It's Creepy, So Ban It

Could British niqabs be going the way of the French headscarves? A New York Times article suggests as much:

There have been numerous examples in the past year. A lawyer dressed in a niqab was told by an immigration judge that she could not represent a client because, he said, he could not hear her. A teacher wearing a niqab was dismissed from her school. A student who was barred from wearing a niqab took her case to the courts, and lost. In reaction, the British educational authorities are proposing a ban on the niqab in schools altogether.

David Sexton, a columnist for The Evening Standard, wrote recently that the niqab was an affront and that Britain had been "too deferential."

"It says that all men are such brutes that if exposed to any more normally clothed women, they cannot be trusted to behave — and that all women who dress any more scantily like that are indecent," Mr. Sexton wrote. "It's abusive, a walking rejection of all our freedoms."

I can see why people find a full-face covering unnerving even if they don't support a legislative solution, but maybe we should be wary of assuming that all hijab or niqab-wearing individuals are hapless victims of self-delusion or misogynist oppression. Only a fraction of British Muslims wear them, after all, and the custom is no longer limited just to older, foreign-born women.

Nick Gillespie discusses Salman Rushdie on veils here.

More on the French headscarf ban here and here.

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  • ||

    Oh God, I can tell by the subject matter this will be a fun thread.

  • ||

    "I can see why people find a full-face covering unnerving even if they don't support a legislative solution, but maybe we should be wary of assuming that all hijab or niqab-wearing individuals are hapless victims of self-delusion or misogynist oppression."

    Because it couldn't possibly be true that some people think dressing modestly is in good taste ... as long as the anti-modesty police are gearing up, let's require, under the threat of imprisonment or fines, that every woman in warm climes must wear bikinis to force her to prove she's not repressed by a paternalistic culture that orders her around.

  • thoreau||

    Hey, maybe that guy will paste his proposed amendment into this thread!

  • VM||

    Do you think there's a huge temptation to make faces at other people when bedecked?

    But creepy and icky certainly are two headings for people's desire to ban things....

  • stephen the goldberger||

    The niqab has long been a tool of maternalistic oppression. A means to enable ugly women to stand on the same social ground as hot bitties.

  • Urkobold™||

    [L]et's require, under the threat of imprisonment or fines, that every woman in warm climes must wear bikinis to force her to prove she's not repressed by a paternalistic culture that orders her around.



    THE URKOBOLD THINKS YOUR IDEA IS MAMMARIFIC!

  • brian||

    "It's abusive, a walking rejection of all our freedoms."

    Oh yes, and the only solution to people's rejection of our freedoms is by taking away theirs. That'll show 'em!


    let's require, under the threat of imprisonment or fines, that every woman in warm climes must wear bikinis to force her to prove she's not repressed by a paternalistic culture that orders her around.

    I'm usually a libertarian, but this sounds like a pretty appealing idea, actually...

  • ||

    Hey, the niqab drives me to near uncontrollable sexual frenzy. Those women are just trying to tease me. Seductive tarts, I say. Immoral, loose seductive tarts.

  • ||

    I gotta admit, I find those things creepy, but I'm not ethno-centric enough to think that my own culturally-conditioned reaction to them is universal.

    Salman Rushdie has a great line about niqabs that "move with every shift of the eyes." You and I may see them as stripping women of their individuality and expression, but I'm not so sure that the people brought up and in those societies agree.

  • VM||

    also a reason for institutions etc to fear things (sex, female empowerment, women in leadership positions, etc)

  • ||

    Aren't we only talking about 4 or 500 people in the whole of the country? Do we really need a law for that small amount of people -- why not ban yobs wearing hoodies?

  • ||

    let's require, under the threat of imprisonment or fines, that every woman in warm climes must wear bikinis to force her to prove she's not repressed by a paternalistic culture that orders her around.

    I propose an exemption for fat chicks.

