When is a burqa not a burqa? When it’s a weapon.

On July 14, the French parliament voted to ban the burqa in public places, causing much anguish amongst Muslims, Leftists, and even some conservatives, especially libertarians.  Regardless of the political filter through which they viewed the new law, its detractors all claimed that a free society cannot ban clothes without infringing on its citizens’ human rights.  (Never mind, of course, that “free” European societies, with their obsessive, nanny-state bureaucracies and profound limitations on speech, routinely infringe on their citizens’ human rights.  That is a post for another day.)

An opinion in Forbes, written by an analyst at the libertarian Reason Foundation, is a good representative example.  After first proving her liberal chops (I was once made to dress modestly in Hindu India, and I think women shouldn’t be forced to do so), Shikha Dalmia runs through a laundry list of problems she has with the bill.

I’m willing to concede right now that all the facts Dalmia cites are absolutely correct, including her claims that burqas aren’t worn by that many women in France, so that they’re not really a threat to French society; that it’s not true that that many women are being forced to wear burqas against their will, especially because, in a free society, we should assume that the women want to wear tents; and that the burqa isn’t really a slap in the face to French public secularism, but is simply a way for free women to express their religion through dress.  And so on, and so on.

Dalmia’s concluding paragraph pretty much spells it out, both her view and the view of all others opposed to the new French law:

This is a profoundly anti-liberal and anti-secular idea. Indeed, if the French and [Christopher] Hitchens [an enthusiastic supporter of the new French law] were serious about either secularism or liberalism, instead of asking Muslim women to shed the burqa, they would be shedding their own proselytizing prejudice against it.

There’s nothing new in what Dalmia, or her pro-burqa fellow travelers have to say.  As you may recall, we heard precisely the same arguments when the Swiss voted to ban minarets.  Then too, we were treated to arguments claiming that banning buildings is antithetical a free society; that it’s an improper hostility that the non-religious were expressing towards the religious; that it unfairly infringed upon Muslim civil rights, and yada, yada, yada.  Again, those who oppose the ban, even as they concede that Islam’s practitioners pose problems within a free society, still can’t believe that a “mere” building is a reason for people to get their knickers in a twist.

The above arguments, whether about burqas or buildings, might be good arguments if they were about the buildings or clothing of any other religion but Islam.  Islam as a religion, however, is sui generis.  Unlike all other religions, which are focused in one way or another on bringing individuals closer to God (or Gods), Islam’s predicate is Jihad or, in plain English, conquest.

The historic truth, whether or not one wants to acknowledge it is that, from the moment Mohamed began articulating his faith, it was inextricably intertwined with conquest.  For that reason, Islam, as a faith, cares not whether the people brought within its fold actually believe the faith.  It is enough that, having come under the control of an Islamic government (and do remember that mosque and government are one and the same) they follow its forms.

This is why Islam, as a religion, is entirely comfortable with and, indeed, encourages, both forced conversions and the death penalty for apostates.  Faith as we understand it — meaning a belief in and commitment to a God — is irrelevant.  Instead, submission is everything.  It’s fine if you submit at the point of the sword and, if you refuse to submit, it’s fine if that same sword summarily executes you.  While Islam may be dressed up in the trappings of monotheism, and while I don’t doubt that there are millions of genuinely spiritual Muslims around the world, the religion’s primary — and explicit — goal is conquest of both geographical territory and human bodies.

Because Islamic religious trappings are not about man’s relationship to God but, instead, are about man’s relationship to the Islamic state, every Islamic procedure or practice, whether it’s abstaining from alcohol, ritual foot washing, burqas or minarets is, in essence, a body count.  The number of burqa clad women in any given society is the equivalent of a Western census.  If you can get all of your women to wear the burqa and then, through rape and acid-throwing intimidation, get all of their women to wear the burqa, you’ve won.  Who cares that the women so clad are not closer to Allah?  It’s enough that they’ve been submitted, willingly or not, to Islam.  There is no faith involved, just force and a numbers game.

The same holds true for those minarets.  When Islamists conquer a country, the first thing they do is build their minarets — and, significantly, they build their minarets to be higher than any existing structures in the conquered territory.  In other words, the minarets do not simply represent houses of worship in which the faithful can gather.  Instead, they are about proving Islam’s dominance.  This is true whether Islam conquers a territory through war or just through building permits.

(Incidentally, the same line of reasoning holds true for foot baths on college campuses, pit toilets at modern British shopping malls, demands that taxi passengers discard their alcohol and seeing eye dogs, ukases on pig images in work places, vanishing British flags, etc.  None of these causes célèbres in the unending litany of Muslim demands for accommodation represents any single Muslim’s personal spiritual experience.  Each represents an attempt to control the greater, non-Muslim culture.)

