, and it’s a tough call. I go back and forth on this, but I find myself more often on the side of Christopher Hitchens, who argued in Slate that the French burqa ban was a victory for women’s rights:

Ah, but the particular and special demand to consider the veil and the burqa as an exemption applies only to women. And it also applies only to religious practice (and, unless we foolishly pretend otherwise, only to one religious practice). This at once tells you all you need to know: Society is being asked to abandon an immemorial tradition of equality and openness in order to gratify one faith, one faith that has a very questionable record in respect of females.

. . . Not that it would matter in the least if the Quran said otherwise. Religion is the worst possible excuse for any exception to the common law. Mormons may not have polygamous marriage, female circumcision is a federal crime in this country, and in some states Christian Scientists face prosecution if they neglect their children by denying them medical care. Do we dare lecture the French for declaring simply that all citizens and residents, whatever their confessional allegiance, must be able to recognize one another in the clearest sense of that universal term?

So it’s really quite simple. My right to see your face is the beginning of it, as is your right to see mine. Next but not least comes the right of women to show their faces, which easily trumps the right of their male relatives or their male imams to decide otherwise. The law must be decisively on the side of transparency. The French are striking a blow not just for liberty and equality and fraternity, but for sorority too.

This is relevant to a report in yesterday’s Guardian that a judge in Hackney, near London, refused to let a Muslim woman wear her burqa in court. The woman is standing trial for intimidating a witness, and refuses to remove the head covering in the presence of males. The judge gave a stern ruling:

The judge said the principle of open justice overrode the woman’s religious beliefs. “It is necessary for this court to be satisfied that they can recognise the defendant,” the judge said.

“While I obviously respect the right to dress in any way she wishes, certainly while outside the court, the interests of justice are paramount. I can’t, as a circuit judge, accept a plea from a person whose identity I am unable to ascertain.

“It would be easy for someone on a later occasion to appear and claim to be the defendant. The court would have no way to check on that.”

Both the woman’s lawyer and the prosecuting attorney have broached other solutions to identify the burqa-wearer in court as the real defendant:

[Defense lawyer] Burtwistle suggested that she, a female police officer or a female prison guard could identify the defendant and confirm to the court that it was the same person as in the police arrest photos.

Sarah Counsell, prosecuting, said the police officer in charge of the case was content that he recognised the defendant while she was in the burqa.

But the judge wouldn’t have it:

“It seems to me to be quite fundamental that the court is sure who it is dealing with. Furthermore, this court, as long as I am sitting, has the highest respect for any religious tradition a person has.

“In my courtroom also, this sometimes conflicts with the interests of a paramount need for the administration of justice. In my courtroom, that’s going to come first.

“There is the principle of open justice and it can’t be subject to the religion of the defendant whether the principle is observed or not.

“I am not saying this because of the particular form of dress by this defendant, I apply that to any form of dress that had the same issues.”

Yes, there are ways for other women to identify the defendant, including fingerprinting her in court, but that’s not the point. The point is this: in a court of law, everyone has the right to face their accuser, and not while the accuser is enveloped in a cloth sack. And there’s simply no way to clear the courtroom of males for this:  the judge, after all, is a man. (The issue of the burqa is still undecided, and will be revisited in September when the trial starts.)

In this case, then, I’m completely on the judge’s side. Religious custom, forced upon women or not, must give way to civil law. And burqas that obscure the face should certainly be banned in places where facial recognition is potentially important, as in banks, schools, government offices, and the like.

I’m still undecided about whether face-covering burqas should be completely banned in public. I lean towards the banning because I doubt women would wear them were they not forced to, or were not brainwashed from youth that this is how they must dress. But other forms of religiously-inspired dress, like the garments of the Amish, may be worn under the same compulsion.  Still, that clothing doesn’t obscure one’s identity in public.

What do you think?

h/t: Natalie

406 Comments

  1. Filippo
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Let them wear their precious, sacred burqas except in situations such as court proceedings where physical identification is absolutely necessary. Prosecute barbarians, male and female, who threaten and attack women who decline to submit to the burqa.

  2. W.Benson
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Courts are secular. “Render unto Caesar . . . “

  3. gbjames
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    What do I think? I think Hitchens was spot on.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      and sub

      • matt
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        YEP.

    • Matt Bowman
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      I am with Hitchens too. But I also feel the same way about people in full head and face ski masks who are not on ski slopes.

      • gbjames
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

        Well, yes.

      • Matt Bowman
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

        That goes for ninja masks too. And I don’t like Halloween masks either. When teens wearing masks and holding open bags knock at my door, I wonder if they are going to accept candy or demand jewelry.

        • Garnetstar
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

          Yes. And these days, someone walking down the street in a full face mask would cause panic. Everyone would assume that he’s about to commit a masacre, which assumption would in America be well-founded.

          • RFW
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

            Read Jack Vance’s novella “The Moon Moth” for an imagined society in which everyone wears a full face mask at all times.

            • Aaron Logan
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

              For that matter, read the Barbie Murders by John Varley.

            • Mark Joseph
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

              Another Jack Vance sighting on this blog web site!

              Yes, The Moon Moth is excellent.

  4. NewEnglandBob
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Subscribe.

  5. Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    //

  6. Graham
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    “I lean towards the banning because I doubt women would wear them were they not forced to, or were not brainwashed from youth that this is how they must dress.” I agree in principle, but in practise I think it hands a weapon to the zealot, who will use it to confront and make a political point.

    This is entirely speculative but it wouldn’t surprise me if this woman were a convert to Islam. Recent converts (eg the ‘shoe bomber’ and the guy who recently hacked to death an off-duty British soldier) seem to be amongst the most rabid.

  7. Mary Canada
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Participants of all religions have to learn to be just as adaptable as the societies they’re living in. The same situation was addressed here in Canada and the ruling was that all citizens, regardless of religion, must show their face when involved with any level of government.

    Apparently the Quebec government is considering a ban on wearing any religious symbols by government employees.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Except that you are allowed to vote with your face covered despite having to show ID. That kerfuffle happened a few years ago.

      • Lianne Byram
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        Seriously? I’d forgotten that. Probably blocked it – stupid beyond belief.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

          Oh yes, take a look at Rick Mercer’s off handed reference to it where he talks to a guy in a King Tut mask in this episode of the Mercer Report where he meets the Toronto FC. around the 3:44 mark.

          • Lianne Byram
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

            Funny. Love Rick Mercer.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Mary Canada,

      The same situation was addressed here in Canada and the ruling was that all citizens, regardless of religion, must show their face when involved with any level of government

      Could you provide a citation to this supposed ruling? Because I can’t find any record of it. I did find reports that Canada has banned face coverings during the oath of citizenship ceremony. But that is just one (very rare) government service. I also found reports of proposed legislation in the province of Quebec that would have banned face coverings while receiving government services. But that proposal was apparently “tabled” (set aside) in 2010, and would only have applied in Quebec anyway.

  8. Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    I also agree with Hitchens on this and I think it’s a brave and forward step of the French to ban it.
    I’m currently reading You Can’t Read This Book by Nick Cohen and although I agree with the majority of what he says in it (it’s about free speech) he says that it’s an infringement on people’s rights to ban the burqa or any other form of dress.
    I vehemently disagree. There is most definitely a security issue- it is not okay to enter a bank with a crash helmet on for example and I don’t think it should be seen as okay for people to be in public with their faces covered. The burqa is a gift to those who would masquarade as another person.
    I know that some muslim women will argue till they’re blue in the face that it’s their feminist right (and human right) to wear the burqa but (and I know this may make some people angry) but I don’t believe them. As the piece above illustrates when women have the pressure to be veiled utterly removed they find it a huge relief that the pressure from all sides ‘to be a good muslim’ is not able to coerce them in that respect any longer.
    If they were removed from the pressure of religious indoctrination they would eventually come round to see that the veil is no freedom and is not a ‘right’ worth having.

    • TnkAgn
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      But, how can one tell if a burqa-clad woman is “blue in the face?” Or, even a woman?

      • gbjames
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        “Blue in the face.”

        Humor. Or humour, if you prefer.

      • RFW
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        Didn’t some Taliban bigwigs escape capture by donning burqas?

    • Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      I concur.

  9. Ben
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    People should be free to dress as they wish. Hitchens says he has a “right to see my face”, but where on earth does he get that right from? Does he have the right to view other parts of my body as well? Surely I have the right to reveal or conceal my own body as I see fit. I have a lot of sympathy for the objection that the burqa is a tool for the subjugation of women; I’m sure that is true. But let the individual women come to that conclusion, and reject the burqa, on their own. Any person who tries to force a woman to wear a burqa should be punished harshly. But I don’t see why people who try to force women not to wear a burqa should be judged any more leniently. In both cases, they are removing the woman’s autonomy and treating her paternalistically, as an object to be controlled. There are other ways to verify identity; that argument strikes me as pure smokescreen. This desire to regulate how women can dress “for their own good” reminds me of the famous Brandeis quote: “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” If we are interested in promoting the freedom of women, then let us find ways of promoting that freedom that do not start by encroaching upon that freedom in a new, if well-intentioned, way.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      “but where on earth does he get that right from?”

      An accused in court has the right to face their accuser.

      That is where it comes from. That is the issue here. The stuff about seeing the rest of your body is just hand waving obfuscation.

      • Ben
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

        “An accused in court has the right to face their accuser.”

        It’s a bizarre misinterpretation to take the verb “face” there as implying something about the visibility of the noun “face”. My dictionary’s definition of the verb “face”: “be positioned with the face or front toward (someone or something); confront and deal with or accept”. The verb “to face” does not mean “to view the face of a person”.

        Note also that the woman in the court case mentioned here is not the accuser, but the accused. So even with this strange interpretation, there is no precedent for saying that “the accuser in court has the right to see the face of the accused”.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          But what is the reason for the right to “face an accuser” in court?

          It isn’t so that you can tell what they look like. It is meant as a protection against false witness. Thus not only can you challenging your accusers story, but the jury needs to see their face in order to make judgements about the truth of the testimony. It is much easy to lie while hiding behind a screen.

          • Ben
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

            The evidence, from scientific studies, is in fact that almost everyone can’t tell the difference between a person lying and a person telling the truth. People just think they can. Indeed, even polygraph tests are ridiculously unreliable and should not be allowed in court, according to the scientific evidence. (Interestingly, there are apparently a very small minority of people who are extremely good at telling whether someone is lying. But that’s irrelevant to this discussion, since it’s highly unlikely that a given juror is such a person. Just an interesting tidbit.)

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

              We can not be certain when someone is lying, but scientific studies also show we receive a tremendous amount of information from facial expressions, much of it unconscious. It matters to how we understand and interpret what someone is saying. So I’ll grant you the point specifically about truth, but meaning in general heavily depends on being able to see the face, and truth or falsity is not the only useful information conveyed by a witness.

              • Ben
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

                Hmm, yes, that is certainly a good point. It would be important to a jury to be able to see whether a witness was silently crying, say, and that would not be visible through a burqa. That’s the first argument I’ve heard in all this that seems even remotely convincing to me. I don’t know whether I find it dispositive (is it worth violating someone’s civil rights to be able to see their facial expression?) but it’s a strong argument – specifically in the context of a court of law.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Well, what is compulsion to wear a burqa but an insidious encroachment by men?

      • Ben
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        Exactly. Compulsion either to wear or not to wear a burqa are both insidious encroachments by men, and should both be rejected. We should protect the right of women to choose for themselves how they wish to dress.

        • Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

          So how do you propose to stop the compulsion to wear it except by force of law?

          I’m not sure a finger-wag will get the job done.

          And what about safety issues connected with having a seriously limited field of view? Crossing a street? Riding a bike? Etc? The potential harm is not limited to the burqa-wearer.

          • Ben
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

            There is nothing at all to stop the law from being used to prosecute people who try to coerce women into wearing the burqa against their will. And nothing at all to prevent people from opening up abuse hotlines, shelters, etc. to serve the community of women oppressed by religion. I would celebrate such efforts. But to try to solve the problem of the oppression of women by further constraining and coercing the victims, rather than their oppressors, seems quite unjust and ill-considered.

            And people with no vision whatsoever seem to manage in our society just fine. Presumably they are not legally allowed to ride bicycles; it would be fine if a vision test were used to determine who can and cannot ride a bicycle (as is already done for motor vehicles), if that is deemed to be a public safety issue. If a woman refuses to remove her burqa, and thus fails the vision test and is not allowed to bicycle, fine. But claiming public safety as a reason to force women not to dress as they choose in public seems utterly specious. It reminds me of how Republicans are claiming that their attempts to limit voter participation, especially by minorities, is really motivated by their deep concerns about voter fraud. Yeah, right. Has there ever been a single documented example of harm coming to a third party because of a woman wearing a burqa who couldn’t see properly? Are you really proposing to legally limit how all women can dress, based on such a silly and non-existent problem?

            • Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

              I did not advocate for a total ban. Instituting tests as you propose would be fine by me, but we’d still be legislating about the choice to wear one.

              Even if the “argument from safety” is not a strong one, what about my other question, about our actual ability to punish those effecting the coercion?

              • Ben
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

                “we’d still be legislating about the choice to wear one”. Well, sort of. In the same way that driving vision tests presently legislate about the choice to wear corrective eyewear. You are always free to wear glasses or not. But if you choose not to, and your vision is impaired, that might limit some of the things you’re allowed to do, for reasons of safety. I can see no reasonable objection to that. But that is night and day compared to simply banning burqas in public, period (whether justified by a “public safety” argument or not).

                As to the ability to punish those who coerce women into wearing burqas, I’ve written a bunch elsewhere on this thread about that, so just to avoid repeating myself and clogging up the thread, I’d invite you to find those comments and continue the discussion there. Yeah?

              • Graham Lyons
                Posted August 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

                Ben, you’ve changed my attitude to this issue.

              • Ben
                Posted August 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

                Graham, I am pleased to hear that, thanks.

        • Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

          Having read a little further, I suppose my question should be reformulated: How do you propose to punish those who coerce others to wear it? How will you find them? Who will stand up and say “I am being coerced into wearing this”? You won’t, and they won’t, except in perhaps a very small number of cases, few and far between. That’s how pressure and coercion work.

          I don’t think you can call it unreasonable or coercion to legislate on possible safety hazards in public. We do it all the time, because it’s necessary: gun bans, seat belts, jaywalking, etc.

    • Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      ”But let the individual women come to that conclusion, and reject the burqa, on their own. ”

      I think you haven’t read the post correctly and seemed to have missed the part about indoctrination and pressure from men, and fellow brain-washed women.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

        Indeed. A friend of mine seems to go crazy about head coverings to the point where it’s almost embarrassing. The reason is her family were once Muslim and it is used as a “holier than thou” way of women to oppress other women.

        • Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

          ”The reason is her family were once Muslim and it is used as a “holier than thou” way of women to oppress other women.”

          The legacy of inculcation lingers….

      • Ben
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        I think I read the post quite carefully, and have thought about this issue for many years, but thank you for your condescension. :-> Of course indoctrination exists, and pressure from men exists. And of course I agree that that is bad. The question is what the appropriate response to that is. Is the best response to try to force people to act contrary to that indoctrination/pressure, “for their own good”? Or would it be better to try to counter the indoctrination/pressure by educating people, encouraging them to make their own choices, and penalizing those who try to coerce them?

        I’m just amazed at the willingness of people here to embrace the use of coercion to solve a social problem. Suppose those in the majority in America – those who believe in god and don’t believe in evolution – embraced the use of coercion to try to solve the social problem that they feel that we godless evolutionists represent? Would they be wrong to do so? If so, then why do you think you’re right to want to use coercion to solve the “burqa problem”?

        • Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

          It is often impossible to use a rational argument when dealing with an irrational situation.
          To suggest that Muslim women are truly free in regard to this and many others religious related issues is preposterous.
          Thus, in a secular society secular law prevails, so yes, sometimes the old adage cruel to be kind should be applied.
          Furthermore, I could pretty much guarantee that your approach to this particular issue would be in a distinct minority, even among Muslim women.

          • Ben
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:54 am | Permalink

            They are not truly free, so the solution is to pass laws further restricting their freedom of choice, because we, the enlightened, know how they ought to dress, and it isn’t how the men in their communities, who also believe themselves to be enlightened, think they ought to dress? Are you listening to what you’re saying?

            And being in the minority is not, of course, any sort of evidence that I’m wrong. People are usually far too quick to jump to restricting peoples’ freedoms, in the name of what they believe to be right and good. That’s the whole point of that quote from Brandeis.

            • Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

              The issue at hand is whether the burka should be allowed to be worn in court. Let’s not stray too far from the central theme, shall we?
              So personal feelings aside…
              Secular society, secular law. Period.

              If you wish to make a secondary argument maybe we should ask the host if he’s open to a bit of dueling? Or we could take it up on your blog?
              Your call.

              • Ben
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

                The end of Jerry’s post reads:

                I’m still undecided about whether face-covering burqas should be completely banned in public. I lean towards the banning because I doubt women would wear them were they not forced to, or were not brainwashed from youth that this is how they must dress. But other forms of religiously-inspired dress, like the garments of the Amish, may be worn under the same compulsion. Still, that clothing doesn’t obscure one’s identity in public. What do you think?

                So I don’t think we’re off-topic at all. In any case, I have been debating the issue of the court case, too. As I’ve commented elsewhere in this thread, the question of being able to identify the person in court is a silly smokescreen. It’s trivial to identify people using fingerprints, or have them identified by a female bailiff before entering the courtroom, or a million other ways. And the way that the judge specifically has a problem with identifying Muslim women wearing burqas seems highly suspect to me, and indicative of prejudice. He does not seem to have such problems identifying men wearing toupees, or people wearing a lot of makeup, or people who have an identical twin, or people whose faces have been burned, or people who just have extremely average, un-memorable faces. He manages to cope in all those circumstances. Why can’t he cope with the issues raised by the wearing of a burqa, without forcing the women to dress in the manner he wishes her to dress? It reeks, and I’m amazed that people here are defending it.

              • Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

                The real issue of course is country’s like the UK were always unprepared to deal with extreme religious beliefs, and now ‘western/British traditions are coming under threat, with stuff like this and calls for Sharia law.
                In one respect it is good as it forces more liberally religious countries to face the realities of their own religions (Christianity in all likelihood).
                Islam is without doubt probably one of the most intolerant and oppressive religion, and how do you judge if a woman is wearing such attire voluntarily or has been indoctrinated to believe she is exercising ‘free will’?
                Discuss evolution with a Creationist and it is likely impossible they would be able to see that they have been indoctrinated.
                Should Creationism be tolerated on an equal footing with evolution? No, because it is a lie based on religious doctrine.
                The same should be applied to other religious paraphernalia.
                And if that means ALL religious paraphernalia, great!

        • Sines
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

          I certainly see your objections. While I myself think banning the burqa in an acceptable thing morally, I don’t think it is legally, and wouldn’t pass muster with the courts.

          However, coercion from their dehumanizing family members is no better, and there should be SOME solution.

          It’s a problem, where coercion is met with coercion. It’s this kind of thing that leads to extremism. The problem is, sometimes this kind of thing is neccesary. We all dislike violence, but sometimes, violence can only be met with violence.

          The only legit way out would be to make a law to declare facial coverings in public illegal, on the grounds of disallowing people to cover their face to facilitate crime. It has legitimtate secular purposes, and does not produce unreasonable strain on most of the populace (unless you’re a big cosplayer).

          Such a law may be motivated by burqas, but origins don’t matter to the law. What would you say on that ruling, rather than a burqa specific one?

          • Ben
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

            I would say it is just as problematic, and I would say that the intention behind a law does, in fact, carry weight. The Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down laws that tried to pretend to be motivated by some objective and fair standard, but were in fact motivated by a dislike of a particular group. Countless examples exist, such as the poll tax, or anti-sodomy laws. Your proposed law would fall into the same bin as those, I think (although I am not a lawyer).