  • ||

    New York's courts ruled that women have the right to go topless. If congress insists on extending our authority internationally with the gambling ban, why not go whole hog? Imagine JFK and La Guardia officers enforcing a global ban on shirts and bras.

    I'll take freedom of religion over freedom from religion any day.

  • ||

    ...be careful. -- people in masks cannot be trusted.

    Fezzik


    I'm with JsD. Those things just leave everything up to the imagination. We're talking MY imagination here folks. Along the lines of what StG wrote, it makes all women into uberhot-bitties.

    jh,
    The Amish dress modestly. This dress code is extreme. It signifies fanatic cult membership.

    Standard libertarian disclaimers about allowing self loathing people to express their self loathingness in their style of dress.

  • VM||

    Warren -

    gotta love Princess Bride references! Chucklehead has an awesome use of PB below!

    *ambles off

  • ||

    I propose an exemption for fat chicks.

    I DEMAND an exception for fat chicks.

  • ||

    Of course women should be free to wear em, but I don't like em. All I can think of is that the elephant man is under there. Or one of those fleshy mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

  • Jennifer||

    I could actually see a (non-private and all other libertarian disclaimers) school telling teachers they are not allowed to do their jobs with only their eyes visible. I'm also wondering: aren't there already laws saying adults can't mask their faces in public?

  • ||

    This thread seems as good of a place to post this observation as anywhere. One of the real beautiful things about H&R posters is that there are NO sacred cows. Y'all are a bunch of equal opportunity, cutthroat bastards. Bring up puppies and someone says gator food. No wonder Libertarians aren't popular. Everybodys most cherished, most deeply felt beliefs have been lampooned here. And damn, do we pile on if it's funny. Therefore I humbly submit for your consideration -
    J sub D's proposal for a Libertarian motto:
    We Offend Everyone.

  • thoreau||

    No wonder Libertarians aren't popular.

    Drink!

  • ||

    I'm also wondering: aren't there already laws saying adults can't mask their faces in public?

    In lots of jurisdictions. It's an anti-crime measure. I don't know how effective it is, though. I suspect nobody does.

  • Just sayin\'||

    Only a fraction of British Muslims wear them

    That fraction could be 4/5ths or 5/5ths. For a magazine called Reason...

  • Jennifer||

    Of course women should be free to wear em, but I don't like em.

    Just to play devil's advocate (I'm not sure where I stand on this issue), this so far doesn't sound like a legal issue so much as a dress-code issue. Women should be free to wear bikinis, yes, but if a female lawyer wore one in court the judge would likely throw her out for not meeting the dress code. Same for a teacher wearing a bikini to school.

    Saying women can't wear face coverings while working in a courtroom or classroom doesn't strike me as any worse than saying they can't wear bikinis in these contexts.

  • ||

    "A lawyer dressed in a niqab was told by an immigration judge that she could not represent a client because, he said, he could not hear her."

    This is actually plausible. Many hearing-impaired people rely on lip-reading, sometimes unconsciously, to understand speech. Why do muslim fundamentalists hate the hearing impaired?

    "[A]ren't there already laws saying adults can't mask their faces in public?"

    Yes, in some places (ie, Virginia), but it is unclear whether this would withstand a First Amendment-based court challenge.

    Does anyone remember the case of the female muslim NYC bus driver who wanted to wear a face covering to work, and how that was resolved?

  • VM||

    Big Mo -

    I think her buddies fixed it so the cloth got caught in the bus door one day - they closed the door right before she got on and vroom!

    Which is actually amazing, because they tried repeatedly (and failed) to get it caught in the elevator door.

    That one day when they rigged up the escalator.. man. that was really hilarious.

  • M||

    And just in the nick of time...

  • ||

    Do you think there's a huge temptation to make faces at other people when bedecked?


    YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!! it's one of the most fun things I get to do when riding my motorcycle, making faces at people as I pass them.

    and yes, I do have the sense of humor of a 10 year old boy.

  • GILMORE||

    Men's eyes were made to look; let them gaze.
    - Romeo and Juliet, III, i

  • Lord Duppy||

    The clothing you have chosen for yourself is an affront to freedom! Priceless.

