"... hiding one's face is not an obvious harm."

Saturday, November 18, 2006
Althouse: "It's an interesting perspective. You claim to be tolerant, but then you want to prevent people from doing something their religion motivates them to do. Obviously, some things motivated by religion really are so harmful to public order that a ban shows no disrespect toward religion. (For example: murder.) The question is where to draw the line, and hiding one's face is not an obvious harm. Verdonk cites the need to interact and communicate, and people who cover their faces do seem to be excluding others. Yet, it is part of freedom to decline to interact with other people as you go about your life, walking around in public, and it's a common thing to dress in a way that signals to people you are not open to interaction. But if you lived in a place where more and more people were entirely hiding their faces and signaling exclusion of others, life would feel scarily different. At what point would you want to use government power to make them stop?"

30 comments:

Pastorius said...

Burqas are portable concentration camps. They are the chains of modern slavery.

Seneca the Younger said...

Can someone voluntarily be a slave?

truepeers said...

Yet, it is part of freedom to decline to interact with other people as you go about your life, walking around in public, and it's a common thing to dress in a way that signals to people you are not open to interaction.

-Bull. If I refuse many forms of commercial or public interaction with Muslims, or anyone, I can be prosecuted under human rights law. Althouse sounds as if she lives some comfortable, detached, bourgeois (consumer, not producer) life that allows her to roam about town in a coccoon, exercising her novelistic gaze, bathing in her sense of "tolerance", and not actually having to try and deal with people as her equals in producing social goods. Althouse still lives in the postmodern "victimary" paradigm in which everything is owed the minority victim, and nothing the needs of society as a whole to reproduce the freedoms its allows.

And no one can define herself her right to privacy, as if I could demand that no one look at me on the bus. This "right" is first of all a public good and a public gift.

However, I think I have said all I have to say about this in the previous "American Thinker" post; i'll just add that, no, according to our laws and ethics today, with their claims to universal truth, no you cannot voluntarily sell yourself into slavery.

Luther McLeod said...

Most assuredly. Very difficult to not be a slave to one's beliefs, whatever they may be. After all, they do somewhat validate our existence, do they not. Thus the difficulty of keeping an open and flexible mind.

Luther McLeod said...

I love synchronicity. TP, as to the last sentence of your 1:16 post which must have preceded mine by mere seconds, and which so deftly contradicts mine, even if tongue in cheek (?). Could you expand on those "universal truths".

Also, "sell" was not a part of StY's question, though I suppose one does hope for a return when investing in beliefs.

Syl said...

Covering one's face is not a religious duty in Islam, covering one's head is.

The burka has become a symbol of power. I can read you but you cannot read me.

I think this has gone way beyond religion.

Syl said...

Just to clarify, I neither have an argument against, nor desire to have an argument against, the hijab.

Just the hiding of the face.

truepeers said...

luther,

Very difficult to not be a slave to one's beliefs, whatever they may be. After all, they do somewhat validate our existence, do they not. Thus the difficulty of keeping an open and flexible mind.

-i think this is basically true. But difficult does not mean impossible or not necessary. People are attracted to ideologies or religions because it gives them answers about a necessarily uncertain future and allows them to live towards the future with the sense that their life has meaning as long as it is lived in terms of the ideology/religion that will supposedly give meaning to the future.

-the universalist response to this need is actually one of humility. It does not deny the need for good faith (and it is open to exploring what kind of faith system works best, for oneself and for societies in competitive struggle with each other)

In humility, the seeker for universal truth also knows that we cannot know very much , especially about the future, but we can figure out ways, through historical trial and error, to be maximally open to the future and not try to pre-empt it with our ideologies. This then leads us to questions about, e.g., the nature of freedom, and of faith in an inexhaustible open-ended human creativity (those who think God has already completed his revelation, and it is all here, in this book, cannot be true seekers of universial truth, imho), and of duties and responsibilities to build the kind of society that best supports these concerns for open-endedness. We ask about what is truly universal - what all humans share - and how that unity can serve our goal of insuring an open-ended future for all.