            You are quite right that meeting violence with violence leads to extremism. Trying to force Muslims not to behave as Muslims in public will only make them hate the government, hate non-Muslims, and work to create laws that are motivated by their belief system (instead of, as they would correctly perceive, laws that are motivated by someone else’s belief system).

            You say that “sometimes, violence can only be met with violence”. Well, I don’t know, maybe that’s true sometimes. But non-violence seemed to work pretty well for Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., despite a great many people saying the same thing, at the time, about them. And I can think of a million non-violent ways to try to address the problem of women being coerced to wear burqas. It seems to me that virtually no effort has gone into trying such methods of education, legal recourse, shelters, community education, etc. Instead, societies have just jumped straight to trying to prohibit women from wearing the burqa – even if they want to.

            • lisa parker
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

              I have the utmost respect and admiration for both Gandhi and Dr King, and their demonstrations of the power of non-violent protest. Unfortunately for them and our whole world, they were both assassinated.

              • Ben
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:13 am | Permalink

                Yes, and people who try to solve problems using violence never end up dead. :-> More to the point, Gandhi and Dr. King both succeeded in their goals. Trying to solve problems using violence or coercion rarely gets you anywhere; you might be able to force people to do what you want, but you only breed resentment and resistance underneath that veneer of obedience. Innumerable examples through history, like Prohibition in the U.S., or the War on Drugs, or…

              • lisa parker
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

                I agree absolutely. I am also very grateful that the assassinations did not stop the followers of these leaders from continuing to use non-violent protest even after the personal danger had been so clearly demonstrated. It takes a lot of effort, energy, ingenuity, time and love to make a person, a building, a country. But it only takes a moment of stupidity and hate to destroy one.

        • Notagod
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

          There are a lot of individual choices that could be made that are limited for the good of society. A covered face is more dangerous to society because the person is harder to identify if they commit a crime. If they are completely covered there is no way of even knowing if they are male or female.

          While hiking I often see places I want to explore but can’t because it is private property or off the path in a national park.

          The religious should be aware or made aware that their religious preferences don’t surpass the laws governing the general society. People have come to believe that their god-ideas are supreme. If for nothing else it is wise to remind them that the laws of the general public have jurisdiction over god-ideas.

          • Ben
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

            I see. So if identifying people who commit crimes is the issue, let’s think rationally about that for a moment. How many crimes have been committed by women wearing a burqa, such that their wearing of the burqa prevented them from being identified and apprehended? And how many crimes have been committed by people wearing, say, fake wigs, fake moustaches, colored contact lenses, etc., to conceal their identity and prevent their apprehension? Surely if the real concern is identification of criminals, we ought to first outlaw wigs, fake moustaches, and makeup in general before outlawing burqas?

            No, what you and pretty much everybody here is doing is making up smokescreens to try to cover what you really want to do: tell women how they ought to dress. That ought to be their own free choice. And anybody who tries to restrict that choice is wrong – whether it’s Muslim men trying to force them to wear a burqa, or others trying to force them not to.

            • Gary W
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

              + 1

            • Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

              Yes – that is our interest here – to tell women how to dress! LOL!

              Much like wanting to ban the practice of men leading their wives around in public by a lead of barbed wire through their noses would be telling women what they can or cannot use as nasal piercings.

              • Ben
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

                “Yes – that is our interest here – to tell women how to dress! LOL!” It does seem to be, actually. LOL! Go through the comments on this post and see how many of them include statements about how the commenter finds burqas to be personally offensive, to represent views that the commenter disagrees with, etc. Censoring that expression, even in the case of women who voluntarily choose to wear the burqa, does in fact seem to be the interest of many posters here. If that’s not your personal interest in the matter, wonderful, but you don’t speak for everyone here, so you should not use “our” the way you did.

                As to the barbed wire. First of all, is that really a thing?? Horrifying. Now tell me, how would you deal with that problem? By outlawing the wearing of barbed wire in public, and fining and/or imprisoning women who violate that law? Or by, perhaps, outlawing the act of forcing people to wear barbed wire (presumably already covered by existing laws against coercion, actually), and asking women who are being led around with barbed wire whether they are being abused, and providing abused women with shelter and legal aid? Can you seriously say that outlawing the wearing of barbed wire in public would be the most effective and appropriate response to the problem?

                And let’s keep in mind that we have all seen (well, I have, anyway) people who are into S&M who have rings (or safety pins, or perhaps barbed wire, although I haven’t seen that) through their noses, and who like to have their partner lead them around in public using a chain through said ring. (I tell you, living in San Francisco will really open your eyes. :->) That’s a consensual behavior that those people choose and enjoy. Are you going to outlaw it anyway, because you personally find it offensive? Or are you just going to outlaw it in passing, a casualty of your overriding interest in outlawing the coerced-barbed-wire-leading? Do you care that some people’s free expression will be restricted by your zeal? What will you think if people protesting your new law march in the streets, led on chains by their partners, and the police are forced to handcuff them all and bring charges against them? I’d bet you people in San Francisco would react that way to your new law – and I’d support them in that.

                Seriously, it’s your example. You seem to think it’s parallel to the burqa, and I don’t disagree. So go ahead and try to defend it.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

                I think the issue you dance around, Ben, is what the meaning of “consensual behavior” is in the context of misogynistic religious cults.

                The suggestion that walking up to women in burkas to ask if they are abused seems no more likely to succeed than the policy you decry. I doubt you would get a single “yes”. So… problem solved! Right?

              • Ben
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

                gbjames, I’m not “dancing around” that issue at all. If someone says they are not being coerced, and refuses my help, then I would take them at their word, yes (while making it clear that if they change their mind, help will always be available). I would not say that the problem is thereby solved; but I would say that using force to try to “rescue” someone who does not believe they need rescuing is hugely misguided.

                First of all, the idea that you know who needs help (i.e. coercive intervention, since that is what is being argued for here) and who doesn’t, regardless of what they themselves say, is just hopelessly self-centered and paternalistic. Who exactly needs this coercive intervention? Just women wearing burqas, or all Muslim women? If you’re willing to decide who needs coercive intervention and who doesn’t, I can’t see why you’d limit it just to the burqa-wearing women; I’m sure lots of non-burqa-wearing Muslim women are abused by Muslim men in all sorts of religiously-motivated ways that are probably much worse that the burqa, just less publicly visible. Surely what is needed is a law outlawing the practice of Islam, period. After all, the whole kit and caboodle is a “misogynistic religious cult”, right?

                Second, who gets to decide this? The majority of voters? I’m sure they wouldn’t abuse that power at all, no sirree. Think about that. Ken Ham probably thinks that you have been brainwashed into rejecting god and believing in evolution (I assume, given that you’re on this post). If he walked up to you and asked you, you would of course say that that is not the case. But he knows better! He knows you’ve been indoctrinated into a cult-like mindset, and that you need to be rescued. By coercion, if necessary. Why should he not get to pass a law saying so? After all, more people probably agree with him than agree with you. That might seem far-fetched, but in fact such oppression and restriction of beliefs and expression was precisely what drove European colonists to America in the first place, and what motivated the First Amendment. We’ve been there before. We don’t want to go back.

                And third, even if you somehow really, truly know that you are right and those who disagree with you are wrong (even though they think the same thing in reverse), do you really think that passing laws to try to force people to act and think as you want them to act and think is (a) moral, and (b) effective? Seriously?

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

                I think, Ben, that you are being a bit credulous about how this works out here in the real world. Elizabeth Smart had many opportunities to escape her captors. Why didn’t she?

                You are assuming a world that is different than it is. Burka use is, in your frame, a form of self expression. I suppose that may be so, but it expresses “selves” that are by definition subjugated to a misogynist religious community. It is rather like wearing a sign saying “I am a voluntary slave.” No?

                Now, banning the use of such signage is not a complete solution, so don’t go all “magic wand” on me. But it seems to me valuable for secular societies to make clear that this type of human abuse is intolerable.

              • Ben
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

                I have no idea who Elizabeth Smart is or what the relevance of that is, so I’m going to gloss over that. :->

                You claim that the burqa “expresses ‘selves’ that are by definition subjugated to a misogynist religious community.” I can guarantee you that the wearers of the burqa would often disagree with you about that. Muslims will talk about how they do not subjugate women, they simply accept that men and women are different, and should play different roles in society. They do not see it as subjugation. I know this because I’ve had this very argument with a Muslim friend who wears the hijab. So what makes your opinion right and theirs wrong? You’re not even a member of their religion, their culture, or their ethnicity? Where do you get off assuming that you know more about it all than they do? Can’t you see how utterly paternalistic and condescending that is?

                Now, that said, I agree with you; I think the burqa is a tool of subjugation. But I recognize that they disagree with me, and I recognize that I don’t have the right to force my opinion on them. You don’t seem to get that, somehow.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

                I’d introduce you to the Google machine, but instead I’ll offer you wikipedia. Read up on who Elizabeth Smart is so you can get my point.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart_kidnapping

              • Ben
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

                OK… she’s some woman who was abducted… how on earth is that relevant? I’m completely lost. Where are burqas in this? If you’re claiming that women who wear burqas are equivalent to this woman who was kidnapped and raped and all sorts of things, that seems like a bizarre equivalence. How do you know that? Have you ever even spoken to a woman who wears the burqa? How do you know so much about how abused and coerced they are, to make such a claim?

                But even if the claim is true, so what? How do you deal with women who are kidnapped and raped? Not by punishing the women for being so pliant and credulous as to allow themselves to be kidnapped and raped, right? No, you punish the person who coerced them. So if the Elizabeth Smart case is parallel, as you seem to think, doesn’t that mean that we should go after the men who are allegedly coercing and abusing the women wearing the burqas?

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

                The case is parallel in that it illustrates how religiously motivated female-shaming gets internalized by victims in ways that block them from responding as they do in your imagined world.

                What I am objecting to is your simplistic framing, whereby we conclude that women going about in body bags are simply expressing themselves. They aren’t. They are expressing a cultural suite of rules that are discriminatory in the extreme. It is that suite of rules that has to be changed, and one way to do it is to have society at large refuse to accept these sorts of manifestations as simple personal expression.

              • Ben
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

                It seems to me that it is your framing that is simplistic. Despite never having spoken to a woman who wears the burqa (I assume that that is the case, since I asked you and you did not answer the question), you know their thoughts and their motivations, and you can condemn their worldview with certainty, to the point that you are willing to outlaw a deeply held cultural practice. It must be nice to be so sure of one’s worldview.

                I don’t think my worldview is simplistic. Maybe you need to read what I wrote again. From one perspective (a perspective that I share), the burqa is a tool for the suppression of women. From another perspective (not mine, but equally deeply held by many), it is an expression of modesty, a symbol of an acceptance of the woman’s different but equal role in society, etc. Some women are doubtless coerced to wear it. Others doubtless choose to wear it freely because they embrace the cultural values that it symbolizes (I know this because I have spoken to such women). You might think they have been brainwashed; they think you have been brainwashed. Does this sound like a “simplistic” worldview? Or does your “I know what is right and wrong, and I’m gonna pass laws to make everybody act the right way” worldview maybe seem like the simplistic one? That’s the moral equivalent of the Taliban, dressed in liberal clothing.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

                Well, Ben, we disagree. But we can look at the bright side. At least we aren’t arguing about whether the lady in Hackney was wearing a burka or a niqab.

              • Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

                I support a ban on both, but would appreciate it if we – and the press – could tell the difference. burqa/niqab

              • Ben
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

                gbjames, brilliant, laughing now. On that, we are agreed.

              • Gary W
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

                gbjames writes,

                I think the issue you dance around, Ben, is what the meaning of “consensual behavior” is in the context of misogynistic religious cults.

                So somehow, you think you know that Muslim women don’t really consent to wearing burqas. What about hijabs and headscarves? Do women consent to wearing those? What about nun’s habits? What about the religious clothing worn by Amish and Mennonite and Mormon women? And what about other religious practises besides clothing?

                And how do you know all this anyway? How have you determined which religious practises women consent to and which they don’t? If a woman states that she does consent, why should anyone accept your claim that her statement is false?

        • gbjames
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

          I’m just amazed at the willingness of people here to embrace the use of coercion to solve a social problem.

          This is a red herring. All social problems are addressed with the use of coercion. All laws coerce someone in some way, usually to prevent worse coercion of one or another sort. Making slavery illegal coerces slaveholders who can no longer engage in the social act of buying and selling people. Is that bad?

          • Ben
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

            That’s a silly argument. Slaveholders never really had the right to buy and sell people in the first place. To claim that they did is to claim that all moral values are utterly arbitrary, and that the only thing we can say is that might makes right. And if that’s what you really think, then why do you care whether women wear burqas or not? No, you care because you think that you can objectively judge that what women are often subjected to is Muslim societies is wrong. And I agree with you; it is wrong. So solve the problem the same way we solved the problem of slavery: by making the behavior that is wrong illegal. In this case, that behavior is the coercion of women. You solve that by prosecuting men who try to coerce women, and offering shelter to women who are being coerced. You don’t solve it by coercing the victims even more. We didn’t solve the problem of slavery by punishing people who were slaves, fining them and putting them in jail for having been forced to be slaves by others.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

              I recommend some basic history lessons, perhaps concentrated on the early 19th Century in America.

              In any case, you seem to miss the point. All social problems are addressed by coercion of one sort or another. We use coercion to enforce prohibitions against murder and theft. We use coercion to prohibit discrimination in public transit on the basis of race. The red herring is to make an argument that somehow social problems can be addressed without coercion. Your suggested solution, prosecuting men who coerce women, itself involves coercion.

              • Ben
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

                I love the vagueness of that condescension. What aspect of 19th century American history did I get wrong, exactly? Would you care to pin that down for me?

                And no, I didn’t miss the point. Of course laws are coercion. I am not objecting to the existence of laws. I am objecting to trying to solve the problem of women being coerced by adding new laws that coerce those women in new ways (but for their own good! we’re sure it must be for their own good, even if they say it isn’t!), rather than enforcing existing laws that already make the coercion of women (or people in general) illegal. If that is unclear, I recommend that you go back and read what I wrote, before going off half-cocked denouncing a straw man that you yourself have constructed.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

                When someone says “Slaveholders never really had the right to buy and sell people in the first place.” then they are clearly unaware of the history of slavery in the United States, if not elsewhere, too. We fought a rather long and bloody war over whether some people had the right to buy and sell others. So while my comment may sound condescending, given the statement that provoked it, I think it justified.

                And as long as I’m quoting your words to explain mine, let me quote you again… “I’m just amazed at the willingness of people here to embrace the use of coercion to solve a social problem.” This is a statement that makes no sense coming from someone who is, as you are, advocating coercion himself. And that’s the point. I’m not arguing that we should not coerce the men who enforce burka-wearing. I’m simply pointing out that you can’t reasonably make a “coercion is bad” argument while advocating it yourself. Clear enough?

              • Ben
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

                It’s hard not to believe that you’re being willfully obtuse here. Obviously I know that slavery was *legal*. Do you really think you’re debating with someone who is unaware of that fact? I did not say that it was legal. I said that slaveholders “never really had the right to buy and sell people in the first place”. In other words, one never truly has the right to violate another person’s civil rights – even if the law of the land says it is legal. There is a distinction between what it is legal to do and what one has the right to do. That’s the whole point of the phrase in the Declaration of Independence about “certain unalienable rights” – “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. It’s sad that the founders didn’t realize that that very argument meant that they had no right to enslave others; but nevertheless, that is the implication.

                And you’re wilfully misinterpreting my argument, too. As I’ve clarified repeatedly, I’m not opposed to the use of coercion – if it is in the cause of protecting someone’s rights. Using coercion to prevent someone else from coercing a woman into wearing a burqa is justified; it stems from the right to self-defense. Using coercion to prevent a woman from wearing a burqa even if she freely chooses to do so is not justified in that way. If you’re not familiar with this distinction, then I recommend some basic lessons in philosophy and ethics.

                Now please, stop wasting everybody’s time with this nonsense.

              • Notagod
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

                Please Ben, you are the one that is “wasting everybody’s time” with nonsense.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                So now we need to argue about whether the concept of legal rights has meaning? Talk about wasting time.

    • Ubernez
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      Ben,
      (preface by saying this is the first time I have ever posted a note to any conversation – ever!). I am astonished, and greatly disheartened that yours is the only voice, not ‘against’, but searching for more reasoned and nuanced approaches. I have read all the responses, and they are vapid and shallow, and quite often argue a point merely to defend their position, nit to explore the actual issue.
      Anyway, it is telling that to protect the women who are so oppressed by the headgear, we should ban it and perhaps punish the very women we are ‘protecting.’ Your posts are very illuminating and reasoned. Do you have a blog or other site that can be followed?
      The article finished with a question ‘What do you think?’ – I am constantly amazed that people post with absolute certainty, rather than with ideas, misgivings, and a search for reasoned dialogue that may move us closer to actually understanding the issue in its entirety.
      Anyway, thank Dawkins I am a white middle age male in a rich country – imagine being a women, wearing full body covering, dictated to by a fundamentalist religious and paternalistic self-serving tradition – and having your fate decided by – white middle aged men dictating your fate based on their self-serving interests… (Throw away tag line – even I can attack that – just there for effect…)

      • Ben
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:25 am | Permalink

        Ubernez, thank you. It’s nice to hear that my arguments make sense to somebody here. This is the first time I’ve posted (non-trivially) to Jerry’s website, too. But I came out of the woodwork because I was stunned by the willingness expressed here to restrict women’s freedom in the name of “protecting” them (which is, I would note, precisely the motivation for the existence of the burqa in the first place – to protect women from men who would otherwise supposedly be unable to control their desire). I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees the problems with that position. :->

        I only blog about science, really; I don’t tend to get into these sorts of political discussions except with friends on Facebook. Sorry! Cheers!

        • Marta
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

          I’m quite late to Jerry’s OP and the comments here.

          The wearing of burqas is deeply-and darkly-oppressive to me. It would be hard to overstate my revulsion when I’ve encountered a woman wearing one.

          I very much, however, appreciate your comments.

          • Ben
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

            Thank you. I should be quite clear about one thing: I feel the same way about burqas. When I see a woman wearing one, I get so angry that my face flushes and my heart pounds. But my personal distaste – or even the personal distaste of the vast majority – for the burqa and all that it represents is not a reason to restrict the freedom of expression.

        • lisa parker
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

          I also agreed with your stance, although I admit not specifically. There are women, children and men all over the world coerced and controlled by fear, often under the guise of religion, tradition or just because there is someone with a much more forceful personality. A large percentage of these situations are already illegal but that hasn’t stopped it from happening. Banning burqas or anything else will not free these women. Nothing can until these victims decide to break free. Then we can offer aid, assistance and support.

          • Ben
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

            lisa, yes. Sometimes it is hard to accept that there is simply nothing that one can do until a victim realizes that they are a victim and chooses to act in some way (if only to ask for help). But that is often the reality.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:37 am | Permalink

        Hey, you think this lot are bad, you should try Pharyngula!

        Seriously, though there are a number of entrenched attitudes, there’s been a marked absence of anyone losing it completely such as commonly attends any discussion on a topic like this. (And the moderating influence of Jerry has to be acknowledged).

        Trouble is, there isn’t any ‘good’ solution to all this. Every solution has major drawbacks.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

          “Trouble is, there isn’t any ‘good’ solution to all this. Every solution has major drawbacks.”

          Most of us will agree on this.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        Well, that’s a little insulting. There are many respondents you have thought a lot about what they are posting. Often, exchanges here help us clarify how we are thinking; I know it does for me.

        I thought my post was somewhat nuanced. I want to make sure that whatever the decision, it is done in a way that affects what we what to change and therefore we need to be clear about what we want to change, then measure its effectiveness.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

          I thought it was too.

          What bothers me about a lot of the posts us that so many people are prepared to become self-righteous absolutists for the cause of religious freedom.

