When a piece of cloth isn't just a piece of cloth
I’m going to wade into Juan Williams territory here:
When I see a woman wrapped in a full veil that hides both her face and her body, I feel nervous.
I’ll take it a step further: that veiling offends my sense of humanity and makes me wonder if the person underneath (I’m assuming it’s a woman but who knows?) understands the message that she’s communicating to the rest of the world. Namely, that she’s unworthy to be seen by anyone other than her husband, and perhaps her god.
If that makes me a bigot, so be it. I’m hardly what you’d call a feminist, but the idea that women have to hide themselves from the world is so repulsive that I wonder how anyone can justify it in the so-called democratic West.
Sure, there’s always that strangely twisted argument that freedom means allowing someone to wear what they want, even if it turns them into a moving drop cloth. People who are so willing to criticize the Catholic church for the way it demeans women are often silent when it comes to Islam, the only religion I know of that requires the sartorial submission of its females. True, our nuns used to favor what my uncle called “Penguin-wear.” But none of them were forced to hide their faces or shut themselves off from the sun like diurnal vampires.
If I sound hostile, perhaps I am. For years, we’ve been told that women should be treated as equals. Groups like NOW lobby for us to have total dominion over the womb (and federal funding for aborting its unwanted inhabitants.) They celebrate our minds, our individuality and our freedom of movement.
But when it comes to the burqa and its somewhat less insidious sister, the niqab, they are conspicuously silent. The image of modern mummies traveling through Western streets never seems to bother them as much as conservative women like Sarah Palin (who, frankly, they might like to see in full veiling.)
And in this country of uber-tolerance, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any laws banning the veil in the near future. When a police officer can sue in court to wear the hijab as part of her regulation uniform and the ACLU sues to overturn a law that would ban sharia in the heartland, well, you get the idea that banning the veil is a no-starter here.
So bravo to the French for having “le courage” to actually pass a law banning the veil in public. There are a number of reasons why my great-grandfather’s compatriots took a step most other countries shied away from, including their traditional aversion to religion. The French are among the most anti-clerical people in the western world, but in this case it’s served them well. They refuse to spout the pieties of religious tolerance we profess so loudly in the United States (except, of course, when it comes to Christianity.)
On a recent episode of Hannity, Don Imus’ wife Diedre was absolutely aghast that any country would deny women the right to practice their religion freely. She seemed to think that being able to drape yourself in a glorified bedspread was some sacred principle that couldn’t be prohibited without violating someone’s constitutional rights.
But guess what? The French aren’t required to follow our more than expansive view of religious liberty. They seem to take a relatively common sense approach when it comes to a practice that turns women into nameless, faceless robots. If they want to do that in Afghanistan or Yemen, ca va, say the French. But there is no room for that kind of nonsense on the Champs d’Elysee, according to the new law:
Wearing the full veil manifests a rejection of our Republican values. Amounting to a negation of woman’s entitlement to fully belong to the society, the hiding of the face in a public place engenders a symbolic and dehumanizing violence, which attacks the social body.
Say what you will, but my ancestors really know how to turn a phrase. More importantly, they have the singular courage to poke a finger in the eye of uber-tolerant people so prevalent in our own corner of the world, who would sacrifice a woman’s dignity at the altar of political correctness.
And let’s not forget that living in this society demands some obligations of its members, including the requirement that they not pose a security threat. The men who murdered Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski several years ago concealed their weapons under full-length burqas.
I can imagine the gendarmes in Paris are already feeling safer.