  • thoreau||

    Reading the article, I get the impression that it's an identity issue as much as a modesty issue for some of the women who wear it. Some of them said that they even got a certain satisfaction from people noticing and commenting on it.

    Sometimes, she said, she gets a kick out of the mocking.

    " 'All right gorgeous,' " she said she had heard men say as she walked along the street. "I feel empowered," she said. "They'd like to see, and they can't."



    Or:

    The niqab, to her, is about identity. "If I dressed in a Western way I could be a Hindu, I could be anything," she said. "This way I feel comfortable in my identity as a Muslim woman."



    If everybody makes a point of pretending not to notice the niqab, burka, chador, and whatever else, my guess is that the thing will sort itself out in a generation. Western civilization survived 70's attire, and we can survive this too. The women already wearing it might continue, but the young women hoping to send the "Look at me! Oh, you can't! Denied! Yep, that's me! I'm different!" message will be disappointed.

  • ||

    I'd bet that the more the government tries to demonize the wearers of such attire, the more convinced the "devout" will become that it is the right thing to do, and its popularity will spread.

    All these Middle Eastern derived crazies like to think they are being horribly persecuted by evil secular governments--just look at the nutty Christers in our own midst. They actually think they have it rough in the contemporary US of A.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    She's creepy and she's kooky,
    Mysterious and spooky,
    She's altogether ooky,
    The niqābed attorney!

    Her face is quite the mystery,
    For people trying to see,
    They only view upholstery,
    The niqābed attorney!

    Da da da da... Veiled!
    Da da da da... Haled!
    Da da da da
    Da da da da
    Da da da da... Assailed!

    So get a burqa on there,
    It's really nifty to wear
    And give the judge a big scare,
    The niqābed attorney!

  • Jennifer||

    The niqab, to her, is about identity. "If I dressed in a Western way I could be a Hindu, I could be anything," she said. "This way I feel comfortable in my identity as a Muslim woman."

    Except by choosing the most extreme form of Muslim dress she comes out sounding more like an attention whore. She could have chosen the garment which leaves the face visible, or even chosen modest Western dress with a headscarf, but instead she chooses the "EVERYBODY LOOK AT ME!" option and then calls it modesty.

  • thoreau||

    She could have chosen the garment which leaves the face visible, or even chosen modest Western dress with a headscarf, but instead she chooses the "EVERYBODY LOOK AT ME!" option and then calls it modesty.

    Hypothesis:

    Woman in article:reality TV contestants::Freegans:airfare obsessives

    She may say it's about religion, and reality TV contestants may say they want to be the next unimpressive Trump employee, but it's all about getting the attention. Likewise, freegans may say it's about rejecting consumer culture, and airfare obsessives may say it's about going on more vacations or something, but it's all about finding the deal.

  • ||

    "Except by choosing the most extreme form of Muslim dress she comes out sounding more like an attention whore. She could have chosen the garment which leaves the face visible, or even chosen modest Western dress with a headscarf, but instead she chooses the "EVERYBODY LOOK AT ME!" option and then calls it modesty."

    I this makes her different from women generally how?

  • Irony on display||

    Jennifer calls people attention whores.

  • Jennifer||

    Hypothesis: Woman in article:reality TV contestants::Freegans:airfare obsessives

    She may say it's about religion, and reality TV contestants may say they want to be the next unimpressive Trump employee, but it's all about getting the attention.

    Makes sense to me. It's pretty ironic, though; the whole point of Muslim dress is supposed to be to make the wearer modest and unassuming and (basically) invisible. Yet these women are wearing them in contexts guaranteed to draw plenty of attention to themselves, far more attention than they'd get in Western clothes. May as well wear a business suit to a nudist camp.

  • ||

    Well, I wasn't referring to Jennifer personally, but the idea that many women dress for attention that they later disclaim is not exactly novel, nor limited in application to crazy Muslim women.