          There are nuances and limits to every freedom. For example, for the sake of argument, what if a religion required shooting to death anyone wearing any combination of purple, yellow, and brown. Certainly we would find a way to legally infringe on the precious religious dictates of such a sect.

          Allowing religious freedom is not the same as allowing absolute license in the name of that religion. It means that there is freedom of conscience and belief, freedom to openly profess those beliefs without fear, freedom to designate certain spaces as sacred where worship according to various forms and rituals can take place, including the wearing of ceremonial or sacred garb.

          But from where comes the concept that every public and private place can be claimed by any particular religion as an arena where their particular religious forms and rules can be asserted and established as a norm?

          When it comes to the burqa, none of my objections have to do with Islam per se, but with two non-religious points:

          1. What I see as the oppression of women, treating them as property and effectively subtracting their freedom to participate openly in society.

          2. The practical aspects of allowing people to disguise themselves, effectively hiding their identity, moods, and intentions. Courtrooms and banks are some obvious examples where this creates problems and conflicts completely unrelated to any religious discrimination.

          So I don’t see that religious freedom trumps every possible concern, and I find it shocking how many people are posing as occupiers of the moral high ground based on such absolute and inflexible assertions of religious freedom as an unlimited religious license.

          • Ben
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

            Speaking for myself only, my defense of the freedom to dress as one wishes has nothing to do with religious freedom. It is irrelevant to me (as far as this argument about freedom of expression is concerned) that the burqa has religious links. (Indeed, others have argued here that it is not, in fact, a religious garment, but a tribal garment; I have no knowledge of that one way or the other, but to me it is irrelevant.) I just think people should be allowed to dress as they wish unless the state can show a compelling interest otherwise. Indeed, I don’t just think that; in the U.S., at least, that is guaranteed by the first amendment. In the specific context of the courtroom, I conceded to somebody that they had a good point regarding the importance of facial expressions for the jury; that might be a compelling state interest, in that context. (It’s too bad that the judge in the article cited didn’t talk about that, rather than his need to identify the witness, which is asinine.) Apart from that, I don’t think anybody has offered anything that even remotely approaches a compelling state interest in restricting the freedom of expression.

            Your example of a religion that mandates shooting certain people is easy, in this framework. Just as if such expression were motivated by a non-religious impulse, it is obviously illegal. Aggressing against other people is not “expression”, and the religion should get no special accommodation.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            I was looking more into this issue and I found this.

            Sam Harris and Mona Eltahawy say some compelling things starting around 6:29

            • Ben
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

              Diana, an interesting video, thanks for posting. Personally, I don’t find Harris and Eltahawy’s statements particularly compelling, but I suppose that’s not surprising. :->

        • gbjames
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          Yes. “Hi. I just got here. You guys are all idiots.”

          Makes you just want to buy the fellow a beer and roll out the welcome mat, eh?

  10. David Duncan
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I agree with the judge: no burqas in court or other situations where identification is crucial.

    I’d go further and say that burqa should be banned in public too (I’d make an exception for inside a mosque or private function such as a wedding.) it’s demeaning, allows males to disguise themselves as females, and allows females to obscure identifying features while acting illegally.

    To say that it’s traditional and that the Muslim community should decide is like saying that female circumcision is okay if Muslims (including women) say it is. I’m repelled by the burka and the double standard it entails. Why don’t Muslim men cover themselves to avoid temping women, and other men.

  11. Graham
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    On a point of information, Hackney is actually a part of London, not ‘near’ it. It’s a London Borough, just north-east of ‘the City’ (Which is basically the financial district right in the centre). It borders the London Borough of Tower Hamlets which is a hotbed of Islamist activity. You may recall the attempts in 2011 to create “gay free zones”. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-12526820

    • AdamK
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      But what sort of cab might you select if you wish to travel there?

      • Graham
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        I’d tell you AdamK, but my reply might seem a little hackneyed.

  12. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I tend to agree they should have to be identifiable in court. As for other occasions, if they want to go around in a sack, I guess that’s their privilege, and it’s mine to think they look as stupid as nuns, Amish, Orthodox Jews in silly hats, or young people with bits of metal poked through every available bit of epidermis. Though I find the latter the most repulsive.

    It’s probably worth remembering that the vast majority of Muslims don’t do burqas any more than the majority of Christians do Amish clobber. Certainly my Bosnian muslim tenants of a few years back looked perfectly normal, and my current Pakistani tenant’s daughters look extremely fetching in headscarves when they go out dressed to kill on Saturday night.

    [Note to NSA: 'Dressed to kill' is a common phrase and does not mean what you may think it means. Look it up. I don't need any black helicopters on my lawn. Thank you]

    • David Duncan
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      I have no objection to the modest clothing Amish, or Orthodox Jews wear, just so long as the face is clearly visible. I think that clothing looks odd, but isn’t demeaning, especially as men have to wear it too.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

        I think it’s highly demeaning. It indicates they’re a slave to religion. (We could argue about whether the walking collection of ironmongery that constitutes some young people indicates they’re a ‘slave to fashion’ but at least nobody’s forcing them to wear it).

        • David Duncan
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

          I agree in part, but the objectionable thing about the burqa is that it applies only to women, and the face is completely obscured – both of which I object to very strongly.

          Religions that impose conservative clothing that applies to both sexes and do not obscure the face are far less heinous.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

            Well, for me, anybody who tries to tell me what I can or cannot wear can take a hike. And that would include such things as wearing a beard or otherwise. (Uniforms, in working hours, reluctantly excepted). It indicates they think they own you. Actually, it indicates you think they own you.

            Incidentally, in western culture, women (but not men) have to wear bikini tops on beaches. This applies only to women. Is that objectionable?

            That said, I do agree the burqa is probably the most conspicuous example of stupid.

            • David Duncan
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

              I think in some circumstances an organisation should be able to impose clothing and beard related rules: the armed forces and police for example.

              As to bikinis, I think women should be allowed to go topless in public anywhere men can. But I don’t agree with nudity in public, except at reserved places like parks and beaches.

              • Graham Martin-Royle
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

                As to bikinis, I think women should be allowed to go topless in public anywhere men can. But I don’t agree with nudity in public, except at reserved places like parks and beaches.

                Why? Is there something wrong with the human body?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

                Ugly bags of mostly water. :)

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

                As opposed to the burqa, which is an ugly bag of air and water.

              • Notagod
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

                Damned god water balloons is what we are.

              • David Duncan
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

                Nothing wrong with the human body GMR, I just happen to think public nudity isn’t always practical.

            • Filippo
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

              “(Uniforms, in working hours, reluctantly excepted). It indicates they think they own you. Actually, it indicates you think they own you.”

              For sure, private (corporate) tyrannies that compel us to wear uniforms effectively do think they own us, in that they view flesh-and-blood human beings as human “resources” and human “capital.”

              The bikini top question has merit. How about clothes in general?

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

                The interesting thing about bikini tops is that the reasons for requiring them are, I would imagine, pretty much the same as the reasons claimed for justifying burqas, just not carried to the same extreme. And they’re very definitely culture-related. There have been cultures in history, I believe, where women never covered up their tops. (And in other societies e.g. the 19th century ‘West’, ‘respectable’ women all covered up their legs).

                So what absolute moral stance says OK, bikini tops are essential (for women only), whereas burqas are way OTT? Who decided that? Or is it (as I suspect) just a matter of where we draw the line. I feel equally pressured to wear trousers and shoes to the office. If I wore shorts and sandals, or a kaftan, I would soon get told ‘wear appropriate clothing or quit’. Who decides ‘appropriate’?

                (I quite agree burqas are ‘orrible, by the way. Just I can’t see what unique principle bans them, and them alone, while tolerating all the other clothing anomalies that we let pass just ‘cos we’re used to them. In fact I’m highly suspicious of arguments based on principle, I suspect the principles cited are usually carefully selected or constructed to support whatever real-world outcome the proponent wants to see).

    • lisa parker
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think black helicopters ever land. Doesn’t the ‘personnel’ just repel down on ropes? I mean really, just how covert can they be sitting in your flowerbeds?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

        Figure of speech, though not always:

        http://d38zt8ehae1tnt.cloudfront.net/Kim_Dotcom__The_RAID__141341.jpg?v=1371182836
        ;)

        It’s a sore point with anyone in this country who values civil liberties. All the police needed to do was knock on the guy’s front door with a warrant. Instead, they stormed the place like it was Al Quaeda Central. Illegally, as it turned out. What a bunch of half baked incompetent wannabe-gung-ho seen-too-many-Bruce-Willis-movie cowboys.

        And his alleged crime? – facilitating breach of copyright. Which I suppose in the eyes of our police’s masters the RIAA, is a bigger crime than knocking down the World Trade Center…

  13. Pierre Masson
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    The fundamental problem of the burqa is that it is imposed on women only. It is therefore a form of discrimination based on gender. In Canada, this is against the law. Any organisation (religious or not) that acts in a such a fashion should be prosecuted for this crime. It’s as simple as that.

    Politicians often do not wish to frame the problem this way because of the logical consequences. They will say that one needs to see the face of somebody on the street. In the dead of winter in Canada, most people have their face hidden behind a scarf and a hood. No big deal. It’s not the real problem.

    If there is a risk of a person being raped, the solution is to stop the rapist, not to cover the victim with a burqa.

    • Marta
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      +1

  14. Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    The burqa, although imposed by extremist Muslim religious leaders, stems not from Islam or the Qoran (in which women are exhorted to cover their breasts and their hair) but from tradition. When I was in Afghanistan in 1971 and in Pakistan in 1972 (when and where few women wore the burqa or its Pakistani equivalent) I spoke with women who chose to wear it. In both countries, some of them told me that it was their greatest protection from being recognized by their husbands or their friends when they were on their way to visit their lovers. I was very surprised.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      Yes, all the covering yourself stuff comes from Arabs. It is not particular to Islam. This is one of the reasons my friend would get upset as well. Her family was from Turkey and there was no rule to cover up – that was something from Arab culture.

  15. SA Gould
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Police have witnesses use visual identification for suspects in lineups. Police can also ask suspects to repeat a phrase for verbal identification.

    I want to appear in court in a full-body chicken suit, wearing high heels and using only sign language to communicate. Surely there is a religion out there somewhere to recognize MY strongly-held beliefs.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      “Police have witnesses use visual identification for suspects in lineups.”

      Yes, and there’s plenty of evidence as to how extremely unsatisfactory that is. Unfortunately.

      • gbjames
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        Huh? So maybe it wouldn’t matter if everyone’s faces were concealed?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

          It would at least remove the illusion that a witness can satisfactorily identify a complete stranger in a lineup based on having seen a vaguely similar stranger for a few seconds under a high-stress situation days before…

          There’s plenty of evidence of the fallibility of such identifications, to the point where one could probably make a case that abolishing lineups completely would greatly reduce miscarriages of justice.

          But, insofar as concealing one’s face would also prevent recognition by people who know you, and also any photographic evidence, not to mention people being able to interact with you – in those ways it would matter if everyone’s faces were concealed. Just, not with respect to line-ups.

          • gbjames
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

            Seems a bit peculiar to see burkas used as an argument for getting rid of police lineups.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

              You’ve got it exactly backwards. The argument using police lineups as a reason for banning burqas is valueless. The argument for banning police lineups is a quite separate issue, in which burqas are irrelevant.

              • lisa parker
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

                It has been shown many times (and if anyone gets really nasty about it, I can provide documentation; I’d much rather not because 1. this information is very easy to find if anyone really cares, easily enough that it could be under the umbrella of ‘everybody knows’ 2. I feel it would be a waste of my time since most people are already informed, and most importantly to me 3. my hands shake a lot sometimes so it makes it difficult for me to type.) that eye witness testimony is the least reliable. However, if a witness can identify gender, age, skin color, approximate height and weight, hair (face, head or body) color and amount, it can significantly narrow your suspect pool. Saving time can also mean saving lives in these cases.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:00 am | Permalink

                @ lisa

                I’m not questioning any of that, in particular the usefulness of eyewitness descriptions in establishing who to search for. (And that is an admitted argument against burqas). I’m questioning the reliability of lineups and their tendency to confirmation bias in which the suspect in the lineup who most nearly matches the witness’s recollection is likely to get picked.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 6:14 am | Permalink

                Nice to have that clarified. It seems relevant to some other page’s discussion.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

              … in fact, there isn’t any argument using burqas for banning police lineups. You just made that up.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

                It seemed that you made the connection.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

                The original poster made the connection of lineups as a reason to ban burqas. Nobody (except your strawman) has suggested burqas are a reason to ban lineups. The arguments for banning lineups are quite separate.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      Police have witnesses use visual identification for suspects in lineups. Police can also ask suspects to repeat a phrase for verbal identification

      The state may have a compelling interest to require criminal suspects to expose their faces in police lineups or court proceedings, but that does not justify a ban on the wearing of burqas in public. People are free to conceal and alter their appearance in public in all sorts of ways — wigs, makeup, sunglasses, contact lenses, tattoos, piercings, jewelry, facial hair, hats, scarves, cosmetic surgery and so on. Transvestites and transsexuals even go so far as to conceal their gender.

  16. krzysztof1
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    The burkha is evidence of men telling women what to do. It’s not women telling other women (or men) what to do. Women who say they want to wear it probably buy into the idea that they must submit to men just as everyone must submit to God. That is the poison of a belief system in action. Hitchens got it right.

    Anyway, how do they eat while wearing that?

    • David Duncan
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      They probably eat in company with close family (male and female) or just females, when they could probably remove it.

      • krzysztof1
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        I guess if they get to feeling snacky while out in public, that’s just tough rockos, then! Maybe there’s a way they can pull in their hands and feed themselves in secret!

        • David Duncan
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

          That’s an interesting question, next time I see one of my Moslem friends I’ll ask.

          Perhaps it’s like breast feeding: they’re expected to feed the baby/eat the snack in the ladies room where such exposure matters less.

          If you think that’s gross I agree.

          • krzysztof1
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

            Yes, gross.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      Believe me, women will push this on other women too. It’s very sad but the oppressed often participate in the oppression of their own.

      • David Duncan
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        The textbook example of this is female circumcision in Africa. Older women impose it on young females, and actually do the mutilation. They think it’s right, and tell the girls that they will be outcasts and unmarriagable if they don’t have it done. I don’t think men are really involved in the enforcement.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          The textbook example of this is female circumcision in Africa. Older women impose it on young females, and actually do the mutilation.

          As evidenced in gut-churning detail in Ayaan Hirsi-Ali’s wonderful book, Infidel (chapter 2).

          • lisa parker
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

            I have not heard about FGM outside of Africa, but I have heard testimony that many a mother has endangered her own life, if not sacrificed it, in an attempt to protect her daughters. But anywhere and anytime these bizarre religious rituals are embraced with equal fervor by both genders, parent or not. I cannot understand it. If they believe that their god is omnipotent, omniscient and always right, why didn’t he make us like that in the first place?

            • David Duncan
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

              It’syh

            • David Duncan
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

              It’s not strictly a religious issue. Some Moslem groups discourage or even forbid it. It is practiced by some Moslem, Christian and other religious groups and not by others. It happens in parts of Asia and the Middle East as well. And some Western residents of African origin will take their daughters back home to be “done”, even though it’s often illegal in the West to do this.

            • Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

              Female circumcision is not related to religion – Muslims, Christians and Animists practice it. Female circumcision is exclusively a matter of tradition.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

                Religion is also a matter of tradition. The fact that various different “faith traditions” practice something does not does not separate it from religious entanglement.

              • Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

                Nowhere in Islam, Christianity or Animism is female circumcision mentioned. It is a tradition that stems back to Ancient Egypt.

              • lisa parker
                Posted August 26, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

                That is the most disgusting tradition I have ever heard of. One could possibly (if you close one eye and squint the other and turned your head upside down) see it as an extension of an over-zealous sect of some extreme religious belief. But to torture young girls with this abominable procedure that frequently destroys their entire future because “that’s the way my daddy did it” is beyond comprehension.

              • Posted August 27, 2013 at 3:10 am | Permalink

                Oh, but I wholly concur with you. Note that this tradition stems from Ancient Egypt. I share your feelings about it, and I have the same feelings about male circumcision which is also genital mutilation depriving men of up to 80% of their sexual pleasure, seeing as the prepuce contains tens of thousands of sensory nerves, and circumcision also leaves deep psychological wounds that last a lifetime.

      • krzysztof1
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        But you don’t think men put the idea into women’s heads to start with?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          Their religion is patriarchal so in that sense yes, it is a male dominated religion and society with all participants in that society enforcing patriarchal rules (male and female).

  17. Garnetstar
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    What I think is that the demeanor, facial expressions, etc., of a defendant or witness are often part of how judges and juries determine a person’s credibility, however those methods might not be the most accurate. No one should have the special privilege of exempting themselves from the scrutiny that everyone else faces.

    Especially someone who’s charged with intimidating a witness! That sort of threat is often conveyed by facial expressions, etc., so that’s relevant to the determination of guilt or innocence. If she’s a True Believer, she can refuse and go to jail for her religion, thus earning her place in heaven.

    As for the rest, I’m on the side of equality. Religious practices that harm society have always been forbidden, and this one, as Hitchens said, harms equality.

    • lkr
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Thank you! It took pages of comments to get to this — we are evolved to assess emotions, intentions, trustworthiness in others, whether members of our social unit or strangers. Covering face and body removes most of the cues we use to read another person. That’s what ‘confronting a witness’ meant from the beginning — to see if they were credible under the duress of testimony.

      We sometimes have reasons to bend this principle — for instance children who have been abused, or adult witnesses who have a very high probability of reprisal, or sometimes government operatives who assert a need for secrecy. But in this case we have someone who’s accused of intimidating a witness, and where the case will likely become a she-said, she-said matter of credibility. So yes, testifying from inside a bag will matter — not necessarily to her benefit, but it’s a travesty of the process that shouldn’t be tolerated outside a Marx brothers movie.

      • SAGuest
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Yes. It is simply impossible to face (read “cross examine”) a person if their face is obscured.

    • lisa parker
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Do burkas come in prison orange?

  18. Hempenstein
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Wait’ll you see one in full burqa (is that redundant? Are there half-burqas?) pulling out from a gas station behind the wheel of a full-size Chevy. The sack wasn’t designer blue like the ones above, either – it was full-bore black. Besides the sinister appearance, how can you drive a car with one of them on?

    • gbjames
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      You can find photos of half-burqas if you google “sexy burka photo”. But I doubt there are any in traditional religious use.

  19. jesperbothpedersen1
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I lean towards the banning because I doubt women would wear them were they not forced to, or were not brainwashed from youth that this is how they must dress.

    I think banning the burqa entirely would be counterproductive and potentially a slippery slope. Those women that are being forced to wear it should of course be able to get help from the local authorities, but those who choose to wear it should be free to do so.

  20. Clive
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    The problem is that if they’re not covered some Muslim women won’t be allowed out (by fathers, etc) at all.

    In general I don’t see how you can tell people what they should and shouldn’t wear.

    (The issue of being in court is different).

    • gbjames
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      OK… Walk into a bank wearing a mask. Report back to us with the results.

      • Clive
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        Do you think all people in burqas who go into banks should be arrested? Or a SWAT team called?

        And I repeat, there are women who, if they are not covered, will not be allowed to go to the bank or anywhere else.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          Well, you seem willing to require visibility in court. Why? Because the SWAT teams are available?

          The point is, I think, that what is appropriate to wear depends on context.

          And if you think that women who are coerced into wearing burkas are going to be allowed to manage money for themselves at banks in the West then I think you’re a bit naive about Islam.

          • Clive
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

            Of course the appropriateness of what you wear depends on context. What’s at issue is whether it is reasonable for the state, outside specific and rather exceptional circumstances, to lay down the law to people about what they can wear.