In other words, I believe in "universal truths" but i see these as minimal (though all the more powerful for this minimality) truths; in form, they are minimal, though they can take on a lot of different historical content. An example of a universal truth would be that all human beings and their societies are bound to a need for narrative, so much so that this need can engender fundamental conflicts between two societies with two fundamentally different stories about the emergence and future of the signs they hold dear. (IN universal terms, a founding narrative is that which tells the story of the emergence of the sign that is fundamentally sacred to a society.)

Does this clarify the question?

truepeers said...

Syl,

Wikipedia:
In some Arabic-speaking countries and Western countries, the word hijab primarily refers to women's head, face, or body covering. But in Islamic scholarship, hijab is given the wider meaning of modesty, privacy, and morality.[1] The word used in the Qu'ran for a headscarf or veil is khimār (خمار).

truepeers said...

This should be at the start of the quote:

Hijab or ħijāb (حجاب) is the Arabic term for "cover" (noun), based on the root حجب meaning "to veil, to cover (verb), to screen, to shelter"

Pastorius said...

Seneca,
Women in Islam do not for the most part volunteer to wear the burqa.

Where do you get that idea?

Pastorius said...

Seneca,

Of course, you know that beating is prescribed for a disobedient wife. It's in the Koran.

And, I'm guessing you know that the burqa is usually taken up en masse when a Saudi-trained Imam arrives in an area.

And, I'm guessing you can understand the idea that the burqa is often a conspiracy of the men in a community which is then forced upon the women.

Only a very strict "Libertarian" in the Ayn Rand mode could call such a "decision" to wear a burqa a "choice."

By the way, did the people who lived in the Soviet Union choose their oppression under Communism?

If a woman chooses not to wear a burqa what is her next step? What is her husbands next step? Does not the fact that his wife chooses to not wear a burqa, within a community where every other woman wears a burqa, bring shame upon him? If the husband is "humiliated" by his wife's choice to not wear the burqa, then does the wife have the choice to move out of the house? Where will she go?

Breathlessly awaiting your response.

Seneca the Younger said...


And no one can define herself her right to privacy, as if I could demand that no one look at me on the bus. This "right" is first of all a public good and a public gift.


Okay, Tru ... but then the hypothetical beveiled woman isn't asking you not to look --- just refusing to let you see.

As far as the human rights laws, I might not be thrilled about them either --- but then is your issue with the veiled woman, or with the human rights laws?

Seneca the Younger said...

People are attracted to ideologies or religions because it gives them answers about a necessarily uncertain future and allows them to live towards the future with the sense that their life has meaning as long as it is lived in terms of the ideology/religion that will supposedly give meaning to the future.

Um, no. My religion explicitly says that these answers, and even the questions, are necessarily ill-formed, and that "meaning" is a bad habit. What you mean is that your religion does those things.

Seneca the Younger said...

Pastorius --- from the number of women who quite vehemently insist that the burqa is their choice.

Especially the ones in Britain and the US, for whom the choice isn't enforced by law.

Seneca the Younger said...

Okay, Pastorius, we'll play this one out a little further. I assert that brassieres are portable concentraztion camps. If women were truly free, there would be no expectation that they keep their nipples covered.

Oh, and skirts --- after all, both custom and law force women to wear skirts in order to enter a church, all through Europe.

You might want to look up what Ceasar said to Theodotus in the Shaw play.

Pastorius said...

Seneca,
Ok, yeah, let's play it out some more.

I am a larger mammal than you. I am standing next to you physically. I tell you to put on the burqa, and if you don't I can beat your ass.

What's more, everyone in our community will support me in what I am doing to you.

Now, do you put on the burqa, or not?

Of course, Muslim women say they want to wear the burqa. They are brainwashed. They have Stockholm Syndrome.

To not ackowledge evil done, right in front of your eyes, to another person is a good way to absolve oneself of responsibility, but it is not the pursuit of truth.

The face is the window of the soul. When people are not able to show their face in public, then they are not able to express themselves as full human beings. They are hidden and alone, incapable of interacting, and thus, they have less presence and they have less ability to impose their will in the world.

These are the realities of being a slave.

Pastorius said...