  • ||

    Then there was the case of the woman in Florida who wanted to be pictured in the niqab for her Driver's license picture....quite a few commentators pointed out that if she were in her native Saudi Arabia she wouldn't even be allowed to drive, so shaddup and show your face already.

    Any woman should have the right to wear a niqab if she so desires. But she then has to take the consequences of this. We are not a culture that allows for anonyminity in covering up our faces in daily life. The freedom to wear a niqab will be a freedom only until bank robbers and other criminals realize exactly how great a disguise this is and a niqab is used in several bank robberies, shootouts, and other similar activity.

    At which point, security forces and police will start to arrest--or shoot--niqab-wearing individuals on suspicion alone. Women who insist on wearing the niqab will have to balance their "privacy" against the possibility of getting shot.

    I predict a heck of a lot of them will suddenly decide that maybe showing their faces isn't as much of a sin as they thought it was.

    End of problem.

  • thoreau||

    Jennifer-

    Didn't you once point out a company selling "Christian" swimwear? I remember somebody observing that the stuff is so unusual-looking that it calls all sorts of attention to the wearer, while a simple, traditional one-piece would have covered lots of skin and avoided attention?

  • Jennifer||

    Didn't you once point out a company selling "Christian" swimwear? I remember somebody observing that the stuff is so unusual-looking that it calls all sorts of attention to the wearer, while a simple, traditional one-piece would have covered lots of skin and avoided attention?

    Yeah, I posted a link to the company, which I think was called "Wholesome Wear," and I may well have been the one pointing out how much more attention you'd get on the beach in such a suit than in a standard one-piece.

  • ||

    If we know criminals will try to take advantage of such disguising garb, can't we just start shooting those wear it now, preemptively?

    The Bush Doctrine, individualized.

  • Jennifer||

    Here's the thread, Thoreau! And it was me who made the immodest modesty observation.

  • ||

    Irony on display,
    Whomever you may be, I raise a glass in your honor. A touch, a touch, I do confess.

  • Jennifer||

    Warren, I hope that's not the same glass you dragged your balls across.

  • ||

    They say the President's dead but no one can find his head
    It's been missing now for weeks
    But no one noticed it he had seemed so fit
    and I'm Sick of it

    I'm Sick of You, I'm so Sick of You, bye, bye, bye
    bye, bye, bye

  • Jennifer||

    You're leaving?

  • ||

    Now Jennifer, you know that was metaphorical (and broken) glass.

  • Jennifer||

    True, Warren, but you never said anything about raising an "unbroken literal" glass.

  • ||

    The freedom to wear a nun's habit will be a freedom only until bank robbers and other criminals realize exactly how great a disguise this is and a nun's habit is used in several bank robberies, shootouts, and other similar activity.

    At which point, security forces and police will start to arrest--or shoot--nun's habit-wearing individuals on suspicion alone. Women who insist on wearing the nun's habit will have to balance their "privacy" against the possibility of getting shot.

  • Jennifer||

    Joseph Dietrich, nuns' habits don't obscure their faces. The niqab does.

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    "the whole point of Muslim dress is supposed to be to make the wearer modest and unassuming and (basically) invisible"

    Whose whole point? As you point out, it's certainly not the point of the woman they interviewed. Frankly, even the men who insist that their wives and daughters dress like that aren't looking for them to appear "invisible," but to appear Muslim, even to stand out as Muslim.

    Did you know that the traditional nun's outfit - the habit and robe et al - was originally designed to be a plain, modest version of what women wore anyway? Now, it's not. It's worn for the specific purpose of indicating that the wearer is different from most women.

    Symbols that a group adopt become primarily symbols of the group, and lose their original meaning. It's certainly not unique to this woman.

  • ||

    Aw, my first unclosed tag. I'm so proud.

  • Jennifer||

    Point taken, Joe, I should have specified that "according to the original religious idea, Muslim dress is supposed to make one modest and etc."