            I hardly think I am the naive one. People seem to think – and you seem to be one of them – that if women are prevented by law from wearing burqas all will be hunky dory. It won’t, because, often, their husbands/fathers etc will simply forbid them from going out at all.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

              Please point to where I said anything remotely like “all will be hunky dory”. The question is whether citizens in a modern secular country have the right to be able to identify one another in public spaces and whether religious repression of half of the people in a religious cult should be tolerated. Doing away with burkas in public will most certainly not eliminate the main problem. The question is whether it is a step in the right direction or not. Please don’t straw-man me.

              • Clive
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:44 am | Permalink

                Sorry if I ‘straw-manned’ you.

                It won’t be a step in the right direction if the actual result is women being confined to their homes.

                And there is an obvious general civil liberties issue of how far the state can go in telling people what they can and can’t wear outside of exceptional circumstances (I would include schools under this category incidentally: ie no burqas in schools!).

                ‘The right to identify one another in public places’ is, I would suggest, not a very robust concept. For one thing, that would extend the prohibition you advocate to the niqab (which covers the lower face) – and would mean, around where I live, the police arresting, presumably, Muslim women for breaking the law. This would not have a good effect on race relations in the neighbourhood.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

                I, and I think everyone else here, understand very well that this issue is tricky, particularly in the “the state shouldn’t tell people what to wear” dimension. (Despite the fact that the state does tell people what to wear and what not to wear now. We restrict who can wear particular uniforms (try impersonating a police officer) and rightly-or-wrongly, we require people to go clothed in public except in San Francisco and beaches here and there.)

                So the absolute principle of no-state-interference in clothing doesn’t exist. I don’t think you dispute this given your willingness to restrict burkas in schools. (Why is that OK but it is not OK in shopping malls?)

                Still, it would be terrible to prohibit Catholics from wearing their jewelry, Orthodox Jews to go out with their, Mormons from wearing magic underwear, or me from wearing my “A” shirts. Those are all strictly matters of personal expression.

                The burka is somewhat different in that it seeks to make permanent the removal of women’s identities from civil society. It is not simply an expression of one’s foolish beliefs. It has more profound general social consequences, especially when it becomes pervasive. It seems different from weather-induced face coverings in winter, from chicken costumes worn while advertising fried food, and the like. Those practices are not intended to permanently isolate one person’s identity from the rest of civil society. I think the dangers outweigh the risks. I understand that we disagree on this. But I am not convinced that the fate of women in repressive families would be worse if burkas were prohibited in public.

                You seem to be making an argument that we should allow a form of imprisonment because if we ban it some worse form of imprisonment may be attempted. That doesn’t work for me.

              • Gary W
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

                The burka is somewhat different in that it seeks to make permanent the removal of women’s identities from civil society.

                No it doesn’t. It simply covers the face. That is not at all the same thing as “make permanent the removal of women’s identities from civil society.” That’s just your scary-sounding spin. In the vast majority of cases you would not be able to identify a burqa-wearing woman even if she were not wearing the burqa. She would still be a stranger to you. Just because you could see her face doesn’t mean you would know who she is. So on what basis do you claim that the ability to see a stranger’s face in public is so important that the force of law must be used to prevent people from wearing burqas in public?

                Furthermore, people are free to conceal or disguise their facial appearance in many other ways anyway, using wigs, eyeglasses, makeup, tattoos, jewelry, facial hair, prosthetics, plastic surgery and so on. Transvestites and transsexuals not only alter their appearance, they go so far as to conceal their gender. Are you proposing to ban these things too?

                Wearing a burqa is an exercise of religious freedom. Religious freedom is one of the most basic human rights. If the government is going to infringe that right, it needs a compelling reason. No reason you or anyone else has offered here even comes close to justifying a general ban on wearing burqas in public.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

                Sorry, Gary W. I won’t violate the policy preventing me from engaging. Argue with someone else.

              • Gary W
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

                I wasn’t expecting you to respond. In case you haven’t noticed, telling me that you’re not going to respond does not prevent me from pointing out errors and falsehoods in your comments.

  21. Brian Vroman
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    The way the United States has traditionally handled such issues is a bit different from the French. The starting point for us is, or at least should be, the first amendment to the US Constitution. This is surely old hat for most who read comments on this blog, but the section of the first amendment dealing with religion is divided into two clauses, the establishment clause and the free exercise clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Through the 14th amendment, these prohibitions are extended to other levels of government.

    The wearing of a Burqa is an example of the free exercise of religion. As many point out, women could be coerced to wear such garb. But in my classroom, I often have women from a conservative Christian sect who are required by the tenets of their faith to wear skirts. Are we to require them to wear pants instead? Certainly that would be a violation of the free exercise clause. With respect to the Burqa, in a courtroom or in cases where there is a clear public safety issue or some other compelling state interest, then exceptions should be made. But to my way of thinking, this should be kept to a minimum. I am reminded of the quote attributed to Voltaire: “I despise what you believe, but I defend to the death your right to believe it.” And I am also remined of the statement made by Salmon Rushdie in the film “Dirty Pictures,” which was about the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit. Rushdie, who of course had to go into hiding to avoid assassination after the publication of his book Satanic Verses, stated, correctly, that unless you support the right of people to say (and here this extends to religious practice) things that you absolutely hate, you do not really support free speech.

    Of course, the right of religius practice, as with any other right, stops when it leads to the violation of the rights of others. Thus fundamentalist parents have no right to refuse, say, cancer treatment to their children. And a man has no right to threaten a woman and through intimidation force her to wear a burqa. But as long as a woman maintains that it is her free choice (and like JC, I am a free will skeptic, but that is another discussion) to wear a burqa, it is her right to do so.

    Some people like the first amendment and some do not. I am among the former.

    • Ben
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      Well said.

    • Sines
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Agreed, but that doesn’t mean that things still can’t be done. For example, the banning of all facial coverings in public. Not something I’d be in favor of if it weren’t for burqas.

      We can’t let ourselves ignore the first amendment, but that doesn’t mean we have to do nothing. There are no easy answers, but just because we need to play fair doesn’t mean we can’t fight back.

      Beyond the blanket ban on face covers in public above, which has it’s own problems (northern winters, in particular), I’m not sure what solutions there are. But I hope they can be found and implemented.

      The First Amendment isn’t a block for all solutions to these kind of problems. It just defines what constitutes playing fair. And, while it’s hard to fight fair against people who fight dirty, at the very least, we have twice as many people who are allowed to express ideas on how to solve this issue than they do.

    • Notagod
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      You’ve even quoted incorrectly, that amendment reads:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion……

      It isn’t only about not establishing a national religion.

      • Brian Vroman
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        You are correct — thanks for pointing that out!

  22. Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I’m against the burqa in public. Especially so in a courtroom, where it’s all should show their faces!

    On the streets, what’s so hard about donning sunglasses and a head scarf if you feel you want to cover up a little? This has little to do with modesty and everything to do with control.

  23. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    The unfortunate thing with all religious garb is it is an outward way to express tribalism. Ideally, we would all intermingle and share ideas freely but because humans are tribal by nature, it takes a conscious effort to resist this and in practice it fails much of the time.

    Banning religious garb wouldn’t break down the barriers; it would only make those on the outside of the religion feel comfortable. The real issue is ghettoization and sadly I don’t see a way to solve this especially when it involves religion. I’m unclear what the motive for banning the burqa would be. If it’s to free women from oppression, can we measure that this change worked? I’m unclear if this is effective or not but if it were, I’d be all for it. That means, however that other religions would also be effected, as others have noted.

    As or the judge’s decision, secular values in a secular society take precedence. Where freedom of religion and secularism conflict, secularism wins. Therefore, I think the judge made the right decision.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      +1

      One could regard style of dress as roughly equivalent to free speech. One might not like their choice but it’s their privilege.
      Even if you suspect they’ve been brainwashed, how do you un-brainwash them?

    • David Duncan
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      I’ll admit to a certain amount of tribalism where football is concerned. :-)

  24. Steven Obrebski
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    If you know some French check out this hilarious site available from the French
    left wing, irreverent, and sometimes quite raunchy French weekly Charlie Hebdo:

    http://www.charliehebdo.fr/burqalembours.html.

    I didn’t know if it would be legal or proper for me to transfer one or several of these cartoons to my commentary. The cartoons are, to my mind, a fitting spoof of the absurdity of of burqas.
    It is interesting that among the Tuareg, nomadic people of the Sahara, the men cover their faces, partly as protection from the wind and the sun, but because of custom, while the women are not obliged to do so. Moreover, it appears that the women are much freer and more respected than in other Moslem societies.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      You don’t need to know much French to get a kick out of these burqua cartoons.

  25. Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I’m hoping supporters of the “new hipster” Salafist movement will allow for the modification of the 2014 burqa to resemble a modish bee keeper’s suit designed by Coco Chanel.

  26. Scott Salbo
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I agree wholeheartedly with Hitchens and the presiding judge in the case you referenced.  I also agree with the French law banning the burqa in public spaces.  They can where everything else, but we shouldBe able to recognize one another in public spaces as a matter of public safety.  

  27. Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I also go back and forth on this issue. I think that the ability to read a fellow citizen’s face is valued in a good society. But is it enforceable by law? What should we do to women who insist on wearing the burqa despite the law? Do we arrest them? To what end does that help save these repressed women? I would be thrilled to see this instrument of repression take a long walk off a short pier, but sadly I just don’t believe this will happen by policy, but as another poster said, education. These women need our support. Enforcing them to forgo the burqa might not only be stepping on their religious freedom, but also put them in danger from their fellow Muslims. It’s not fair…either way…to anyone. I’m not one to take on Hitchens by any means, but in this case I just don’t feel that a ban is the best approach to supporting Muslim women. (and yes, I do believe that a citizen must remove the burqa in a court of law, or on a driver’s license or any other medium in which visual identity is the focus)

  28. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I have dithered over this topic for some time. My present position is that, rather like free speech, people ought to have freedom of clothing. That is they can wear anything or nothing if they wish except where their choice conflicts with a legal or contractural requirement for identification, a safety requirement, or a reasonable requirement of their employment. If their choices offend other people, that is insufficient reason to restrict their freedom. Talk of ‘rescuing’ women from the Burqa, however well intended, does seem patronising.

    So Burqas and other face coverings would be a matter of choice except for legal proceedings, driving a car or heavy machinery, visiting a bank, or teaching a class of children (a case already addressed in the UK).

    Unfortunately Steve Gough, the Naked Rambler, who chooses to wear nothing has been repeatedly arrested and punished for not wearing clothes in Britain.

    It would seem that puritanism is alive and well in the western world.

  29. Dave
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    The burqa dehumanizes the wearer. Wearing one, a woman is no longer a recognizeably distinct individual able to interact freely with others in society. She is a thing, part of a collective mass, devoid of individuality and walled off from her surroundings and the rest of humanity. Just as bad is the message it gives off to the majority non-muslim society. The unmistakeable message is that other people are impure and polluting, and contact with them is to be avoided, or at least allowed only on the terms permitted by the woman’s husband or father. The fact that it’s a religious or cultural tradition is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. If a religious sect arose that stipulated that women should only go outside while wearing a dog collar and held on a leash by a man, would any of the burqa-defenders here find that acceptable? What would be the difference?

    No, for me the burqa is the symbol of a horible, misogynistic belief system that I do not want to share my country with. No doubt there are some muslim women who wear it by choice. I don’t care. Ban it in public. If muslims find that intolerable, well, they’re free to go and live elsewhere. There are plenty of muslim-majority countries to choose from.

    • Ben
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      And what if a U.S. politician said “for me, the theory of evolution is the symbol of a horrible, secular belief system that I do not want to share my country with. No doubt there are some godless atheists who believe in it by choice. I don’t care. Ban it in public. If some people find that intolerable, well, they’re free to do and live elsewhere. There are plenty of godless countries to choose from.” How exactly would that differ?

      As to your leash question, of course if the women are not being coerced, they should be free to act as they wish. Note that, living in San Francisco, I have in fact seen people led on a leash by other people in the street. They were gay, and they were expressing their love of BDSM culture. No doubt they offended some people, who saw it as a symbol of a belief system they find disagreeable. Are you then proposing to ban being openly gay, too? No? What’s the difference?

      What it comes down to is: what gives you the right to dictate how other people can dress, act, or think? If a behavior is freely chosen by consenting adults (and despite the condescending attitude of many here, I have no doubt that many women do freely choose to wear the burqa), who are you to get in the way, and what stops others from similarly outlawing your behaviors?

      • jesperbothpedersen1
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        Agreed. The health of a democratic society can be measured by the rights of its minorities.

      • Graham Martin-Royle
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        I dislike the burqa and the niqab intensely and would love to see them disappear from this planet.

        That said, I feel that I am more in Ben’s camp when it comes to banning the wearing of it in public. Yes, there may be times when the wearer may be obliged to remove it and the fact that it’s considered to be a part of their religion should not give any special privileges in such instances.

        But I can’t agree with a blanket ban. Who am I to demand that others conform to my standards when it comes to the clothes they wear. After all, if I demand the right to be allowed to wear what I want, then surely I must confer the same right to others, even if I do dislike their choices.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      The fact that you think that wearing burqas sends a bad message to society justifies the ban demonstrates that you don’t really believe in free speech at all. The whole point of free speech is that it protects speech you despise as well as speech you endorse. Do you also propose to ban the wearing of t-shirts with messages you disapprove of (“Women are inferior to men,” “Nuke the whales,” “Dave is an idiot,” or whatever else it may be)?

      And as Ben noted above, your reference to leashes and collars is ironic considering that this form of dress is also sometimes worn in public by people with unusual erotic or sexual interests. The Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, for example, features people dressed in all sorts of sadomasochistic attire. Do you seek to ban all these activities too?

      And as for your “they can go and live in another country” attitude — right back at ya, buddy. If you don’t like America’s expansive protections of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, go and live somewhere else.

  30. jh
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Though I generally agree with Jerry on 99% of the things he posts, I think this is one which I disagree. I’m not a big fan of banning or placing limits on what people choose to wear (perhaps decency concerns might be a limit) even if we find the garb or rationale for it objectionable. I can see both sides, but I tend towards not favoring this law.

    • Graham Martin-Royle
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      What exactly are “decency concerns”? I always find it strange that so many people find the human body to be so foul and offensive that they want it hidden away. What’s wrong with someone deciding to strip off and go around naked? It’s just a body, we’ve all got one and the normal riposte that it’s not something that children should see is just bizarre.

      If we didn’t have this attitude that the body is obscene and needs to be hidden away, if we didn’t indoctrinate children that naked bodies are somehow wrong, they wouldn’t think anything of seeing a naked body.

      Indoctrinating this attitude into children is as wrong as indoctrinating them into a religion.

      • jh
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        Admittedly I may be a product of my cultural upbringing. I understand that San Francisco allows public nudity. I have no problem with that if a community as a whole is OK with that. At the same time, wouldn’t you consider it indecent – for example to be forced to see someone like Rush Limbaugh naked in public. It is indecent just to be aware that he exists.

        • Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          So you don’t have a problem with nudity as long as they are appealing? I can’t stand Rush Limbaugh, but I am certainly not going to make fun of his body. It’s hard enough trying to be comfortable in my own body which is vastly different from the impossibly perfect photoshopped aliens we are expected to look like. I think your comment was unnecessarily mean.

      • gbjames
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        If you saw mine naked you might change your mind.

        • Graham Martin-Royle
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

          I doubt it, my own body is nothing spectacular. I dislike this obsession with only having beautiful bodies on display, it shouldn’t matter what sex the body is, what colour it is, how old it is, it’s a human body.

          We shouldn’t be teaching that there’s something wrong or shameful about it or that only good looking ones (who gets to decide which ones are good looking, a purely subjective matter) should be displayed.

          • gbjames
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

            I guess I should have increased the level on my Tongue-in-Cheek dial.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

            Don’t be so sure – mine is so white that it could blind you :D

          • SA Gould
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

            While the human body may not be “shameful” we do teach that it and it’s various fluids are quite capable of transmitting infectious diseases.

          • lisa parker
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

            I have been to a few nude beaches and I PROMISE you they are not restricted to or occupied by only attractive bodies. No matter who is defining ‘attractive.’

  31. Jeff Johnson
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Only religion could make someone think that putting a bag over your entire body every time you leave the house is “freedom”.

    Not being able to see someone’s face makes me nervous. The tradition in this country is, unless it’s halloween, when you see someone covering their face in a mask they’re up to no good. If people want to hide, they can stay home and hide. But I think Hitchens has a point, there is a kind of implied right and corresponding obligation that goes with being in public: you can see faces and must show your face because this is how we read people’s moods and intentions. I would feel threatened and on my guard whenever an unidentifiable person cloaked in a bag was near me, and I think most Westerners would have this feeling.

    The hijab, the chadoor, the abaya are all modest clothing that can cover the hair, and possibly the entire body except the face. This is a reasonable compromise.

    One way to express the law might be to say that the owners of any public or private space, including parks, banks, restaurants, shopping malls, etc, have the right to require patrons to show their face while on the premises. This isn’t so different from many property rights based laws in existence. This would allow Muslims to establish Muslim businesses where women could trudge about under the heavy yoke of insecure jealous male oppression if they choose to, yet the majority of public space would be off limits to people dressed in outlaw garb.

  32. RFW
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    One point about the Amish: one of their traditions is to allow the young men (I don’t know about the young women) a year off religion to explore and taste the delights of the secular world. It’s only after that running-around year that they decide whether to join the sect or not. Thus, at least for the men, the decision to wear traditional Amish dress is voluntary.

    Similar in spirit to the account of a Taoist monastery in pre-revolutionary China where young monks with itchy feet were sent down to the “world of dust” to get it out of their systems. (in Peter Goullart’s “Monastery of the Purple Bamboo”)

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Careful, Rumspringa is not all sweetness and light. By being cut off from family while struggling to support themselves, it can be pretty stressful and unpleasant.

      Some would argue that these kids are set up to fail, so when they return, they won’t look back.

  33. Posted August 24, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    What do they do at airports? refuse and not travel, or comply….
    One law for all and not stone age cruel laws.

  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I’m also back and forth on this. But I tend to take Hitchen’s position.

    Coincidentally (or not), the issue of veil has surfaced in Sweden. A couple of racists have beaten up a veil (here a head scarf) bearer twice, the second time to coerce her to drop charges.

    In response, women including some politicians made a “veil demonstration”. It has a lot of support.

    And predictably the sentiment that one should toe the party line is raised, as so often these days. :-/

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Hitchens’s.

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        I hate to be annoyingly pedantic, but for the sake of accuracy, since you bothered to make the correction, and acknowledging that I wish I knew Swedish to equal even a fraction of your excellent English, that should be Hitchens’, oddly enough, and the possessive ‘s’ is not pronounced either. Saying “Hitchenses” is just too awkward sounding I guess.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          No the correction was correct. It’s Hitchens’s. I perfected this back in the day when I wrote a lot about Augustus and Augustus’s stuff.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

            Oh shit. Egg on my face then?

            So the rule about dropping the ‘s’ only applies to actual plural nouns, not to nouns ending in ‘s’?

            If that is so I apologize. And I was so certain I had that right.

            But I was right about the pronunciation at least. We don’t say “Hitchenses” or “Augustuses”. So it’s a silent ‘s’ then. Right?

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

              Bloody English! ;)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

                Ha ha – damn diacritics! I think the apostrophe is a pain created solely to trip people up so other people can correct them and feel all superior. :)

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

                And you hit the jackpot and got a twofer on the smug superiority grammatical sweepstakes: you got to correct someone incorrectly correcting someone’s correct correction of their own mistake!

                That’s kind of like hitting the grammatical royal flush.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

                Sweet!

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

              I say Augustuses I think just because it works, but I just say Hitchens or Dawkins for Hitchens’s or Dawkins’s. Here is a good reference

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                Aha. In Rule 2 of your reference:

                NOTE: Although names ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form, it is preferred.