It would be foolish to deny, of course, that the burqas and the buildings serve a dual purpose, one of which is religious expression.  For the devout Muslim woman, a burqa is a necessary part of her attire, just as the devout Orthodox Jewish woman would never appear outside her home without a wig.  Likewise, in a free society, no one wants to deny people the right to build a house of worship, whether it’s a mosque, church or temple.

If this religious devotion was the sole reason behind Muslim clothing and building imperatives, I too would be up in arms about the strictures in France and Switzerland.  However, the sad fact is that, because the burqas and buildings are not only symbols of faith, but are also actively, and predominantly, used as weapons of war, any society that wishes to remain free of the totalitariansim that is Islam must, sadly, trample on some religious expression.

Only by recognizing that Islam uses as weapons symbols that we, children of the Enlightenment, view as freely expressed signs of a personal faith, can we preserve our liberties and lay claim to true religious freedom.  Switzerland and France have taken this step towards understanding why the Islamic religion is different from all other religions.  It’s time that the rest of us do so to.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Islam in not just a religion, it is a political system. That’s what most people don’t get.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    Most people don’t even know what a “political system” is. Nor can they differentiate between capitalism, communism, or fascism.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    Surprisingly, the French actually have a sort of meritocracy at their upper echelons of government. Supposedly to get a position, you need to pass some tests, sort of like the Imperial Court of China back when they were looking for bureaucrats.
    It may explain their interesting refusal against Islam. And it may explain their nuclear energy policies too. Run by people who actually know what they are doing and aren’t simply beholden to the rich and powerful.

  • http://thoughtyoudneverask.blogspot.com/ zabrina

    This article is very well written and true.
    I have also encountered the apology by some who say that you can’t blame Islam for making women dress in burqas–or undergo genital mutilation–that these proscriptions are not in the Koran but are mere historical cultural customs of various people or places. In that case, and if that is true, then it is all the more necessary and defensible for civilized countries to end these practices swiftly and absolutely, for the benighted, backwards, antihuman customs that they are–and the Islamic backlash has no standing. Islam can’t have it both ways–either these backwards “customs” are would-be protected expressions of religion or not. And if they are deemed to be protected as religious expressions, then Islam “owns” them and looks all the worse for it in the eyes of the rest of the world. But at this point they try to play it both ways. We, like France, should not let them.
    But you argue here that even if such customs are expressions of the Islamic religion (as minarets can be argued to be), they should still be banned, because Islam does not fall under the same definition of religion as the religions we in the West understand in the contexts of freedom of conscience, equal individual civil rights, and the separation of church and state. Islam’s aim (religious or not) is to obliterate those Western values we hold about religion. So, as you have argued, it comes down in the end to sheer war between Islam and the West, not a negotiation or a civil or criminal lawsuit. We in the West are on the reluctant (and as yet mostly ignorant) defensive. Despite my libertarian beliefs, I must reluctantly agree with you, since it is war.

  • Mike Devx

    The banning of the burka is one of those issues where I find valid debate points on both sides.  But I’m comfortable supporting the ban.
    1. The State *can* have a legitimate interest banning certain expressions of any faith.  If my faith requires me to walk naked to the store to purchase my groceries, well, I’m not going to be allowed to.  Period.  Similarly, the State can regulate that your face may not be hidden in public.  Period.  Whether it is a *good* law or not is where the debate lies.  Because the burka is primarily a political weapon, I consider it a good law.  It is a somewhat close call for me personally, though.
    The same goes for the building of minarets for me, but it’s an even closer call.  I’m more on board with the banning of public calls to prayers over loudspeakers as a legitimate public disturbance of the peace, right in line with being visited by the police to turn my music down because of its disturbance to my neighbors.  But building a minaret WITHOUT having any intention of using it for public issuance of calls to prayer?  A much tougher call for me.  In the end, the State can issue bulding codes; even a homeowners’ association can restrict the kinds of homes built in a neighborhood.  So I find it legitimate in the end.
    In both cases, the item in question is being used as a symbol of dominance of one religion over its non-believers, which is clearly antithetical to the freedoms of individuals in a free society.  It’s difficult for me to justify any law that specifically targets the adherents of one religion, though.  If you can’t justify a law on more generic grounds, I probably can’t support it.
    You could, interestingly, relate this to Blue Laws that mandated that no business would be allowed to open its doors on a Sunday.  Is that a reasonable restriction on the legitimate activities of a non-Christian business owner?  Almost definitely it is unreasonable, yet it was the law of the land in various states for decades.

  • Michael Adams

    Very well reasoned and eloquently stated, without a word wasted.  They wanted a war.  Give them one.

