Thursday, October 13, 2005

Burqa Ban

The Netherlands is about to ban the burqa, thanks to the no-nonsense approach of their integration minister, Rita Verdonk:

Mrs Verdonk gave warning that the “time of cosy tea-drinking” with Muslim groups had passed and that natives and immigrants should have the courage to be critical of each other. She recently cancelled a meeting with Muslim leaders who refused to shake her hand because she was a woman.

The proposals are likely to win the support of Parliament because of the expected backing by right-wing parties. But they have caused outrage among Muslim and human rights groups, who say that the Government is pandering to the far Right.

Mrs Verdonk admitted that a complete ban on the garment would be legally tricky because of freedom of religion legislation. However, she said that she would prohibit the garments “in specific situations” on grounds of public safety. The ban is likely to be enforced in shops, public buildings, cinemas, train and bus stations and airports, as well as on trains and buses.

The hijab, chador, abaya and burqa are not simple religious symbols, nor are they worn to express the desirable and all too rare virtue of feminine modesty.

They have been political symbols, as much as the Communist red flag and the Nazi swastika, for a totalitarian political ideology that offers its opponents the choice of submission or death, and regards women as chattel.

Mrs. Verdonk is wise to use public safety as the grounds on which to base the ban. It's still too risky for politicians to come out and say that Islam itself is a political menace; the human rights crowd would rise up in the streets five minutes after the announcement of legislation aimed directly at the spread of Islam.

But no one could possibly object to a public safety ban on the burqa. No one wants to see a woman get killed in traffic because she couldn't see properly out of one, or get entangled in a revolving door.

The public safety approach silences human rights objections in advance.

And it still puts the Muslim fanatics on notice that they can't use their women as walking political billboards.

Sometimes a head scarf is not just a head scarf.

Source: Times Online

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