                I feel slightly redeemed, even though my way isn’t preferred. Sort of like saying “Jif” for Graphics Interchange Files. ;)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

                LOL but as I’ve said before, usage trumps über alles!

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

                Ha ha muphrys. Usage trumps all. Usage ber alles.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

                Okay, I have an objection to your guide. Under the rules of plural possessive it seems like “rules gone wild”.

                The particular case, it says for example that if I’m talking about Peter and Christopher Hitchens’s lectures, I should write:

                The Hitchenses’ lectures.

                Why not just:

                The Hitchens’ lectures?

                Using the definite article is a pretty clear signifier that I’m talking about the members of a family. I grew up in California, and our neighbors were the Dixons. We never told our Mom we were going to the Dixonses’, it was always the Dixons’.

                So what were you saying about prescriptive and descriptive back during that GIF debate? ;)

            • Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

              Personal names that end in –s

              With personal names that end in -s: add an apostrophe plus s when you would naturally pronounce an extra s if you said the word out loud:

              He joined Charles’s army in 1642.
              Dickens’s novels provide a wonderful insight into Victorian England.
              Thomas’s brother was injured in the accident.

              Note that there are some exceptions to this rule, especially in names of places or organizations, for example:

              St Thomas’ Hospital

              If you aren’t sure about how to spell a name, look it up in an official place such as the organization’s website.

              With personal names that end in -s but are not spoken with an extra s: just add an apostrophe after the -s:

              The court dismissed Bridges’ appeal.
              Connors’ finest performance was in 1991.

              Source: http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/apostrophe

  35. Gary W
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    The French law goes too far. I don’t believe an equivalent law in the U.S. would survive a First Amendment challenge. A ban is justifiable in circumstances where the state has a compelling interest in requiring women to show their faces, but a blanket ban on wearing a burqa anywhere in public is a violation of basic rights of conscience and expression.

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      The US Constitution is not the end all and be all of human rights. The French have a different system that allows addressing this problem in a fair way. That’s a point in their favor, IMHO.

      • Gary W
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        The U.S. Constitution protects the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion better than French law does. The French system is not merely “different.” It’s worse.

      • Dalai Llama
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Quite. I’ve often found the attitude of many USians towards their constitution to be eerily reminiscent of religious approaches to their various scriptures – at times it seems to border on the fanatical, on fetishisation. There are other legal structures and systems out there, other metrics of legal worth, some of which are arguably better than that of the USA.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

          Quite. I’ve often found the attitude of many USians towards their constitution to be eerily reminiscent of religious approaches to their various scriptures – at times it seems to border on the fanatical, on fetishisation.

          The content and meaning of the Constitution are an endless source of debate and discussion among Americans, and vigorous efforts to change the document have been a constant feature of American politics since it was ratified.

          • Dalai Llama
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

            And? Look at, for example, the NRA. You can’t tell me that the Constitution isn’t at all fetishised when the loony gun brigade meet any criticism, any meek proposal for even the slightest reasonable limitation of lethal arms, with arguments that boil down to “Second Amendment! Constitution says I can have them! You can’t take my sub-machine guns away, that’d be *UNCONSTITUTIONAL*!!!” – as if merely being in the constitution imbued some kind of absolute transcendental moral authority. I’m not saying that *all* Americans treat their constitution this way – but some (too many) definitely do.

            I struggle to think of any other Western country that reveres a legal text to the extent you guys do, and despite this, many have legal systems equal to or better than that of the US.

          • Gary W
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

            And?

            What do you mean, “and?” The point is that the idea that Americans “fetishize” the Constitution is nonsense. Americans are constantly arguing over what it means and trying to change it.

            Look at, for example, the NRA. You can’t tell me that the Constitution isn’t at all fetishised when the loony gun brigade meet any criticism, any meek proposal for even the slightest reasonable limitation of lethal arms, with arguments that boil down to “Second Amendment!

            I don’t know who “the loony gun brigade” is supposed to be, and I’ve never seen anyone express the view that the Second Amendment provides unlimited protection for private possession of lethal arms. You appear to be just uncritically promoting a stereotype that is popular among certain ignorant anti-American foreigners but that has little to do with how the vast majority of Americans actually think and act regarding the Constitution.

            • Dalai Llama
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

              The loony gun brigade would be for example those who, following a school shooting, argue against restrictions on firearms and in favour of putting guns in every school – to quote NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, “I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation and to do it now to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January”.

              This is unbridled lunacy, and to pretend these people don’t exist is blinkered and irresponsible.

              • Gary W
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

                Good luck making your argument that providing trained, armed guards in public schools is “unbridled lunacy.” You might be able to make a serious argument that, on balance, it would probably do more harm than good, but calling it “unbridled lunacy” just demonstrates the irrational nature of your own views on guns.

              • Nwalsh
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

                +1

              • Dalai Llama
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

                Gary, I think you and I stand at completely opposite ends of the spectrum where this issue is concerned, and I don’t see any chance of either of us changing the other’s mind. As a Brit, I can barely wrap my head around the logic that would lead you to defend the NRA argument that I outlined above – to us, it’s so outlandish, irresponsible and, frankly, downright stupid as to be beyond parody. We live in different worlds, and mine is one where I and those I love are thankfully much less likely to be killed by a gun. Personally, I’ll take ‘not getting shot’ over any ‘second amendment MAH CONSTITUTIONZ’ horseshite any day. http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/65077000/gif/_65077559_us_gun_compared_624.gif

              • Gary W
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

                Calling a policy “outlandish,” “irresponsible,” “stupid”, etc. is not an argument. It’s just rhetoric. I think you’d have a hard time demonstrating — from actual empirical data on guns and violence — that a policy of armed guards in schools would be counterproductive, let alone “lunacy.”

                I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make with your chart, either. Yes, the U.S. has a higher rate of gun murder than other developed nations. The U.S. has higher rates of violent crime in general. The relationship between crime rates and gun laws is complex and controversial. There is no expert consensus on the question.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

          You are quite right about that, especially the right wing has a tendency to regard the Constitution with a sacred reverence, as if it were handed down by God on tablets of stone.

          They have a favorite legal theory called originalism, which is to interpret the Constitution as meaning what the founders intended it to mean 230 years ago, as if they can read their minds. They frequently state what they know (somehow, perhaps by revelation) to be the will of the founders, just as Christians are able to confidently tell us what the will of God is. This theory is consistent with their reactionary ideology, by which they really express the reactionary desire to roll the country back to the nineteenth century in many respects. Originalism is the perfect tool for reactionaries.

          The conservatives are also adament that US law can’t be informed in any way by laws from other countries. There is none of the pragmatic view that laws can be improved, and that more modern expressions can be better adapted to modern life and have had the benefit of centuries of experience. The idea that American lawmakers might take inspiration from the laws of any foreign country is highly offensive to the idiots of the right wing.

          They try to use a few references in the Declaration of Independence (a non-legally binding document) by Thomas Jefferson, the deist, to a Creator and to Nature’s God, and construe them as evidence that this is supposed to be a Christian nation, while they ignore the fact that the words God, Christianity, Jesus, the Ten Commandments, never appear even once in the Constitution, the founding legal document for all federal law.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

            You mean as depicted in this picture? It makes you go, “hey, wait a minute!” :)

          • Gary W
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            You’re another one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Here are some of the high-profile amendments to the Constitution that have been proposed and strongly supported by conservatives in recent years. Your claim that conservatives view the Constitution with “sacred reverence” is just utter nonsense.

            Term Limits Amendment
            Flag Desecration Amendment
            Balanced budget Amendment
            School Prayer Amendment
            Pledge of Allegiance Amendment
            Federal Marriage Amendment
            Human Life Amendment

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

              Actually I know exactly what I’m talking about, and I refer you to Diana’s link to Jesus’ delivery of the Constitution.

              The one point I’ll concede is that I’ve used the term “conservative” too broadly. Let’s say the substantial Tea Party wing of the conservative Republican Party.

              Nearly every one of those amendments you’ve listed, aside from being stupid and misguided, and disregarding the fact that they do not have a prayer of ever becoming added to the Constitution, is religiously motivated, or else can be justified according to the particular conservative religious ideology of the right wing base.

              I’ll bet you could find a large percentage of supporters of those amendments who would answer the following affirmatively:

              Is this amendment what God would have intended to be in the Constitution, but the founders left out because they did not forsee the need?

              So you haven’t really provided a counter example to the claim that the American right has a religious reverence for the Constitution. You’ve only confirmed that there are some changes that they would like to see, and every one of them would be ideologically justified as being “what the founders would have intended, if they had the foresight”, with the possible exception of Term Limits.

              I hate Term Limits because it is just more of the conservative pessimism about the possibility that democracy can work, and that government can have a beneficial role in our society. Term Limits are effectively a surrender of democracy, and it’s part of the same negative nihilistic destructive hatred of government in general that permeates the disordered, anti-intellectual, faith based ideology of the failing American right wing of the moment.

            • Gary W
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

              Diana’s link tells us precisely nothing about how conservatives view the Constitution.

              And you obviously do not know what you’re talking about, as the list of constitutional amendments proposed by conservatives that I provided demonstrates. Indeed, these proposals have been very widely publicized and discussed in the media. Your absurd claim that conservatives view the Constitution with “sacred reverence” betrays a shocking level of political ignorance.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

                What baffles me is how my second paragraph seems to not have registered with you.

                I think from the start it should have been clear I wasn’t talking about all conservatives, but about a substantial conservative right wing political movement that is very visible, to the extent that one would have to purposely avoid all media sources to not be aware of it.

                You also completely ignored my arguments that it doesn’t necessarily follow that wanting to amend necessarily implies a lack of reverence. It depends on the content of the amendment and the ideological justifications for the anendment within the framework of the theory of divinely blessed origins.

                The graphical imagery linked to by Diana by itself means little (but certainly not nothing). However when one considers that this art is extremely popular and widely known among conservative Christians, a major faction of American conservatives, it actually becomes undeniable that this image says a lot about how an American subculture views the Constitution.

              • Gary W
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

                Your claim is wrong whether you meant conservatives in general, as you originally, said, or merely “tea party conservatives.” The membership of the tea party is drawn from the broader conservative movement and includes both secular and religious conservatives. Tea party members support a variety of constitutional amendments just as other conservatives do.

                But since you now claim that they hold the Constitution in “sacred reverence” despite wanting to change it, it’s hard to know what you even mean by that phrase. I guess that liberals must hold it in “sacred reverence” too.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted August 24, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

                I don’t doubt there is nothing I couldn’t fail to understand if I tried hard enough.

            • Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

              Look, Gary, your comments are verging on being nasty. How about laying off telling people that none of them know what they’re talking about, or that they’re talking nonsense. The rules are that you are to be polite here, and I’m asking you to do that.

              Get it?

            • Gary W
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

              Alright Jerry, I’ll put it like this:

              Some liberals claim that conservatives view the Constitution with sacred reverence. This claim betrays a shocking level of political ignorance. Conservatives have proposed many amendments to the Constitution.

              • Pali
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:04 am | Permalink

                I’d argue that by the virtue of minds riddled by cognitive dissonance and lacking sufficient self-reflection to notice said inconsistencies, some people may very well hold the Constitution to be a nearly perfect or divinely inspired document while ALSO attempting to amend it to make it better and more divinely inspired, and that these people are likely completely unaware of the inherent contradiction in their beliefs.

                I considered myself a skeptic at the same time that I thought it likely aliens had visited Earth multiple times. We humans are an inconsistent lot.

  36. Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Syed Atheist.

  37. Posted August 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I have always thought that in these cases, the person should have the choice, as long as it doesn’t cause public harm. At first the judge convinced me (and I still am convinced, to a degree), but the alternatives presented are definitely good. The judge is not going to change the world in his courtroom, and his focus should be on serving the law on the case, not on overwriting the sexism inherent to Islam.

  38. Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Can I post a link to an article I wrote for the Independent newspaper on this issue, after a student of mine turned up to a philosophy class wearing a burqa?

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/brandon...

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Tried it. Bounced.

      “Sorry but we haven’t been able to serve the page you requested – please try again”

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Maybe it’s supposed to be this one

    • Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing your article. Did you at the time get any echo from your colleagues at the school? It would be quite something to get the ball rolling and be able to work towards making the rules what they should be! But I suppose it takes the will of a good number of people to back up any push for change.

      You talk about the importance of an individual’s expression in your philosophy class. Well how about showing up in a burqa for a theatre class? That would do for the development of some interesting performance skills. No doubt that poor lady dropped out. She didn’t stand a chance, did she? How are you going to work on an education when you have to behave as a non person?

  39. k_machine
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to the west, where you are free to dress yourself however you like as long as we get a good look at your tits. Why not ban high heels, makeup and revealing clothing? Those too are worn by women because they are “pressured” into (horror, people influencing each other, can’t have that). High heels are bad for your feet too.

    Also nobody gives a damn about how the fez is banned in Turkey, but I guess that doesn’t give us an excuse to “pressure” women to dress as we want them to. Maybe we should also ban full beards as they did in Russia in ye olden times to modernize society.

    • Dalai Llama
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      There’s a difference between ‘influence’ and ‘coercion’. You’re straw-manning the issue (especially with that facetious false dichotomy you seem to want to construct between ‘burkha’ and ‘tits’). It’s easy to wear conservative clothing in Western countries if you so desire – the key is that it’s a *choice*, no-one is *forced* into either option.

      There are situations where the covering of one’s face is inappropriate – you can’t go into a bank or a court, or teach in a school, while wearing a motorcycle helmet. Hence, you shouldn’t be allowed to wear a burkha in these situations either – secular laws and rights trump religious ‘privileges’ in the case of a clash.

      What you wear in your own time, meanwhile, is up to you – though personally I find it weird at best and downright rude at worst when a person chooses to fully mask themself, be it with a burka or a giant banana costume.

    • Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Actually, it was Peter the Great who had long beards (and very long sleeves) cut short to modernize Russia. However, those men who wanted to retain their beards could pay a yearly beard tax and received a token showing that they had paid it.

  40. Gary W
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Jeff Johnson wrote,

    I think Hitchens has a point, there is a kind of implied right and corresponding obligation that goes with being in public: you can see faces and must show your face because this is how we read people’s moods and intentions.

    I think this is an absurdly weak justification for the law. First, the idea that “reading faces” is so important to social interaction that it needs to be protected by law is extremely dubious. Facial expressions are not a reliable guide to a person’s thoughts or feelings. People clearly have the ability to control their facial expressions in ways that conceal their mental state. And second, we already permit all sorts of adornments that substantially conceal or alter the face anyway — long hair that falls across the face, facial hair on men, eyeglasses and sunglasses, makeup, hats of various kinds, and so on. Indeed, celebrities and other people who do not wish to be recognized in public routinely use these methods not merely to conceal their expression but to prevent other people from identifying them at all. This “ability to read a fellow citizen’s face” argument is just a pretext for other motives.

    • Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      You quoted me, but in the wrong context. My opinion is that reading facial expressions is valuable in society, but not a right. In this I am more inclined to agree with you that banning burqas is a slippery slope and an infringement on our rights. There was no “pretext for other motives” whatsoever in my statement. I think we would naturally be more comfortable interacting with unmasked persons. We might not be great at reading other people, but we do get information from facial cues. Yet that does not lead me to believe this is something that should be enforced by law. And I ask, again, what would the punishment be for women who deny the ban?

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        In my post I suggested that an all out ban is over the top, but that a reasonable policy might be to allow businesses to require that their patrons show their faces, or not wear masks. The same could apply to public spaces such as parks.

        It would then be within the rights of burga wearers to go to burqa friendly businesses and other establishments.

        A corresponding concern to the need of burqa wearers to entirely disguise themselves, is the need of other citizens to feel safe in banks and crowded shopping malls. The presence of mysteriously clad persons in our society suggests that they are disguising themselves for a reason, which is that they are up to no good and don’t want to be identified, such as a masked bank robber. This is our culture, and it has the same rights to be respected as the burqa wearing of Muslim fundamentalists. Allowing each establishment to follow its favored policy, including one that requires exposure of the face, would be the best balancing of these priorities.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          a reasonable policy might be to allow businesses to require that their patrons show their faces, or not wear masks. The same could apply to public spaces such as parks.

          Why is that “reasonable?” What compelling state interest is served by banning the wearing of burqas in public spaces?

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

            I’m sure recognizing reasonableness is very challenging. It is reasonable because it splits the difference between two concerns in an effort at fairness. It is not an entire ban on burqas, but it respects the concerns of business owners and others who think people whose face is masked will frighten their customers or possibly defeat their security measures. The compelling state interest is in enabling businesses to operate in ways that best serve their customers and allow them to protect their investment.

            Banks need to implement security measures that don’t allow robbers to use burqas to defeat surveillance and possible witness testimony, for example. It is as reasonable for a bank to require those who enter not be masked, as it is for a court to require it.

            We don’t have a tradition of facial masks as ordinary garb, but we have a tradition of criminals using masks to defeat attempts to identify them, and businesses need to defend themselves against that.

            Patrons of a mall might be frightened of people wearing burqas, and choose to stay away from the mall because the disguised visitors are threatening. There are numerous cases of suicide bombers dressing in burqas in Afghanistan. Permitting an environment that frightens customers is bad for business. Businesses should be able to prevent patrons from wearing clothing that offends or alienates their clientele.

            You’ve heard of “No shirts, No Shoes, No Service”. Businesses could elect to or not to add “No Burqas” to that. Some businesses might elect to encourage patronage by burqa wearers, and advertise themselves as burqa friendly, or Halal, or whatever attracts Muslims. If burqa wearers wish to go to a place that does not allow burqas, they’ll simply have to make a tough choice. It’s not like discrimination based on skin color or religious beliefs. It is merely a dress code, a notion that has a long and widely accepted history in our culture and our laws.

            So this approach is a compromise that attempts to respect the freedoms of citizens with conflicting interests. I call that reasonable.

            • Posted August 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

              I work in high end jewelry. I am alert any time someone comes into the store with backpacks, unseasonably large/loose jackets, and “puffy” pockets. I have to be aware of everything around me at all times. Luckily, we have not been robbed, but it is not a matter of “if” but “when”. Would I be uncomfortable if someone came in wearing a burqa? I would immediately have to gauge their other actions – are they nervous? Looking around? Asking inappropriate questions (What is your biggest diamond/most expensive piece of jewelry/watch?)? Are they slurring or otherwise incapacitated? Are they alone? Is someone else outside? Are they wearing jewelry? These things have to be taken into account, almost subconsciously as you are still expected to maintain composure and friendliness. So no, if someone was just calmly and politely looking around the store while wearing a burqa, I would be ok. But I also get a good bit of info from the condition of their skin. Are they reasonably clean? Are there sores on their face and/or hands? Open, oozing sores or scabs and unkempt nails are signs of meth use, which is common and getting worse. So it’s tough, but I would not say this is a problem worth violating the right to religious expression.

            • Gary W
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

              Banks need to implement security measures that don’t allow robbers to use burqas to defeat surveillance and possible witness testimony, for example. It is as reasonable for a bank to require those who enter not be masked, as it is for a court to require it.

              Then the bank’s policy should be to exclude customers who conceal their identity, period. A policy that excluded only burqa-wearing customers would not be rationally related to the stated purpose but would simply be a pretext for religious discrimination. And even if the policy was written broadly and religiously-neutral, it would still be suspect for discrimination if it had a disproportionate impact on a particular religious minority (in this case, Muslim women) and if the bank could not show sufficient reason for failing to make a religious exemption.

              Patrons of a mall might be frightened of people wearing burqas, and choose to stay away from the mall because the disguised visitors are threatening.

              Again, patrons of a mall might be frightened of black people. After all, a disproportionate amount of violent crime is committed by young black men. That doesn’t mean the mall would be justified (or legally entitled) to ban black people. So why do you think it means the mall should be able to ban people wearing burqas?