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    I agree with Mike Devx that this is a difficult issue, especially within the American legal system. But I am far less bothered either by burquas or by the banning of burquas than I am by the very real threat to free expression which is presented by the increasing threats of violence, by radical Muslims, against those who do or say anything that they (the radical Muslims) find to be offensive. For example, the recent case of a Seattle cartoonist whose murder has been called for by a “cleric” now at large in Yemen:
    This “cleric” said that the cartoonist’s “proper abode is Hellfire”….well, I think we need to make special arrangements for him to meet the business end of a Hellfire missile–his mental processes would be greatly improved by the detonation of 18 pounds of high explosive.
    Those who call for violence of American citizens who are themselves in this country should be immediately arrested and prosecuted; those who are at large within the borders of rogue states should become the subjects of targeted assassinations.
    The making of these threats is not limited to radical Islamists; “animal rights” activists have also been guilty of this–but it is the radical Islamists who presently represent by far the greatest threat.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    Sure, but I think Holder is more interested in protecting Black Panthers and prosecuting Tea Party members than going for Arabs or real terrorists.

  • http://poliwogspoliblog@blogspot.com poliwog

    I have only one quibble.  I believe that speaking of the Swiss ban on minarets as the banning of a Muslim house of worship falls into the hands of the Islamists.  The Swiss didn’t ban mosques only the explicitly, aggressivly, and intentionaly phalic symbol of conquest that is the minaret. 

  • Charles Martel

    I agree with Book’s take on Islam, but think it would be useful to add that Islam’s concept of God also contributes to the cult’s inhuman demeanor.

    In Islam, God is pure will. It has no essense or nature, because to have such would be limiting. God is totally unknowable and unapproachable (unlike the Jews’ often gruff Yahweh and Jesus’s doting Abba), and has predestined everything that happens in the universe. You can, for instance, be a good man who lovingly pays alms, makes the Hajj, is kind to his wives and performs all the obligatory prayers and ablutions, but you can still be predestined to Hell if God created you to be so. Conversely, an evil man given over to cruelty, mendacity and selfishness can go to Paradise if God predestines him to do so.

    Basically, man is a slave to a whimsical, capricious, often vicious master. Islam is a religion that teaches man he has no say in the matter of his eternal fate, and that the best he can do is protrate himself before the Pure Urge and hope for the best. It is not much of a leap to see why so many Muslim men, powerless before God, enjoy exercising similar despotic power over women and dhimmis.

  • 11B40


    I’ve become convinced that our strategy must include actions to diminish worldwide the impact of Islam, (not Islamism, not radical Islam, not any other post-modern construct), and if not to destroy it then to drive it into unequivocal disrepute. What the Obama administration’s actions are doing is, in effect, granting Islam an ideological equivalent of the North Vietnamese communists’ sanctuaries along the Cambodian and Laotian borders, and some of us remember how that worked out.

    The way forward is to confront Islam, the ideology, directly and often. I’ve read about an Egyptian Coptic priest, Zacarias Botros, if I remember his name correctly, who broadcasts radio programs that elucidate and discuss some of Mohammed’s sexual proclivities such as having sex with his 9-year-old “wife” and sucking on the tongues of children. While understanding the “jihad” part of Islamic doctrine is useful, I think that exposing the depravity, murders, thievery, lying, throughout the muslim scriptures is a better way to erode the thin veneer of religion and reveal the supremacist, political ideology that is the core of Islam. I believe that is why the muslims put so much effort into precluding, and/or punishing criticism of Islam or Mohammed.

    What they want most to protect is what we must attack. There is a reason why muslims are so easily aggravated by criticism of their “religion” or proselytization of its adherents by other religions. It’s their greatest vulnerability.

  • Mike Devx

    11B40 is so right in every way.  In this country we are free to be offended, and to be offensive.  Being publicly critical of Islam itself is one of our rights, because being critical of *anything* is one of our rights.  Since they are deliberately trying to shut down our free speech, and since they threaten those who do so – and especially since there is safety in numbers – we should all speak up.  Far more often.  Not only is it a right, but it is good strategy. It’s easy to terrorize a few tens of people for speaking up. How are they going to terrorize a million of us when we all speak up?  Game over.

  • Tonestaple

    Always beware of any statement that says something “isn’t in the Koran.”  That’s not at all meaningful because more than half of what makes up Islam is not in the Koran; it’s in the hadith.  For example, at AskImam.org, they answered a question about female circumcision with this:

    “Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah (Radhiyallahu ‘anha) narrates that a woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband. [Sunan Abu Dawud]
    ‘Circumcision is Sunnah for men, and it is an honour for women, but it is not obligatory for them.'”   (Link:  http://tinyurl.com/37u49tg)

    These narrations are what the hadith consist of.  So saying “it’s not in the Koran” as a reason for us to ignore many barbaric Islamic customs is just another attempt to pull the wool over our eyes.  Anyone who says “it’s not in the Koran” is probably dissembling and is not to be trusted.

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    Excellent point.
    Of course, Islam permits taqiyya to advance their goals, so the refrain, ‘it’s not in the Koran’ is perfectly acceptable to them.

  • Bill Smith

    I am told that the very word “Islam” means “submission.”
    Jihad + Islam = conquest + submission.

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