More thoughts. The methodolgy of Stockholm Syndrome is actually one of the most effective systems for creating willful cooperation. Like Vito Corleone said, "You can get pretty far with a kind word, but you will get much further with a kind word backed up by a gun."

People who persuade with an apparent appeal to reason, which is then backed up with the threat of violence are very often beloved people. The reason for this is because the person who is persuaded does not want to admit to his or her self that they have renounced their own will. So, they replace their awareness of their own slavery with a love for their enslaver.

The Koran provides a system of motivation which is exactly the same as that which creates Stockholm Syndrome. I believe you are aware that apostates are to be killed. I believe you are also aware that the term "apostasy" is somewhat slippery in Islam, and can include simply agreeing with the Infidel. For instance an academic was recently killed for daring to suggest that his country ought to recognize Israel.

I believe you are also familiar with honor killings. Honor killings are very close to the same thing as stoning for apostasy. What is it, specifically, that bring dishonor upon a Muslim family. We know that that is also a slippery thing. It can, for instance, include a daughter merely talking to a boy her father does not approve of.

The enforcement of such slavery does not require that every woman be killed or beaten for bringing dishonor. Just knowing that some will be killed and beaten is enough to enforce the very strict groupthink which is Islam.

Have you read The Case For Democracy by Sharansky? In it, he details the way a Fear Society works. It is the same mechanism that is at work in a fundamentalist Islamic community.

Gormless Norman said...

As Althouse points out, the Dutch have advanced a series of reasons why a Burqa ban is called for; some of these are mentioned by others like Jack Straw. A woman “isolates” herself by covering her face, hindering normal human interaction; for obvious security reasons we don’t want people going around wearing masks -- especially members of a cult with a fondness for random murder. Widespread wearing of burqas makes the jobs of airport security and the DMV tougher, as they are saddled with the absurd task of “balancing” doing their job against “religious tolerance.” Etc. These are fine arguments, as far as they go. Reasonable people can differ, as in this thread. Some will disagree, like Ahmed Markouch, who says, ”They [the Dutch] are going to have to find a better argument than security.”

They have to, do they? Sorry, this makes me bristle a bit, which I think gets us to the more basic point: Muslims are pouring into Western countries in massive numbers, and rather than assimilating, they demand that the West assimilate to them. We have to justify why we don’t want crosses taken out of campus chapels? We have to justify our cartoons, novels, films, bobbleheads, in light of your worldview? Fuck off, we can order our societies as we see fit. You come into our house, shit on the floor, eat our food, tell us how to rearrange the furniture, and when we furrow our brow ever so slightly you berate us as hypocrites for failing to be tolerant and hospitable enough. That’s the bottom line, not these polite arguments people like Straw raise, indulging the pillagers when they turn our kindness against us. We shouldn’t play that game even. Fuck back off to Crapistan where you can keep your meat covered, and beat it in private to your hearts’ content. Pretty please, may the West continue to exist as such, Mr. Muslim? I promise, we can justify our existence. Let’s deploy our greatest experts in rhetoric and legal argument to make the case for why our civilization should not be whittled away and ultimately destroyed by demographic conquest and cultural appropriation. Boy, I hope we can come up with good justifications for ourselves!

Assuming for the sake of argument that we “have to” justify the banning or restricting of burqas, as Markouch feels we must, all the arguments of the Dutch, et al, are sound. To take just one: that the burqa is coercive. I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of women in the world who walk around covered in a bedsheet do not truly choose to do so. For one thing, in most places where this is common, they will be beaten or raped if the sheet comes off. Gee, a woman faces a choice between covering herself in a sheet and being raped or beaten. And she chooses to wear the sheet. Did you hear that? She chooses the sheet! A choice! It’s her choice! If anyone is so narrow as to believe this is truly a free choice, let me point a gun at you and allow you to make the free choice between giving me your wallet and being shot. I will respect your right to choose, I assure you. People who don't understand this are not worth talking to.