            • Gary W
              Posted August 24, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

              You’ve heard of “No shirts, No Shoes, No Service”. Businesses could elect to or not to add “No Burqas” to that. Some businesses might elect to encourage patronage by burqa wearers, and advertise themselves as burqa friendly, or Halal, or whatever attracts Muslims. If burqa wearers wish to go to a place that does not allow burqas, they’ll simply have to make a tough choice. It’s not like discrimination based on skin color or religious beliefs. It is merely a dress code, a notion that has a long and widely accepted history in our culture and our laws.

              This is simply incorrect. Title II of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly forbids discrimination in public accommodations (a category that includes privately-owned restaurants, bars, movie theaters, etc.) on the grounds of religion. State and local civil rights laws generally mirror federal law, and in some cases provide even stronger protections against discrimination. “Religion” here means not just formal membership in a religion, but religious belief and practise in general. The Department of Justice website specifically describes a scenario in which people are denied service in a restaurant because of their religious attire as an example of a discriminatory act that violates Title II. So no, businesses cannot elect to add “No Burqas” to their dress code.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:22 am | Permalink

                You have way too much respect for religion. Why is a religious authority empowered to dictate how people may or may not be attired in my business?

                I would simply not wish to tolerate the insult of somone entering my home or place of business with their face covered. Muslims would be quite welcome, as long as they are not afraid to show who they are.

              • Gary W
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:50 am | Permalink

                You have way too much respect for religion.

                I have little respect for religion. I have great respect for people’s right to practice their religion. It’s one of the basic rights protected by the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and pretty much every other basic charter of rights and freedoms in the free world today. You appear to have virtually no respect for this right.

                Why is a religious authority empowered to dictate how people may or may not be attired in my business?

                It isn’t. People’s right to practice their religion includes a broad right to wear religious attire in your business. Not an unlimited, but a broad one. You cannot arbitrarily deny them that right simply because you find their attire, or what you think it represents, “offensive.” This right has been protected by federal law for almost half a century.

          • Gary W
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

            It is reasonable because it splits the difference between two concerns in an effort at fairness.

            “Splitting the difference” between two concerns is not reasonable if one of the “concerns” is irrational prejudice. It’s like saying that racially segregated lunch counters are “reasonable” because they “split the difference” between no exclusion of black people and complete exclusion of black people. There is no legitimate concern to ban religious practises just because they make some people nervous.

            The compelling state interest is in enabling businesses to operate in ways that best serve their customers and allow them to protect their investment.

            There is no compelling state interest to allow businesses to do whatever they want to do to serve their customers and their investment. Even if a business could prove that discriminating against blacks or Jews would be good for their business and is supported by a majority of their customers, it would not be allowed to do that because discrimination on the basis of race or religion is unjust and violates civil rights laws. There is no “unless it’s good for your business” exception to anti-discrimination laws.

            But you’re not responding to the question I asked anyway. My question was not about actions by private businesses, but in public spaces. What compelling state interest justifies a ban on the wearing of burqas in public spaces?

        • Posted August 24, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          The problem I struggle with is, is the burqa a voluntary form of religious/cultural expression or is it in fact a form of abuse? Who decides that? I think the “public safety” banner is not an honest reaction – we just don’t have precedence for banning such garb in order to keep the public safe. Where are the burqa-clad criminals committing crimes all over this country that would necessitate such an infringement on religious expression? But if it is abuse – if women are involuntarily suffering within these cloth prisons – what do we do?

          • jesperbothpedersen1
            Posted August 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

            You could provide them with free shelter and legal representation to file divorce and sue if it is warranted.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          A corresponding concern to the need of burqa wearers to entirely disguise themselves, is the need of other citizens to feel safe in banks and crowded shopping malls. The presence of mysteriously clad persons in our society suggests that they are disguising themselves for a reason, which is that they are up to no good and don’t want to be identified, such as a masked bank robber.

          I’d love to see your evidence that wearing a burqa suggests that a woman is “up to no good … such as a masked bank robber.” Is this a rational conclusion from evidence, or simply an irrational and unjustified fear? I imagine that the presence of young black men dressed in hoodies might also make other citizens feel unsafe in banks and shopping malls. Do you therefore think banks and malls would be justified in refusing entry or service to such men?

      • Gary W
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I know you don’t support the ban. We agree on that. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I was addressing Jeff Johnson.

  41. Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Right on! I could not agree more. Depriving humans the ability to communicate with each other by sight is like depriving a dog the ability to smell the animals it deals with.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but the burqa law originated due to the fact that females could not be trusted with males, and males were too weak morally to resist female charms. Both sexes lacked the moral strength to obey religious law. Islam seems to be a religion based upon mistrust and weakness. Other religions are not much different.

  42. Gabrielle Guichard
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Nothing about women’s health. The weight of a burqa is not only religious or social. It’s actual and painful.

  43. Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    It might have been said already, but on the subject of France banning face coverings in public, I object. I can imagine situations where a person (not necessarily a woman) is scarred and aren’t comfortable with their face being on display when running necessary errands. Obviously spaces that there is a risk to not seeing a person’s face can be an exception, but it seems wrong to state that I can’t cover my face when in public if I am uncomfortable with other people seeing my face FOR ANY REASON.

  44. Boris Molotov
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I don’t care about as long as I have the right to wear a burka in court as well. The religious should not have special rights over non-religious beliefs. I never understood why religious insanity is held as superior to other beliefs.
    If we are talking about equal rights, then the rules should apply to all, religion should not be getting an exception. Either all, or nobody.
    I think it’s a great idea to wear a full cover, why go to court with an identity when you can be anonymous?

    • Boris Molotov
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      Oh yeah, since Sikhs have a religious duty to carry a kirpan at all times (for symbolic self defense). I will be carrying a gun under my burka for the same reason. It’s symbolic but the right to bear arms at all times us bigger then religion for some.
      Look, these are my beliefs and who uis to judge they are any less important then my other fellow man.

      Isn’t this really a discussion about the merits of types if equality granted by libertarianism vs. socialism? Either everything goes or there are rules that apply to all. How can there be any exceptions based on only certain beliefs and be a just society? It rather sounds of a bigoted system.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        I have no problem with Sikhs carrying kirpans for a couple practical reasons:

        1) There are a lot of Sikhs in Canada (according to Wikipedia, 497,965 of them)and I’ve heard of exactly two cases were there was an issue with a kirpan: one where a boy dropped one and one where a boy threatened others with it…both boys who were discipline.

        2) It is legal to carry knives that are just as big and many Canadians do. The kirpan is a smallish blade.

        I also have no problem with the kirpan for one constitutional reason and that is we have freedom of religion in Canada. Our freedom of religion is also interpreted as freedom from religion. We also recognize and protect minority rights (that includes atheists BTW. In addition to this, we have the controversial notwithstanding clause that can limit rights and it’s intent is to limit any right (like freedom religion) where it conflicts with other rights, etc. There is no evidence that the kirpan has caused any such issues.

        • Filippo
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

          Just congenially curious: Do (Are) Sikh women (allowed by their menfolk to) carry a kirpan? Are Sikh men punished if they decline to carery a kirpan?

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

            Not that I’m an expert on everything Sikh but I don’t think Sikh women carry a kirpan because it’s not part of their dress. They have a dress specific to them. Here is more about Sikh women. I don’t know if a Sikh would be punished for not carrying a kirpan but it’s part of their entire dress which includes a turban and part of their identity as a Sikh.

            Of course, this depends on how religious you are. Some Sikhs do not dress any differently and may only wear a kara bracelet. I grew up with Sikhs who did both and I have Sikh friends that only wear the kara and dress up in a Sari (women) for weddings, etc.

        • Boris Molotov
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          There is also no evidence that I would use a gun in court either yet I am prohibited from carrying it anyway.
          Making a generalization that the weapon in the hands of one group but not another seems rather unfair.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

            But that’s a false dichotomy. The kirpan isn’t a gun and I can carry a knife just like it without retribution.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

              False equivalency I meant….jeeze. I have a migraine so I think I get a little leeway today with my terrible grammar & typos.

            • Boris Molotov
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

              Ok, then a knife, no evidence of that either. My point still stands, it was not to compare the object but the right. We cannot use religion as a an exception. If there is a religion that requires the carrying of a gun (some say there is) it would be the same argument.
              If sikhs can carry knives into courts then so should anybody else.
              Why exceptions for religious beliefs but no others? What qualifies as a “religious” belief anyway and why is it more important then a non-religious one held just as dear? Not even the Supreme Court can decide.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

                This is where I don’t see your point in this case. I’m not arguing that Sikhs be given special religious privilege and indeed Sikhs aren’t given any extra rights over anyone else. I can carry a knife the same as a Sikh but like a Sikh I too may not take a knife (or kirpan)on a plane (see below).

                The court made a very reasoned decision in one particular incident where a boy brought his kirpan to school which is detailed here. You can see that the court considered limitations to the freedom of religion for the sake of safety (which you allude to) and they reject that limitation (after pointing out that there are scissors at school as well) for these reasons:

                There was little to no proof students have used kirpans as weapons in schools. Although cases involving airline security have resulted in the banning of kirpans on planes, the Court quoted the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal as saying whereas people know each other in a school, planes will always carry different people who never know each other. There is little opportunity to judge whether a passenger is violent. As for the argument that the kirpan could encourage other students to bring weapons to school, as defence against the kirpan, the Court replied this was speculative. Of relation to this concern was the worry that the school atmosphere would be negatively affected. The Court replied it was untrue that the kirpan represented violence, and that it had religious meanings instead. The Court also found this theory could be offensive to Sikhs and would thus contradict multiculturalism. If some students feel it is unfair that the claimant can wear a kirpan to school while they cannot carry knives, the Court suggested schools should teach these students the importance of freedom of religion.

                My larger point is in cases where various rights compete, there is no simple answer. A reasoned approach to the individual case needs to be given as it has here with the kirpan. The point about the burqa/niqab also needs to be weighed just as carefully.

              • Boris Molotov
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                I think we are agreeing though I am not sure whether I agree that rights granted on religious grounds are given to those for non-religious convictions. The example in another thread mentions an exception that grants the religious the exception to dawn head gear in protests and the belief in the right to anonymity in protest is considered insufficient. This is dangerous and NOT the behavior of a secular government. It should not privelege religion to the disadvantage of other citizens.
                Many on this list are misinterpreting freedom of religion to manifest as special religious rights granted by the state. This is where freedom of religion ends.
                What makes religion so special that it trumps my right to be treated equally by state institutions? If a sikh child takes a kirpan to school then any other child should have the same privelege who is not Sikh. I am not suggesting that their right be taken away but rather to grant the right to all.
                Also, The judgement that a kirpan (a knife) poses no harm to other students based on which sect the child belongs to is just another form of bigotry. Sikh children are not a uniform hive that is immune to irrational and violent behavior. Their children are like the rest and rights grants to them should be granted to all. Everybody is an individual.
                To understand Freedom of religion we need to understand what qualifies as religion and why it should ever grant constituents special rights over others. other beliefs or religious that are not part of a constituency.
                At the end of the day the secular state cannot hold religious conviction over others. Perhaps the court can explain to students why religious conviction is more important than equal rights. I surely hope they dare not try.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

                I think the mistake you are making is you are equating all religious situations as the same. The burqa/niqab issue is different from the kirpan issue. There are practical considerations for all rights and freedom of religion figures into it whether you agree that it should exist or not. Frankly, I would not want to live in a society that did not grant this as the state should not tell you what to believe and what not to believe and freedom of religion actually protects non believers in Canada as well so no one can force religion on me.

                Children are a special case as with the kirpan, however this is why the court considered the safety issue (Canadians have slightly different rights from Americans as we have the right to life, liberty and security of the person); this is why security of the person was considered against the right of freedom of religion and was shown to not be an issue. It probably would quickly become an issue, however if every child could carry a knife. As for adults, I don’t see the inequality.

                Consider another issue that came up in Canada many years ago. The Royal Canadian Legion has places where veterans go to socialize (called The Legion). They have a rule that you cannot wear hats in there. Sikhs wear turbans. The Legion actually thought they should prevent a Sikh wearing a turban from entering the establishment. I thought it was a bit ridiculous because there were no complaints during World War I when Sikhs wearing turbans fought and died. It took a lot to convince people that turbans were not hats but religious garb. Under your rules, Sikhs would not be able to enter the Legion without removing their turbans. I find this to be just silly, especially because of their service.

                As for equality, any Canadian is free to wear a turban if you wish (the only times Sikhs are limited is for safety reasons except in the appalling case in Quebec right now which I hope will be over turned where they are refusing to allow Sikh kids to play in soccer leagues) so you would be thus limited as well. Nothing is stopping any Canadian from carrying a kirpan either, as Canadians (myself included) routinely carry knives of similar length. The only time you or a Sikh would be stopped is in an airport or other secured area. You are even free to wear a burqa or niqab if you wish except if you are swearing an oath of citizenship.

                So, I think this idea of religious privilege in these minority cases is a bit overblown. Now, where I see true privilege is Christianity. We have Christian holidays for instance. In Canada as well Catholics get special privilege and have schools funded out of public money. This to me is a bigger deal than any of the other cases.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

                It should also be noted that there are cases where atheists have succeeded in the courts. This recent one had the distribution of Gideon bibles stopped and took his case to the Human Rights Tribunal which supported him and ruled in his favour.

                Recently, raising a Christian Flag at the City of Windsor property for a “March for Jesus” event was stopped. The City complied after receiving emails from citizens but many cited sections 2 and 15 of the Charter

                I think I missed my calling. I should have been a constitutional lawyer. :)

              • Boris Molotov
                Posted August 26, 2013 at 5:14 am | Permalink

                I agree completely that Christian holidays need to be reworked to become secular, as should the anthem and parliamentary procedures. You will find not argument here, I have been arguing this since time immemorial.
                We cannot really say it is overblown without more challenges. I already cited the protest example with exceptions for religious reasons but there are surely more.
                For example, I would like to see an RCMP officer wear a spaghetti stainer without have the government/justice system violating freedom of religion. As soon as it starts to make value judgements regarding what qualifies as a religion it violates secularism. (It is belief after all, often irrational). There simply should not be exceptions based on religious reasons but rather general rules for everybody despite religion, that is freedom of/from religion. If that principle is applied fairly, then any ruling regarding the niqab/burka (face coverings) will apply to all.
                So, coming full circle, we should be asking whether it is ok for everybody to come to court this way (face covered) despite of what religion the individual professes. Religious exceptions confined to sects should not be tolerated in pluralistic and egalitarian societies.
                I am not sure whether it has an impact in the outcome of trails, it may actually be positive! Imagine that.
                As far as the Quebec discussion about symbols, again if we take it on a case by case basis (niqab vs. turban vs. gun vs. nudist ) general rules can be made that apply to all. Apply a blanket rule that all “religious symbols” should be allowed is just as infeasible as none (some hair styles are religious). There are general rules that can be found without religion being the determining factor ( like the small knife example you cited).
                Quebec is generally more progressive than libertarian and also more political then the ROC. We will see how it works out but if we speak of things overblown it certainly has been the reaction to what is nothing more an incentive for discussion (a “trail balloon”). I would like to see see the details of the bill when presented.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 26, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

                Sikh RCMP officers wear turbans.

              • Boris Molotov
                Posted August 26, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

                So did Sikh volunteers of the Wehrmacht but did they wear spaghetti strainers? :)

  45. BillyJoe
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    I have no hesitation on this one.

    The burqa should be banned in as many places as we can successfully do so. As time passes, the places where it can be worn will gradually contract further and further until eventually Muslim woman will be allowed to wear it only in the privacy of their own homes. In the fullness of time, they will abandon the ridiculous thing altogether because it will become acceptable for them to do so.

    We owe it to these woman to take this stand.
    We especially owe it to these women’s daughters, and their daughter’s daughters.

    To do nothing is to a accept this misogynous practice into the future to affect women not yet born.

    Enough.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 24, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

      So why stop at burqas? Why not also ban the hijab? And headscarves? Aren’t they also a misogynistic tool of female oppression? And why only Muslims? What about the head coverings and frumpy dresses worn by Amish and Mennonite women? And Catholic nun’s habits? Why don’t you want to to ban them too?

      For that matter, what about non-religious oppression? Many feminists argue that lipstick, eyeliner, high-heeled shoes, short skirts, low-cut dresses, breast enhancement etc. promote the sexual objectification of women for the gratification of men, and retard gender equality. So why not ban those things too?

      • BillyJoe
        Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

        The Slippery Slope Argument is a logical fallacy.

        To ban the burqa (I’m suggesting by degrees over time) and to ban say, FGM, does not logically extend to banning the headscarf or the removal of say, large unsightly vulva.

        If you agree that the burqa and FGM are outstandingly unacceptable ways to treat women, then fight that battle (by degrees over time).

        Just because you worry about lying in a court of law doesn’t mean you want to fight a battle against the white lies people tell each other.

        The slippery slope argument is a false argument – a way to avoid having to take action on any matter whatsoever; or a way to prevent others from doing so.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t make a slippery slope argument. I asked you why you don’t also propose to ban other forms of dress and adornment that promote the oppression and objectification of women.

          • BillyJoe
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:30 am | Permalink

            I hope you liked the answer.

    • Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      The burqa is never worn in the privacy of their own homes. It is only worn when a woman goes outside of the home.

      • BillyJoe
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Good. Then it makes the task easier.

  46. lisa parker
    Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Okay, this is my ‘If I Ruled the World’ scenario. In privacy, no one should have the right to dictate any adult’s manner of dress. In a privately owned business, anyone entering the premises should be required to abide by the business’ code (eg men must wear a coat and tie, etc) as long as it stipulates that the clothing and not the person is disallowed. In any fully public place (street, park, beach) people should wear anything or nothing as they choose. (keeping in mind that this right is about clothing and not behavior.) If you can’t deal with the way someone is dressed, don’t look at them. Where safety is a concern, the government and private businesses should have the right to restrict or require some wearing apparel (hard hats, eye protection, etc.) If someone is operating most any kind of machinery, including driving a car, governments and businesses should be able to disallow any clothing that restricts vision, hearing or body movements. In cases of security, governments and businesses should be able to determine when facial recognition is necessary (picture ID’s and such.) Any business should be able to restrict face coverings (as they can require shirts and shoes) if it is reasonably posted at the entrances. This should extend to public places with legal surveillance tech (ATM’s, parking garages, etc.) In a court of law anyone going before the bench (defendant, plaintiff, witness, etc) should be REQUIRED to remove any facial covering.
    As for the other issues here, there have been many times that I would have happily skipped the make-up, hair styling and uncomfortable undergarments, thrown a burqa over myself and toddled off to work. I might have been on time more often. And doesn’t anyone but me and craig gosling see this as an incredible insult to men? Can a man not look upon a woman’s cheek or ear and be able to resist throwing her to the ground and having his way with her? It seems to me that any government, religion or any group that insists that a woman be covered is proclaiming that its men are weak-willed and uncontrollable and have only the most basic instincts of survival and procreation.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      And doesn’t anyone but me and craig gosling see this as an incredible insult to men? Can a man not look upon a woman’s cheek or ear and be able to resist throwing her to the ground and having his way with her? It seems to me that any government, religion or any group that insists that a woman be covered is proclaiming that its men are weak-willed and uncontrollable and have only the most basic instincts of survival and procreation.

      I agree. I wrote elsewhere that the burqa is a sign of male insecurity and sexual jealousy.

      The burqa is a strategy for dealing with temptations that throws responsibility from requiring the individual to develop the inner strength to resist temptations and exercise self restraint, and instead places the burden on the entire world to cloak and bury any temptations from sight. This eliminates the need to develop inner strength. It weakens men so that the slightest exposure, inadvertant or not, is a troubling dilemma, as opposed to something that can be ignored as the natural and inconsequential occurrence that it is.