    If they want to be recognized as Muslims, good for them. Though there are still many options available that don't fairly scream "LOOK AT ME!" to passersby. Personally, I'm more impressed by those who can be recognized for their ideas or intellect rather than attire.

    But to go back to one of my earlier points, wearing the niqab in court or in a classroom is just as much a dress-code violation as wearing a bikini would be. I have no sympathy for those women in the article. (The women insulted when they walk on the street are another matter, but there are rude catcallers in every culture.)

  • Pointing out what we all know||

    "Though there are still many options available that don't fairly scream "LOOK AT ME!" to passersby."

    Like what? Adopting a shrill, angry tone?

  • ||

    Volokh posted on this today:
    http://www.volokh.com/posts/1182520101.shtml
    It's a little more complicated than wearing Halloween costumes to the grocery store.

    I'll take freedom of religion over freedom from religion any day.
    Perhaps Muslims should be accorded every religious freedom which they extend to everyone else.

  • Oops, forgot a couple!||

    Bitter sarcasm and bullying tactics.

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    "If they want to be recognized as Muslims, good for them. Though there are still many options available that don't fairly scream "LOOK AT ME!" to passersby."

    As I understand it, what counts as "Muslim" dress varies among different Muslim societies. For women who grow up in a country that defines a niqab as what Muslim women wear, wearing a Nancy Pelosi/Condi Rice tasteful head scarf isn't really an option available to them if they want to "dress Muslim."

    "But to go back to one of my earlier points, wearing the niqab in court or in a classroom is just as much a dress-code violation as wearing a bikini would be." I hear you, but I give people a little more lattitude when we're talking about religious practices. An employer could insist that his Muslim employees only take the same breaks as everyone else (you know, the standard 15 min at mid-morning, 30 at lunch, and 15 in midafternoon) instead of splitting his hour's worth of breaks to accomodate his prayer schedule, but I'd say that employer is being a dick.

  • thoreau||

    Perhaps Muslims should be accorded every religious freedom which they extend to everyone else.

    OK. The Bangladeshi guy in my lab never interferes with my religious practices, so that should work out pretty well.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    BTW, don't British barristers still wear the robes and wigs? If so (and my little parody aside), wearing the niqab would be objectionable on different grounds; rather like coming to a Black & White Ball in a red dress. Then again, perhaps things are less formal in their immigration courts.

  • ||

    Didn't you once point out a company selling "Christian" swimwear? I remember somebody observing that the stuff is so unusual-looking that it calls all sorts of attention to the wearer, while a simple, traditional one-piece would have covered lots of skin and avoided attention?

    I give you...

    ...the Burquini!!

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    That's it, Timon19's link wins this and all related threads.

  • Jennifer||

    I hear you, but I give people a little more lattitude when we're talking about religious practices. An employer could insist that his Muslim employees only take the same breaks as everyone else (you know, the standard 15 min at mid-morning, 30 at lunch, and 15 in midafternoon) instead of splitting his hour's worth of breaks to accomodate his prayer schedule, but I'd say that employer is being a dick.

    But in your example, the hypothetical Muslim gets the same amount of breaktime as everybody else. That's quite different from completely suspending the standards to which everyone else is expected to adhere. I stand 100 percent behind freedom of religion, but not to the point where religion becomes an excuse for "I don't have to follow the same rules as everybody else."

  • Poor Richard\'s Almanack||

    Eat to please thyself, but dress to please others.

  • M||

    I'd bet that the more the government tries to demonize the wearers of such attire, the more convinced the "devout" will become that it is the right thing to do, and its popularity will spread.

    I was told that in his attempt to modernize Turkey, Attaturk met resistance from women who insisted on retaining the veil. His solution was to permit veils for everyone and make it mandatory for prostitutes. Result: no more veils.

    Dunno if it's true; makes a good story, anyway.

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    If you're accepting the premise I wrote - the Muslim guy gets to have a different break schedule - you are accepting that he doesn't have to follow the same rules as everyone else. You're allowing him to follow a different rule, but making sure it's fair - he gets neither favoritism nor punishment, but flexibility is shown within that framework.