Seneca thinks the fact that many women in the US and Britain choose to wear the burqa proves…what exactly? It proves that the majority of burqa wearers worldwide are not coerced? No, it proves nothing. If the percentage of burqa wearers in free countries was comparable to that in Crapistan, it might prove something. Obviously, in free countries the percentage of burqa wearers is miniscule by comparison, which actually undermines your argument. So a statistically insignificant number of people choose to do something, so what? That proves nothing. Ok, so what of the tautological fact that when women make a free choice to wear a burqa it is a free choice? Well, I think Islam is an evil totalitarian ideology, and should be purged entirely from the West. Banning the burqa is a miniscule, insignificant baby-step in this direction. Instead of banning burqas, we should be banning burqa wearers. 9/11 just wasn't a big enough deal for some people, I guess, so we'll see if people start to get on board with this idea after a few western capitals are nuked and the Palestinians have their next dance-party.

As to Seneca’s argument about bras: in our society we bring the coercive force of law and custom to bear on people’s choice of clothing inasmuch as people are not allowed to walk around in public with their boobs or wieners hanging out. Ok, so what? Do you mean: We have our “dress code,” so do they? Bras are as coercive as burqas, therefore… therefore we can’t ban burqas? I’m having trouble even piecing together your argument, it’s sort of like a Sappho poem. We shouldn’t require people to wear clothes in public? I don’t know what you mean at all, so I don’t even know what to say. Since you mention bras though, it’s noteworthy that a few decades ago, when feminists were principled rather than merely anti-US, anti-West (note the crickets chirping from those quarters when the subject is FGM, stoning of adulterers, etc.), they made the argument that bras were coercive and should be burned. They’ve changed their mind about that one, I guess. I like boobs, I wish we had topless bathing like how it is and will continue to be in Europe for up to 15 more years or so. Heh heh, boobs.

Gormless Norman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gormless Norman said...

Here's that link, in 2 chunks that you have to splice together:

http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/
11/18/061118141256.yfhauen2.html

Seneca the Younger said...

Actually, Pastorius, I think your response is a manifestation of Stockholm Syndrome. you've clearly been coerced and threatened until you agree that someone can't possibly agree to dress in a way their society defines as "modest" if it doesn't meet what you think they should do.

It's equally obvious that Americans wear swim-suits because they've been forced, brainwashed, into doing so when it's clearly more comfortable and convenient to simply swim naked.

Aftger all, go swimming naked and you can get arrested, roughed up, fined.... damn, Stockholm Syndrome again.

Don't agree with me? Clearly another manifestation of Stockholm Syndrome.

Got any other silly-ass arguments?

Seneca the Younger said...

As to Seneca’s argument about bras: in our society we bring the coercive force of law and custom to bear on people’s choice of clothing inasmuch as people are not allowed to walk around in public with their boobs or wieners hanging out. Ok, so what? Do you mean: We have our “dress code,” so do they? Bras are as coercive as burqas, therefore… therefore we can’t ban burqas?

Almost. I'm suggesting that if you're going to claim that people ought to be restricted from wearing burqas, you need something stronger than "I think it's icky but making people wear bras and pants is just normal."

I referred Pastorius to Ceasar in Caesar and Cleopatra: the line is "Forgive him ... he is a barbarian, and thinks the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature."

Pastorius said...

Seneca,

Are you joking, perhaps?

If not, then why don't you deal with the meat of my argument, instead of the "silly-assed" way you go about attacking me.

Do you deny that women can be and are physically coerced to wear the burqa in the Islamic world? Do you deny that women can be and are threatened with violence if they don't wear the burqa? Do you deny that that violence is backed up by the Koran? Do you deny that they can be and sometimes are charged with "dishonoring" the family, or with apostasy for refusing to wear the burqa? Do you deny that Islamic society will sometimes support a penalty up to death for such a woman? Do you deny my comparison of such a situation to Sharansky's "fear society"?

I think you are a smart guy. I went to the trouble of making a rational argument, and you responded with that.

You can do better, my friend.

Pastorius said...

Seneca,

As for your response to the Gormless one, the argument is not simply that we think it is "icky." Once again, I think you are smarter than this. Where did I, or gormless norman say anything resembling icky. My argument is that the burqa is a shroud which denies the human being the right to express themselves with their faces. The other part of my argument is that the burqa is coerced by threat of physical force.