      • lisa parker
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:30 am | Permalink

        Agreed. But it is still a tempting strategy for bad hair days.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 5:31 am | Permalink

          That’s what the hijab is for…

          • lisa parker
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

            It certainly makes a lot more sense to use all of these types of garments than claims of modesty and safety.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

          Ha ha – there was a successful comedy series in Canada called Little Mosque on the Prairie and in one episode the doctor who wears a hijab talks about how she can tell another woman wearing a hijab had a bad haircut.

          • lisa parker
            Posted August 26, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

            I have seen a couple of episodes; I think a program like it (lighthearted and playful with absolutely no babies devoured) could really help the Western world adjust to the spreading of Islam. I enjoyed them but I am wondering how the general public and sponsorship will handle it long term – if it survives long term.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 26, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

              The series is over now. It’s funny as most liked it but some, Tarek Fatah for example, thought it was dishonest. I thought it was fine.

              They showed it in Israel & Palestine. Israelis found it funny but not Palestinians but I think that was more a cultural thing in getting Western humour.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        Indeed and the wearers are told this to be the case. I recall Ayaan Hirsi Ali saying in her book, Infidel, how when she didn’t wear a head scarf in the Netherlands she was surprised that no one took notice and nothing happened to her.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      A business that refuses to serve a customer because of her religious attire is likely in violation of federal civil rights law. And probably state and local law too.

      And the business can’t get around the law through semantic games like claiming “the clothing and not the person is disallowed” or by posting the policy at the entrance. It’s still unlawful religious discrimination.

      • lisa parker
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:40 am | Permalink

        I think a case could be made that a business should be allowed to insist upon a minimal dress code. If one can stipulate that some types of clothing are mandatory (such as shirts, shoes, coats, ties, skirts, sleeves) and other types are forbidden (as bathing suits, flip-flops, shorts) there should be no accusation of religious discrimination. None of these policies are perceived as religious matters (as far as I know, anyway, and they should not be) and there are multitudinous legal precedent that can be brought into play. I think it would stand up in the courts.
        Besides, I don’t rule the world, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

          I think a case could be made that a business should be allowed to insist upon a minimal dress code.

          A business is allowed to insist on a minimal dress code (“No shirt, No shoes, No service”). That doesn’t mean it has unlimited freedom to exclude customers on the basis of what they’re wearing. In particular, it cannot exclude people simply on the basis of their religious clothing. That’s a violation of federal and state law.

          Here’s an example of unlawful religious discrimination on the basis of attire given on the Department of Justice website:

          Three Buddhist monks go out to a restaurant wearing robes, but the proprietor says “we don’t allow religious clothes in here. Come back when you are dressed normally.”

          • lisa parker
            Posted August 26, 2013 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

            I do not believe that the issue of wearing religious garments should ever be dictated by law or custom. In fact I don’t believe the issue of any clothing should be banned from general public places. I do believe that both government and business should be allowed to restrict anyone from wearing any kind of covering that could pose a danger to the public and in most cases the wearer (because this could endanger someone-firemen, police, etc-who would feel obliged to save them should their apparel actually bring them to grief.) A government should not only be allowed to restrict such clothing, I believe they have the obligation to protect its citizens. This has nothing to do with any religion and everything to do with public safety. As for businesses that enforce arbitrary dress codes, that is much more of a sticky wicket. Where do the rights of a private business end and discrimination begin? I have recently returned from a long week-end in Mexico with a female friend. We were not allowed to dine in the resort’s up-scale restaurant because although we were modestly dressed (in most Western cultures, anyway), we were wearing sandals. This restriction only applied to females. Males were not allowed without a coat and tie. Was this discrimination, especially as the genders were not equally restricted, or was it local custom and/or the restaurant’s desire to meet the business’s concept of ‘fine dining’? I don’t know. But I will keep a pair of ‘sensible’ pumps around.

            • Filippo
              Posted September 3, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

              “But I will keep a pair of ‘sensible’ pumps around.”

              Would the Mexicans allow the wimminfolk to wear cowgirl boots with evening dresses?

              • lisa parker
                Posted September 4, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

                Any footwear but sandals. It reminds me of a tale of long ago. When I was first going to collage, a friend of mine had a professor who had just returned from a vacation in Mexico. While she was in a relatively large city, she was arrested for wearing red shoes. When she was brought before the judge, she asked him about the nature of her crime. She was told that in that area, since time began, prostitutes ‘advertized’ themselves by wearing red shoes so no ‘decent’ woman would be accidentally accosted. She had been arrested for ‘working’ without a license. The professor asked the amount of the fine and was told it was $5 American. After a pause she asked for the price for the license and was told it was $2, so she bought the license instead of paying the fine. She had it framed and it hangs on her office wall with all of her other credentials. So I make certain my sensible pumps are not red.

              • SA Gould
                Posted September 4, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

                The red shoe fine?
                OK, that was a *great* story!

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted September 4, 2013 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

                +1

                Magnificent!

          • Gary W
            Posted August 26, 2013 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

            I do believe that both government and business should be allowed to restrict anyone from wearing any kind of covering that could pose a danger to the public and in most cases the wearer

            I don’t know that’s supposed to mean with respect to the issue in dispute here. Are you saying you think the government should be allowed to ban women from wearing burqas in public because wearing burqas is dangerous? Or what?

            As for businesses that enforce arbitrary dress codes, that is much more of a sticky wicket. Where do the rights of a private business end and discrimination begin?

            With respect to religious discrimination, I gave you an example from the Justice Department. A private business does not have the right to discriminate against a customer on account of his or her religious clothing, unless the business has some kind of compelling interest that is sufficient to override the right of the customer to practise his or her religion. The mere fact that a business owner disagrees with a religious practice or finds it offensive is not a good enough reason to allow him to discriminate. This has been the law in the United States for 50 years.

            • lisa parker
              Posted August 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

              I very purposely referred to any and all clothing that is judged as unsafe. Any kind of head gear that restricts visual or aural ability would greatly affect workers’ ability to safely operate machinery, drive vehicles, work on some types assembly lines or places where excessive fabric or jewelry could be caught up in the machinery or if it is uncommonly flammable. It would also make the attention of the workers slow to react to changes in their environment: alarms, announcement of impending dangers/evacuation and other such things that could result in unsafe working conditions.
              In other contexts, using restaurants as an example, some clothing could restrict a wearer’s ability to eat or drink using expected Westerns table manners. These are not dealing with religion, but with public safety. I do not believe religious freedom should be allowed to override safety laws.

              • Posted August 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                “using restaurants as an example, some clothing could restrict a wearer’s ability to eat or drink using expected Westerns table manners. These are not dealing with religion, but with public safety.”

                In what way could failing to adhere to your provincial standards of eating habits remotely be classed as a safety issue?

                And I presume you’re also against the wearing of high-heeled shoes, especially those with an insanely impractical spike on the end. And those ridiculously over-the-top meringue dresses that are frequently worn at weddings are a hazard around naked flames. And how unsafe is it to wear a skirt on the top floor of a bus? Somebody might see your knickers!

                So in your book we will all have to wear practical, sturdy trousers and shirts, preferably with no loops, buckles and buttons which may catch on things and cause snags. Come to think of it, perhaps we ought all to be made to wear onesies at all times.

            • Gary W
              Posted August 27, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

              Any kind of head gear that restricts visual or aural ability would greatly affect workers’ ability to safely operate machinery, drive vehicles, work on some types assembly lines or places where excessive fabric or jewelry could be caught up in the machinery or if it is uncommonly flammable. It would also make the attention of the workers slow to react to changes in their environment: alarms, announcement of impending dangers/evacuation and other such things that could result in unsafe working conditions.

              That’s certainly not true. Headgear that only slightly restricts visual or aural ability would not “greatly” affect workers’ safety, etc. People frequently wear headgear while driving and operating machinery that restricts their vision or hearing to some degree — hats, sunglasses, ipods, etc. In a noisy environment, they may also wear earplugs or ear muffs to reduce their exposure to noise.

              In circumstances in which wearing a burqa would pose a genuine and substantial safety risk to a worker, there may be justification for banning it. But as far as I can see, such circumstances are rare. This really has nothing to do with a general ban on wearing burqas in public spaces like streets and sidewalks and parks, or in private businesses like bars, stores, restaurants, offices, etc.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:05 am | Permalink

      “doesn’t anyone but me and craig gosling see this as an incredible insult to men?”

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:15 am | Permalink

      [Damn clicked the wrong button. Try again.]

      “doesn’t anyone but me and craig gosling see this as an incredible insult to men?”

      I think most of us see it and just ignore it. We’re atheists, we’re used to being insulted by religiosos. ;)
      If I did take cognisance of it, I’d say so what? Look who’s doing the insulting. The religious have zero credibility as far as I’m concerned. They can threaten me with Hell and I don’t care. And anyway, for the purposes of the current argument our potential hurt feelings don’t really rate compared with the women who have to wear the damn things.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:22 am | Permalink

      In cases of security, governments and businesses should be able to determine when facial recognition is necessary (picture ID’s and such.)

      If the government or business cannot show that a ban on burqa-wearing is rationally justified by security concerns, then the ban is not likely to survive a legal challenge. I doubt that a ban on burqa-wearing in banks would pass this test. The claim that the ban is justified because of the need for facial recognition for security is weak given that the practise of wearing burqas for criminal purposes seems to be rare, and that there are other ways of defeating facial recognition that are not banned and that could be used instead of wearing a burqa. Simply wearing a large pair of eyeglasses or a fake beard, for example.

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:38 am | Permalink

        the practise of wearing burqas for criminal purposes seems to be rare

        You have no evidence for this. If you google it, it seems to be quite common.

        But you are, not surprisingly, missing the point.

        It is not the burka, or modest Muslim attire covering the hair and body that is the issue. Such attire would be welcome. It is covering the face that is the problem, and covering the face in any number of ways is extremely common in robberies.

        So you are simply wrong to say that this is discrimination based on religion. It is merely an objection to anyone regardless of their religious beliefs covering their face in any manner and for any reason.

        I find covering the face to be terribly offensive, in addition to it being a common way of avoiding accountability for criminal actions.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:09 am | Permalink

          You have no evidence for this. If you google it, it seems to be quite common.

          The evidence is the lack of police and media reports. Please substantiate your claim that wearing burqas for criminal purposes is “quite common.” In 2011, there were about 5,000 robberies of financial institutions alone. In how many of those 5,000 robberies did the robber wear a burqa?

          It is covering the face that is the problem, and covering the face in any number of ways is extremely common in robberies.

          The issue is the practice of wearing a burqa. If wearing a burqa during robberies is rare, then a ban on wearing burqas isn’t likely to have much effect on the number of robberies. And since other methods of concealing one’s face can be used instead of wearing a burqa, a ban is even less likely to be effective. In fact, I doubt it would prevent even a single robbery. That means the ban would simply be a pointless denial of religious freedom.

          • lisa parker
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:54 am | Permalink

            My comments were never burqa specific. I referred to face coverings of any type.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 6:05 am | Permalink

            The issue is the practice of wearing a burqa.

            This is a typical move. When there are arguments you can’t answer, you wiggle your way out by defining the argument you think you can win, and carefully stepping over and around the points that you can’t argue against.

            I’ve posted several times saying I don’t think you can generally ban burkas, yet you have persisted in arguing as if this is what I’m saying.

            I have pointed out that there are other problems, unrelated to any kind of religious objection to Islam or burkas, that are of a more practical nature, which would justify permitting business owners to refuse service to people with their face covered, which would include but not be limited to burkas.

            For this argument I have been making, which is not for a general ban on burkas, it is in fact covering the face that is the issue.

            By your reasoning, when you assert without proof that wearing burkas in crimes is rare, a business owner would have to determine what kinds of face coverings are most often used in robberies, and then itemize those particular face coverings but exclude others from a list of what may not be worn into, for example.

            You’ve backed yourself into an absurd corner.

            If any kind of face covering is frequently used in robberies, then it seems reasonable to permit business owners to stop any kind of face covering from being worn. If you leave an exception for burkas, then they will become the favorite choice of robbers because it would give them an extra advantage. Right now we don’t have any trouble being immediately suspicious of someone walking into a bank with panty hose on his head. If someone asserted that their religion required them to wear panty hose on their head, even while in the bank, they would probably not find law enforcement, bank security, and other bank staff very sympathetic and willing to simply ignore the fact that they are wearing panty hose on their head in the bank. Substituting a burka would be a natural choice then, especially if banks were forced by the dictates of law passed by well-meaning but somewhat soft-headed religious apologists to force them to permit burkas in the bank.

            You keep asserting without proof that it is rare to use burkas in crimes. I’ve provided several links in this post that describe cases where burkas were used in crimes. So it is at least a real phenomenon, and there is nothing to stop it from spreading and growing, especially if sentimental arguments prevail regarding religious justifications for wearing disguises.

            So what are the actual numbers for frequency of this phenomenon, since your argument seems to almost entirely hinge upon that point?

          • Gary W
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

            I’ve posted several times saying I don’t think you can generally ban burkas, yet you have persisted in arguing as if this is what I’m saying.

            You wrote that you think it’s “reasonable” to ban face coverings in “public spaces such as parks,” as well as in private businesses. What exactly is the difference supposed to be between banning burkas in public and private spaces and a “general ban?”

            Your position that private businesses should be permitted to discriminate against people on the basis of their religious attire (“no shoes, not shirt, no burqas”) is contradicted by federal and state civil rights laws. Your position that it’s “reasonable” to ban religious attire in “public spaces such as parks” is contradicted by constitutional law.

            For this argument I have been making, which is not for a general ban on burkas, it is in fact covering the face that is the issue.

            What compelling interest do you claim the state has for a ban on covering the face “in public spaces such as parks?”

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

              What exactly is the difference supposed to be between banning burkas in public and private spaces and a “general ban?”

              Are you deliberately so obtuse, or do you just not think very hard?

              If businesses have the option to ban or not ban people from covering their faces, some businesses would want to encourage burkas as a strategy to gain business, or because the business owner is Muslim perhaps.

              Presumably then women could leave their houses wearing the burqa, enter burqa friendly businesses, and then return home by walking on the sidewalk or driving a car, if their husband will let them.

              Under a genearal ban, say a federal ban or statewide ban, presumbly it would not be possible to go anywhere at all in a burqa.

              I’m kind of amazed to have to explain that. Were you really unable to think this out, or were just being perverse and antagonistic?

              As for parks, say Central Park in New York where large crowds may gather, a burqa might be a way to smuggle in weapons or other dangerous items.

              As we have seen from the news reports I linked to, the burqa has become a common cover for suicide bombers. You argue that this doesn’t happen in the US, but you are not logically proving this would not happen if burqas became common attire across the country. Obviously it doesn’t happen now because burqas are rare. There is no logic that proceeds from here to implying that burqas could not be such a threat to the public if they became more common in the US.

              These seem like pretty good reasons to me to preemptively stop them from becoming common.

            • Gary W
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

              I’m kind of amazed to have to explain that.

              You have to explain it because your numerous conflicting statements are so confused. I still have no idea how you think your policy differs significantly from a general ban. You proposed banning burqas in “public places such as parks.” Streets are public places. Sidewalks are public places. Parks are public places. Squares and plazas are public places. Malls and shopping centers are public places. Buses and trains are public places. Government buildings are public places. Banning women from wearing burkas in public places is effectively a general ban.

              And for the umpeenth time I ask: What compelling interest do you claim the state has for such a ban?

              As for parks, say Central Park in New York where large crowds may gather, a burqa might be a way to smuggle in weapons or other dangerous items.

              Hilarious. Any kind of clothing or bags could be used to smuggle in weapons or other dangerous items. A handgun can be strapped to an ankle or kept in the waistband of a pair of pants. An assault rifle or grenade can be concealed under a winter coat. A small vial of poison could be hidden anywhere on someone’s person. So why are you picking on Muslim women wearing burqas?

          • Gary W
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

            If any kind of face covering is frequently used in robberies, then it seems reasonable to permit business owners to stop any kind of face covering from being worn.

            No it doesn’t. As I and others have repeatedly explained, facial recognition can be defeated in other ways besides covering the face. Wigs, eyeglasses, makeup, fake beards and mustaches, tattoos, jewelry, piercings, latex facial prosthetics, etc. can all be used to drastically alter facial appearance. Are you proposing to ban all those things too?

            You keep asserting without proof that it is rare to use burkas in crimes. I’ve provided several links in this post that describe cases where burkas were used in crimes.

            As I already told you, the evidence is the lack of police and media reports. Your links in the other post describe a few incidents where burkas were used in crimes in other countries. We’re not talking about other countries. We’re talking about your proposal to ban the wearing on burkas in banks and other public and private spaces in the United States. Where is your evidence that the use of burqas in crimes is a significant problem in the United States?

            If you cannot produce evidence that this is a significant problem, you have no basis for claiming that a ban on wearing burkas would have a significant impact on crime. Even if you could produce such evidence, your argument still wouldn’t make sense, because other methods could be (and are) used by criminals to defeat facial identification anyway. Instead of wearing a burqa, a bank robber could simply put on big glasses and a fake beard.

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

              That is why I said that businesses should be allowed to require that patrons uncover their face, whether they are taking off a niqab, a burka, or a fake beard and glasses.

              Obviously a very skillful fake beard and glasses could go undetected, but that could be a violation of law, subject to additional prosecution in the event the crimiinal is apprehended after commiting a robbery or other offense.

              Just because a skillful expert of disguise might fool somebody with a beard and glasses is no reason to force businesses to allow people to enter with easily detectable headware such as gaudy Nixon masks, panty hose, or burkas covering their faces.

              And surely you can stretch your imagination to understand that what happens in other countries today could easily become a problem in the US tomorrow, especially if wearing burqas became a widespread common feature of American life. It’s really hard to imagine you could think that because something hasn’t happened a lot in the US now is a valid argument for why we should allow it to happen in the future by encouraging the wearing of burqas.

            • Gary W
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

              That is why I said that businesses should be allowed to require that patrons uncover their face, whether they are taking off a niqab, a burka, or a fake beard and glasses.

              But businesses do not require that. I’ve never heard of a bank, bar, store, hotel, etc. that requires its customers to remove their eyeglasses, contact lenses, makeup, wigs, piercings, fake beards, etc. when they enter the premises. And such a requirement would be very hard to enforce anyway. So even if you were able to trample on women’s religious rights and force them not to wear burqas in public, they would still be able to conceal or disguise their facial appearance anyway. Celebrities do it all the time, because they don’t want to be recognized in public. Criminals also do it, to prevent themselves from being identified by witnesses or video cameras. So your security argument doesn’t make any sense. It’s just a pretext for your real motive, which is to deny Muslim women the right to practice their religion.

              And surely you can stretch your imagination to understand that what happens in other countries today could easily become a problem in the US tomorrow

              You haven’t produced any evidence that it’s common even in other countries, let alone the U.S. A handful of reports of burqa-wearing criminals in three countries is not “common.” So not only would your supposed solution not work, you haven’t even demonstrated that there’s a problem that needs to be solved.

              • Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

                There are plenty of businesses (e.g. filling stations) that ban people from wearing a motor helmet, so why not a burqa/niqab?

              • Gary W
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

                Because banning a burqa/niqab would be a violation of religious freedom.

                Why do gas stations ban people from wearing motor helmets?

        • Gary W
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:31 am | Permalink

          So you are simply wrong to say that this is discrimination based on religion. It is merely an objection to anyone regardless of their religious beliefs covering their face in any manner and for any reason.

          I seriously doubt that you object to people “covering their face in any manner and for any reason.” Scuba divers? Coal miners? People wearing Halloween costumes? People with sleep apnea wearing breathing machines?

          In any case, people’s rights do not depend on what you personally object to or find offensive. What compelling interest does the state have for a general ban on the wearing of burqas?

          • lisa parker
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:11 am | Permalink

            I specifically said that banning or insisting on any type of clothing in public places should not be allowed, unless there was a safety issue. I also said that businesses and government should be able to require that safety equipment be worn when there is any danger of physical injury,

            • Gary W
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

              My comment that you’re replying to here was a response to Jeff Johnson, not you.