    I think that's the principle here. How to actually apply it would be a delicate, nuanced matter beyond what those of us who just read about the issue can be expected to know.

  • ||

    OK. The Bangladeshi guy in my lab never interferes with my religious practices, so that should work out pretty well.

    Ha, just wait till he's in the majority.

  • thoreau||

    Ha, just wait till he's in the majority.

    Let's see, my lab includes a hard-drinking Iranian, a Bangladeshi who throws good parties only shows up to the mosque on holidays, and an Algerian guy who has drinking stories about his time in Paris.

    Yes, I'm quaking in my boots at the prospect of a Muslim-majority lab.

    Well, the Iranian guy did have some bad things to say about religion at one point, but he seems willing to forgive the fact that I'm Catholic.

  • ||

    Let's see, my lab includes a hard-drinking Iranian, a Bangladeshi who throws good parties only shows up to the mosque on holidays, and an Algerian guy who has drinking stories about his time in Paris.

    Yes, I'm quaking in my boots at the prospect of a Muslim-majority lab.

    Well, the Iranian guy did have some bad things to say about religion at one point, but he seems willing to forgive the fact that I'm Catholic.


    I have no problem with any drunk, lapsed Muslim with a PHD in Physics.

    If that was the criteria to get a Greed Card from a middle eastern country, it would be good policy.

    Its the other 99.9% that we need to worry about

  • thoreau||

    Its the other 99.9% that we need to worry about

    His son did try to take my juggling balls. Damn thief!

  • thoreau||

    Oh, and one of his friends served in the US Army. I hear they teach those guys how to blow stuff up!

  • ||

    Um, Jennifer, nuns don't usually cover their faces so that only their eyes are showing.

    So your rewriting falls flat on its face anyway.

    Whether Libertarians want to admit or not, we live in a culture where people are expected to show their faces. People who haven't shown their faces are people like bank robbers and other similar entities. (Think of all the cliches in cartoons and movies about the bank robbers drawing up to the bank with bandanas tied around their faces.)

    Because of this, I don't think that people in the US are ever going to get used to seeing women wearing a niqab without thinking of them as "other" and "hiding something."

    If, after that, a crime is carried out where the niqab IS used to hide the criminal's identity, the link between niqab and someone-not-to-be-trusted will be even more reinforced. The police may act in accordance with this belief.

  • highnumber||

    Whether Libertarians want to admit or not, we live in a culture where people are expected to...

    That's where I tuned you out.

  • Jennifer||

    Um, Jennifer, nuns don't usually cover their faces so that only their eyes are showing. So your rewriting falls flat on its face anyway.

    I know. Go back and re-read the comments, and you'll see I made exactly that point to Joseph Dietrich when he compared a nun's habit to a niqab.

  • ||

    I dont know this website or who you people are, but laws in France violate the rights of Muslims to wear hijabs and hiqabs if they so choose. Perhaps it is not practical for some professions like if you are in a court and maybe dangerous if you are around machinery agreed, but a lot of my family wear hijabs and some older wear the niqab and we dont interfere in your lives why does the secular "free" government like France (also Turkiya) and maybe now Engeltra want to interfere? Is your secular ideology so weak it cannot stand up to a piece of cotton cloth made from a sheep?

    And then finally to you Mr 'grand chalupa" I do not know if you are joking or serious or partially joking maybe when you implying 99.9% Muslims are some sort of threat to you... if you are joking then I ask for your forgiveness in me taking issue and raising your name, however if you are somewhat serios in this claim, then by your own calculation I, a Muslim, most probably belong to this 99.9% and thus be scared when opening your house door maybe it will be me hiding in the bushes because I am coming after you!

    And if no Muslims have come after you with a sword because of your faith and you keep meeting only 0.1%, then you must be the luckiest man alive that anyone knows, please tell me what is your secret to this great luck I would like some of it too!

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