And, your referring me to the quote from Caesar and Cleopatra smacks of the kind of postmodern moral conflation that is more in line with the thinking of anti-Western lefties.

Guess what? Our culture is better than Islamic culture? Do you want to argue that one next? Because I will. I've got quite a bit to back me up on my arguments there as well.

Gormless Norman said...

"Forgive him ... he is a barbarian, and thinks the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature."

This refers to Caesar's shock upon learning that Egyptian custom allows brothers and sisters to marry, correct?

I think there's a little more to be said about bras vs. burqas. First, their restrictive "dress code" applies only to women; on our beaches we make everyone cover their private areas -- and by the way, if someone doesn't, they're not going to get stoned to death. In the burqa system, one sex -- roughly half the population -- is placed in symbolic subservience; the flesh of one half of the population is considered "meat" which has to be covered lest the alley cats, being what they are, smell it and come chow down. Our "dress code" allows both sexes to show about the same amount of skin: women can actually show more, because of how people cringe when a guy wears a speedo. But this depends entirely on how attractive each individual is, it's not a blanket rule covering a whole sex - no pun intended.

Let's see, what other differences can I think of... oh yes, I know, burqas have a lot more fabric than bras. It seems the argument that forcing (you admit there is such a thing as coercion, yes?) half the population under bedsheets based on their gender is no different than forcing women to wear bras is simply moral equivalence. It's possible to rationalize just about any evil in this way. Don't like it when a foreign culture allows men to marry 9-year-olds? What's the problem, we allow 9-year-olds to prance around in beauty pageants don't we? <-- which is kind of like comparing burqas to bras.

Gormless Norman said...

I think female genital mutilation is icky.

Seneca the Younger said...

Do you deny that women can be and are physically coerced to wear the burqa in the Islamic world? Do you deny that women can be and are threatened with violence if they don't wear the burqa? Do you deny that that violence is backed up by the Koran?

Do you deny that women can be physically coerced to wear bikini tops in the American world? Do you deny that men can arnd are threatened with violence if they expose their pubic area in the American world? Do you imagine that a woman wearing a burqa in Vancouver or Ann Arbor is in the Islamic world?

Do you think Islam is alone among the Abrahamic traditions in permitting beatings?

Are you joking, perhaps?

To some extent. I'd certainly say that I'm treating your argument with the degree of seriousness it deserves.

I think you are a smart guy. I went to the trouble of making a rational argument,....

No, actually you didn't. You started with a pronouncement, went from there to a straw man, proceeded on to another straw man, chased off after a red herring, made a quick left at begging the question, and ended up somewhere in ad-hominem-land. I'm just enough of a cranky old sonofabitch that I refuse to go around the track with you.


This ["he is a barbarian"] refers to Caesar's shock upon learning that Egyptian custom allows brothers and sisters to marry, correct?

Close, but no cigar. It refers to Brittanus' shock; it's Caesar apologizing to Theodotus for Brittanus' outrage. Someplace in Act II. You're right that Brittanus is shocked that siblings can marry in Pharoiac families.

I think there's a little more to be said about bras vs. burqas. First, their restrictive "dress code" applies only to women; on our beaches we make everyone cover their private areas -- and by the way, if someone doesn't, they're not going to get stoned to death.

Actually, no, sorry. Men as well as women are expected to remain modestly covered ("hijab") in Islamic countries, just as in ours. All that's different is what's expected; in the Moslem world, like ours, specifics differ.

I defy you to tell me where stoning is required as a punishment for immodesty.

In any case, though, this is all a silly red herring again: we're talking about the US and Canada. Whether or not hijab is mandatory in the Islamic world --- and somehow more mandatory there than the laws against indecent exposure are here --- we're talking about women who voluntarily wish to be "modestly dressed" in the US.

We're talking about telling people how they can wear a goddamn scarf.

Seneca the Younger said...

I think female genital mutilation is icky.

Red herring, fifteen yard penalty and loss of down.

Seneca the Younger said...

By the way, guys, do you actually know what a burqa is? Are you aware that they're only an Afghani custom?