              • lisa parker
                Posted August 26, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

                Oh. Sorry.

          • Boris Molotov
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:13 am | Permalink

            If face coverings in court is allowed, the rule would apply to all and I don’t see an issue. I do have a problem making exceptions for certain beliefs for certain sects though.
            I won’t comment on the merits but if there is no such a ban, I think I would be more comfortable covering my face in court as well ( my entire body actually) so that I can have the same privilege be judged anonymity. Equal rights are more important then an individual’s right to feel special.

  47. Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    My view is that anybody ought to be able to go about in public with their face obscured, if they so wish. To demand that you show your face at all times conflicts with the right of political protesters to demonstrate anonymously, which I believe (in a state which oppresses its opponents) is a necessary right for a person to have. Should the wearing of masks in public be banned?

    But “obviously” in banks and courts it should be necessary to show the face. Not sure about schools, those are social jungles of their own and there is so much wrong with the school system I can’t even begin to think about it.

    Oh, and as for the suggestion that the burqa is a religiously-required garment, no it’s not. There’s nothing in the koran about its wearing – it is entirely tribal-cultural. Conflating it with religious freedom is a piece of political disingenuity which needs to be resisted.

    • Boris Molotov
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:41 am | Permalink

      Not in Canada. It is illegal to protest with your face covered. The government introduced this law during the time of student protests in Montreal when police were not able to identify vandals and perpetrators of other crimes.

      http://bit.ly/14KaLJp

      • Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:08 am | Permalink

        Same in Germany. We have a “Vermummungsverbot” which prevents individuals from hiding their identity when in a public demonstration. Wikipedia tells me it’s the same in Austria, some parts of Switzerland, and that Italy has such a Verbot even for any movement in public.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

          Again, the German word is waaaay cooler than the English one! ;)

      • Gary W
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        Not in Canada. It is illegal to protest with your face covered.

        From the report:

        “Exceptions can be made if someone can prove they have a ‘lawful excuse’ for covering their face such as religious or medical reasons.”

        Also, the report says the ban applies to “a riot or unlawful assembly.” So presumably, covering your face during a lawful protest is not illegal, even if you don’t have a religious or medical reason.

        • Boris Molotov
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          Define “religious”

        • Boris Molotov
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

          Anyway, that’s why everything is wrong with this exception. My religious colleagues at a protest have the privilege to cover but I do not because I am no religious or of there religion. Could there anything be more bigoted?
          Freedom of religion should never trump equal rights.

          • Boris Molotov
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

            …not religious or of their religion.. Doh!

          • Gary W
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

            Good luck making your case before the court, counselor.

    • Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:39 am | Permalink

      “Oh, and as for the suggestion that the burqa is a religiously-required garment, no it’s not.”

      Tell that to the mutaween.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      Suggesting that religion isn’t involved in a practice because that practice doesn’t appear in a particular “holy” book doesn’t wash. No religion is limited solely to what appears in one of its documents.

  48. Posted August 25, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Why do people keep mixing up the burqa and the hijab? Ban bothm as far as I am concerned, but at least get the name right.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      I haven’t noticed this being mixed up. Give an example. I think people know the difference between the two.

      I don’t like the hijab either, but I don’t think it should be banned. Head scarves aren’t so unusual, and they don’t cause any more trouble than hats do.

      It is covering the face that bothers me.

      • Posted August 25, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        You do know what a Niqab is? It covers the whole face with a slit for the eyes. The Burqa has a gauze for the eyes. The Hijab is only a scarf all the way around.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          Of course I know what the hijab, the niqab, the burqa, and also the chadoor, and the abayah are.

          I didn’t ask you to tell me what I already knew. You implied that people posting here were confusing these things. I asked you to point out an example that gave you that impression, because I haven’t noticed one post that confused one of these articlles of clothing for the other.

          • Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

            The motivation for (rightly) publishing this piece now is a legal case in the UK. That case is about a woman who wanted to wear a niqab in court, not a burqa, but I see the word burqa in many reports and also repeatedly in this debate. As I pointed out: in London and Amsterdam I have often seen niqabs, but never a burqa. SO why is this debate about burqas, which are never seen outside Afghanistan?

            • gbjames
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

              Sorry to say it this way, mdcleaver, but you seem to be being intentionally obtuse. The article linked to by Jerry has the word “burqa” in the title. The French law discussed as background includes banning burqas.

              Burqas are the most extreme form of oppressive clothing mandated by followers of the Religion of Peace™ and using “burqa” as shorthand while discussing this problem is entirely reasonable, whatever your observations in Amsterdam might be.

            • Ben
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

              And just for the record, I last saw a burqa – yes, a burqa – when I was at a medical clinic in Montreal. They do exist outside Afghanistan.

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

              I think this debate is about burqa because the Guardian article made a mistake in its reporting.

              But I don’t think there is any substantial difference conceptually or functionally between the burqa and niqab. They both cover everything, though the eyes are more visible with the niqab.

              I suppose the niqab is more adaptable if a woman were required to show her face under certain circumstances. It would be easier to lower and raise. Such flexibility would be tougher with the burqa.

  49. JerryS
    Posted August 25, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    What if her reiigeon required her to appear in court topless. How would the judge rule?

  50. Posted August 25, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Strangely heated debate here… when it isn’t even clear what we’re talking about. The only plainly veiling garb I have ever seen in London or Amsterdam is the Niqab. I favour banning it for many reasons. But I have NEVER seen a Burqa except on photos from Afghanistan. Why do the words get mixed up?

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Who mixed up burqa and niqab? I haven’t noticed this. Again, give an example. I think people know the difference.

      • Posted August 25, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        On another post I did mix up Niqab and Hijab (I’d tried to post three times. ;-) But all these garments can be ways to pressure women to comply. But the Burqa is NOT what the court case in England was about – it was a Niqab.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

          Here is the article Jerry linked to.

          It clearly says the woman was wearing a burqa. Are you saying this article is wrong?

          • Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            Yes, it was a niqab. Some press reports wrongly called it a burqa too. Have you ever seen a woman wearing a burqa in the west? Or was it a niqab? I see niqabs almost daily in Amsterdam (albeit only a handful and usually worn by western converts – work that one out!)

            • gbjames
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

              mdcleaver: From BBC news, two days ago.

              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-23814711

              Now, can we get back to the main point of the original post? You know… the balance between personal freedom and the ability of people in secular societies to demand visibility between citizens?

              • Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

                Look at the photos. It was a niqab. I repeat my question – has anybody ever seen a burqa outside Afghanistan or Abfab? ;-)

              • Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

                I see them daily in Geneva, Switzerland (where I live). They are mostly tourists from the Gulf countries. I have never seen a woman wear a chador (the Afghan version with the pleats and embroidery, and lace-like area in front of the eyes so that they can see) outside of Afghanistan and in the North Western Frontier area of Pakistan, as well as Peshawar.

              • Ben
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

                mdcleaver, as I posted earlier, yes, I saw one just a few months in Montreal. I have no idea why you think that doesn’t happen, but then I have no idea why you think it is a crucial distinction, either.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

                mdcleaver: The link I provided has no photos. At least none that appear on my web browser. It does, however, have a headline. Did you read it?

                Why is this such an important issue? It seems entirely irrelevant to the issue.

              • Gary W
                Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

                the ability of people in secular societies to demand visibility between citizens?

                People in secular societies cannot “demand visibility between citizens.” Except in rare and narrow circumstances, you can’t demand that someone else makes herself visible to you. And you’re grossly misstating the issue, anyway. It’s not about visibility between citizens in some general sense, but about the visibility of faces specifically. And as I have already pointed out to you, there is no general right for a citizen to demand that another citizen make her face visible. People are free to conceal and disguise their faces in public in all sorts of ways. And they often do just that. You keep alluding to a supposed right to see people’s faces that does not exist.

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

              Ah. Now I understand. So you meant to ask why is the UK media confusing burqa with niqab and hijab.

              I got the impression you were talking about people posting on this thread. I think you worded it in a way that could easily imply that.

              You are right, here is an example:

              http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/beyond-the-veil-londons-burka-wearers-go-on-the-defensive-6532864.html

              This woman is wearing abayah and niqab, not a burqa. So the confusion here comes from the confusion in the media report.

              You are correct that the burqa is from and mostly worn in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Amazingly, a group of Haredi Jewish women in Israel have adopted the burqa, according to the Wikipedia article.

              I haven’t actually seen a woman wearing a burqa in the US. There is a large Afghan community in Fremont, CA, and I haven’t heard of or seen burqas in use there. I have seen women wearing niqab in San Francisco, but they are not common. Even hijab is not very common there.

            • Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

              Saudis wear niqabs, not burqas. I have seen plenty of Saudi ones in Harrods. And in Amsterdam, but here the body underneath is usually pure white Dutch – converted to Wahhabi Islam and probably nutty as a fruitcake.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Did you read the original post? I don’t think anyone is confused about what a burqa body bag is.

      • Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        The original post was about a different case – reposted now, but hence inaccurate as to the garment. Gordon Bennett – ban ‘em both, but get the name right! :-)

      • lisa parker
        Posted August 26, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        But the fabric, color and embellishments are very pretty.

  51. Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m inclined to think the Egyptian press is more knowledgeable about what the garment was! http://www.onislam.net/english/news/europe/464182-uk-court-rules-woman-must-remove-niqab.html :-)

  52. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I often like to get Tarek Fatah’s take on these things. Here is his reaction to an angry reaction from some Muslims when Canada banned burqas and niqabs when taking the oath of citizenship.

    He decries feminists who see the burqa and niqab as an expression of feminism and calls the niqab a “medieval monstrosity”;I tend to agree.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Canada has banned clothing that covers the face during the oath of citizenship ceremony, but that it a very rare and short event. As far as I’m aware, Canada has no general ban on wearing burqas or niqabs. If the Canadian Parliament was foolish enough to try and enact such a ban, I doubt it would survive a constitutional challenge. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lists freedom of religion as one of its “fundamental freedoms.”

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        Yes you’re right. I posted this for some of the other remarks Tarek Fatah makes which are relevant to these discussions.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

          I agree with him that the idea that wearing these garments is an act of feminism is ludicrous. But he also seems to say (his language is somewhat vague) that wearing the niqab is not a matter of freedom of religion either. I think he’s completely wrong about that, and that the Canadian courts would reject his claim too.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            Well, it never came before the courts and therefore Canada never banned the burqa or the niqab & I suspect it won’t if it ever does come before the courts. They may only limit it as they did in taking the citizenship oath.

            Oddly, they didn’t for elections where you show ID but I think that is because it was Elections Canada.

  53. Robert Secatore
    Posted August 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Food for thought for attys.

    Sent from my iPhone

  54. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    In thinking a lot about this issue (because I remember I had a naive “let them be” attitude when I was in my 20s about oppressed Islamic women and I feel ashamed of that naive attitude and I don’t want to make that mistake again) I think my sub conscious led me to serendipitously find a collection of Margaret Atwood poems on my bookshelf when I was actually looking for a history book on The Enlightenment. I opened it up and had put a bunch of notes on a poem called A Woman’s Issue that I had made when I was in my 20s with those naive ideas. What was I thinking? I should’ve read this poem more closely! I reproduce it below because poetry sometimes has a way of making us see things differently:

    The woman in the spiked device
    that locks around the waist and between
    the legs, with holes in it like a tea strainer
    is Exhibit A.

    The woman in black with a net window
    to see through and a four-inch
    wooden peg jammed up
    between her legs so she can’t be raped
    is Exhibit B.

    Exhibit C is the young girl
    dragged into the bush by midwives
    and made to sing while they scrape the flesh
    from between her legs, then tie her thighs
    till she scabs over and is called healed.
    Now she can be married.
    For each childbirth they’ll cut her
    open, then sew her up.
    Men like tight women.
    The ones that die are carefully buried.

    The next exhibit lies flat on her back
    while eighty men a night
    move through her, ten an hour.
    She looks at the ceiling, listens
    to the door open and close.
    A bell keeps ringing.
    Nobody knows how she got here.

    You’ll notice that what they have in common
    is between the legs. Is this
    why wars are fought?
    Enemy territory, no man’s
    land, to be entered furtively,
    fenced, owned but never surely,
    scene of these desperate forays
    at midnight, captures
    and sticky murders, doctors’ rubber gloves
    greasy with blood, flesh made inert, the surge
    of your own uneasy power.

    This is no museum.
    Who invented the word love?

  55. acitta
    Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    It bothers me that a government would think that it has the right to regulate what a person wears in public. The courtroom is a special case. In Canada there was a case where the accuser was a niqab wearing woman. It was ruled that the right of an accused to face his accuser trumped the right of the woman to wear her headgear of choice. In another case in Ontario, a young woman decided on a hot and humid day that she could go topless just like the men. It went to the Supreme Court of Ontario and the ruling was that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gave equality to men and woman and that the law could not discriminate against a woman by prohibiting her from doing what was legal for men. So in Canada, at least, you will never see the kind of law that the French instituted.

  56. JBlilie
    Posted August 26, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    I recently noted a fully veiled woman at ym son’s school. I complained to the principal and got a call back. They will not prohibit veils; but they will positively ID any individual before allowing them in the school.

    Elswhere in our city, burkas have been seen walking the halls of other public schools. The perfect disguise for an angry parent to bring in a gun under. I think they have now prohibited burkas.

    (Several kids have been murdered in recent years by angry dads.)

    • Gary W
      Posted August 26, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Elswhere in our city, burkas have been seen walking the halls of other public schools. The perfect disguise for an angry parent to bring in a gun under.

      A gun could be concealed under any ordinary clothing.

      I think they have now prohibited burkas.

      This seems unlikely. What city is it?

      • JBlilie
        Posted August 27, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        “A gun could be concealed under any ordinary clothing”

        Yes; but it’s much easier under a loose sack. And you wouldn’t even have to pull the gun out of the sack to use it effectively. And a burka would be particularly useful to such a shooter, since it completely conceals every feature of the shooter, except perhaps their feet/shoes. Much more effective concealment than even a ski mask.

        And our ridiculous PC attitude provides the shooter with a free pass!

        I think they have now prohibited burkas.

        This seems unlikely. What city is it?”

        St. Paul, Minnesota: Within schoools only. I’m not sure on that, as I noted.

      • Gary W
        Posted August 27, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        Yes; but it’s much easier under a loose sack.

        A burqa is not a “loose sack,” and it is no easier to conceal a handgun under a burqa than under ordinary clothing. And no easier to conceal a large firearm under a burqa than under a winter coat or other common form of baggy clothing. So using this as an excuse for banning burqas doesn’t work. There’s no rational relationship between such a ban and your profferred justification.

        St. Paul, Minnesota: Within schoools only. I’m not sure on that, as I noted.

        I did an extensive search and was unable to find any record of a ban on burqas in public schools in St. Paul or any other municipality in Minnesota. As I have explained elsewhere, it is very unlikely that such a ban would survive a legal challenge, because it is a plain violation of civil rights laws.

  57. Jeff Johnson
    Posted August 26, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I think this article by sociologist Daniel Little is relevent to a lot of the discussions in this thread.

    This is about Milton Friedman and his view of how market freedoms impact social justice, and in particular, in this article, racism.

    But we could substitute discrimination against women for racism.

    The gist of it is that Friedman makes very good abstract arguments for how freedom (among rational actors) leads to social justice, and that attempts to socially engineer justice backfire by interfering with the natural mechanisms of a free society.

    Little points out in the conclusion the difference between theory and practice, and how theories that contain rational actors (rather than actual human beings) so easily lead one to terribly wrong conclusions.

    The way things actually are differ quite a lot from how we think they are, or how we would like them to be, or how we think they ought to be. So I think the valorization of freedom as an absolute good is an abstraction and over-simplification that ignores the real ways in which free individual humans, because of their irrationalties and weaknesses, can trample one another’s freedoms, even at great costs to themselves and others, costs that no rational Friedmanite ideal being would ever want to incur.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 26, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      But you’ve been defending Friedman’s political philosophy on religious discrimination. You asserted that restaurants, bars, stores, etc. should be permitted to use their dress code to exclude people on the basis of their religious clothing (in plain contradiction to 50 years of civil rights laws). You also said that you think “public places such as parks” should be able to discriminate in this way too.

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted August 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        No, that is not what I’ve been arguing, and you saying so doesn’t make it so. But I’m quite accustomed to you failing to understand things.

        I’ve been arguing that there is justification in imposing dress codes, that there are situations when various practical concerns of businesses or the community override an individual’s right to assert what they believe to be their individual religious freedom.

        You have been arguing a pure unhindered right to wear the burqa under any circumstances, which is in line with Friedman’s approach of leaving individual choice to sort everything out.

        I’ve tried to reach a compromise that would still enable some freedom to wear the burka in public, i.e. not a total ban, but rather a state backed right of businesses and public facilities to use their discretion.

        Where there are strong interests in compelling people to show their face, and since the act of wearing a burqa is not an essential part of Islamic religious practice, I think applying a minimal amount of state power is justifiable and trumps the absolute assertion of individual freedom.

        The important point from the article I posted is that adhering strictly to an ideologically pure theoretical position of absolute freedom can lead to problems because individuals are not rational and don’t hesitate to infringe on one another’s freedoms when given a chance.

        For example, I don’t have any trouble believing many Muslim males might try to force wives, sisters, or daughters to wear the burqa when they don’t want to, under threat of violence. The burqa pre-dates Islam, and the argument that it is an important matter of religious freedom is weak, since most Muslims do fine without it.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 26, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

          No, that is not what I’ve been arguing, and you saying so doesn’t make it so.

          So when you wrote: “Businesses could elect to or not to add ‘No Burqas’ to that…it is merely a dress code,” that wasn’t really you, but an imposter pretending to be you, was it?

          The kind of exclusion you are advocating here is illegal. Businesses are not permitted to exclude people on the basis of religious clothing. It is a violation of long-standing federal anti-discrimination law.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 26, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

          You have been arguing a pure unhindered right to wear the burqa under any circumstances

          Utter nonsense. I said the exact opposite, in fact: “the state may have a compelling interest to require criminal suspects to expose their faces in police lineups or court proceedings.”

          That means a woman may be legally required to remove her burqa, or at least to lift the veil and expose her face, when she is standing in a police lineup or testifying in a court of law.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

          The burqa pre-dates Islam, and the argument that it is an important matter of religious freedom is weak, since most Muslims do fine without it.

          This is completely irrelevant. Laws against religious discrimination do not depend on how many people engage in the religious practice that is being discriminated against. The whole POINT of such laws is that they protect religious minorities as well as religious majorities. Indeed, anti-discrimination laws are particularly important for minorities because minorities are the groups most likely to be discriminated against.

      • Posted August 26, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        In the UK it is commonplace to be refused service because your clothing fails to match the standard imposed by the establishment. Such “door policies” include such things as: no hats (common in trendy restaurants and pubs), no trainers (common in nightclubs), no jeans (common at one point everywhere), formal dress only (Henley Festival, for example), no biker garb (occasionally), and so on. It sucks, but there you are.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      A bit late in replying; just got back from Alpha Centauri.

      I wonder what pearls of wisdom and hope Friedman would offer walking alongside a slave in the U.S. prior to 1865 picking cotton or chopping sugar cane?

  58. Posted August 26, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I submit a Muslim woman’s response to the debate around the French ban of burqas:

    community.feministing.com/2009/06/29/what_about_the_muslim_women_wh/

    Also take note of the opposition to the burqa of this Canadian Muslim group, back in 2009:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2009/10/08/canada-muslim-burka-niqb-ban-government.html

    I suggest that if we don’t take a stand against something that is as undesirable as Sharia law, then it at the very least is passive appeasement of this abomination against women.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      I suggest that if we don’t take a stand against something that is as undesirable as Sharia law

      No one here has expressed support for Sharia law. The issue is a civil law that would ban women from wearing a burqa in public. What compelling interest does the state have for such a law?


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