Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on France's Anti-Burqa Jihad


In her latest Forbes column, Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia defends the burqa from fellow athesists such as Christopher Hitchens who are cheering French efforts to ban it. Dalmia notes that their arguments betray more affinity than they realize with the religious tendencies that secularism is supposed to transcend:

This becomes obvious when one compares their attitude toward the burqa to that of India's secularists, few of whom would ever dream of banning it.

Why does France feel the need to do this?

It's not like burqas are a huge problem in the country. Although estimates vary, Muslims constitute less than 10% of the French population and no more than 2,000 of them sport burqas. This means most French folks can comfortably go through life without ever encountering a burqa-clad woman. By contrast, India has nearly 140 million Muslims–or 13.4% of its population–and millions of them sport burqas, making it hard to go a few days without running into one…

Read the whole thing here.

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  1. Ironic that Burq’li was famous for its free-speech movement.

    1. Ahh, the good old days, when the left actually SUPPORTED freedom of speech and the press.

  2. “…fellow athesists such as Christopher Hitchens who are cheering French efforts to ban it.”

    THIS is what I meant by fundamentalist atheists, SugarFree. I’m not sure if you got a chance to read my response before they pulled the comments the other day. Hitchensian is the perfect adjective for them, I think.

    1. Another example is Dawkins advocating banning religious schools in The God Delusion, even completely private ones.

    2. No, it got disappeared before I got to read it.

      The real problem with “fundamentalist” as a modifier for atheist is that what the word literally means and has become to mean is on one hand incompatible and the other dysphemistic.

      Fundamentalists are people (who purport) to adhere to a strict or even literal reading of a set of beliefs. A fundamentalist atheist, therefore, would then merely be someone who adheres strictly to the belief that there is no divine or supernatural component to the world. Since that is the simple base of atheist belief, then adhering strictly to is the whole point of being an atheist. If you are strict on the point, you stop being an atheist and become an agnostic.

      (Flip it: Does simply believing that Jesus Christ was the son of God sent to Earth to absolve mankind of its sins make you a “fundamentalist Christian”?)

      Atheists believe there is no God. Nothing else flows from that arrangement. As much as some people here would like there to be, there is no formal anti-religious bias in atheism. Trust me, I know dozens and we do not sit around grumbling about God all day. In fact, we don’t really ever give Him a thought at all.

      When you want to call Hitchens a “fundamental” athist, what you are trying to express is the twisted meaning of the word. Fundamentalism has been equated with fanaticism and assholism.

      Since, in a strict sense, “fundamental atheist” is nonsensical, then stop using is as a dysphemism for “asshole atheist” and/or “fanatical atheist.”

      1. *If you are not strict on the point, you stop being an atheist and become an agnostic.*

      2. Good points. When I say fundamentalist in regard to atheists, I suppose I am missing an adjective to qualify which type of atheist I mean. That’s what the old post was about. I said I should be calling them Hitchensian Atheists, because there is this assumption not only that there is no God, but that religion itself is evil. I’ll be sure to edit myself in the future. But you at least get my point, right? I’m an atheist as well, and I know plenty of atheists that, like us, don’t really even consider God. But I also know plenty of the asshole variety.

        1. I completely agree with your point. There are plenty of asshole atheists and there are plenty of anti-religious atheists. But too many around here want to makes this both the default description for all atheists and deny that assholes exist in every creed, color, and race of man.

        2. At least that’s better than a friend of mine who believes that there is God, and that he is evil.

      3. Even more than what NutraSweet says, for all that he is completely correct, is that what Chris is describing is essentially an “anti-religion atheist”, because not all atheists hate religion. To be an atheist, it means you do not believe in religion/God/Jeebus, etc. If you then move on to hating or wanting to ban religion, you are still an atheist, but you are more as well: you are an anti-religion atheist, and that part of it has nothing to do with your atheism.

        I don’t care for religion at all. I would never ban it. That would be initiating force against those who do believe in it.

        1. This one douchebag I met used as proof that the masses are stupid that most people still believe in a god. He was shocked when I, a fellow atheist, said that was absurd, and that it showed that his requirement for someone being intelligent is for them to believe what he believes. He assumed that all atheists hate religion.

      4. Originally, “fundamentalist” referred to someone who believed in the items on the 1897 Niagara Bible Conference’s list of “Fundamentals” of Christian faith. This highly specific list was made in response to modernist theological attempts to make Christian beliefs more vague.

        So the term has already been misapplied to cover other sorts of conservative Christians, and then members of other religions entirely who seem to us to be as strict, dogmatic, and conservative as the original Fundamentalists were.

        The point being, the word has already had its meaning stretched to cover people who seem similar to those it originally described in some way. No point griping over the same process happening again with regard to atheists.

        1. That’s offensive! Stop doing that!

    3. I knew it: the “atheists are as bad as honour killing Jihadist savages” virus has infected Reason magazine too.

      1. And it’s a shame Reason chickenshitted out on the Everybody Draw Mohamed Day post. I enjoyed reading the stream of “atheists are fundamentalists, no they’re not, yes they are” comments. I guess it starts again here?

        Atheism seems an even more emotive issue than the people who start world wars over cartoons.

        1. Whoa, hold on. Is reason going to post our submissions today or not? Did they say somewhere that they wouldn’t? Or are you just talking about that thread that Welch squelched?

          1. They were never going to post your submission anyway.

            1. Oh, that was what I wanted to determine, my friend.

          2. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I didn’t even get time to read to the bottom of the 30 or so responses from my rather trivial comment that Reason is whining about atheists while discussing the issue of people who want to enslave us under a theocratic one world government.

            It seems that as far left and as far right as one can go, from the Guardian to Townhall and everywhere in between people always bring the issue of the big bad “fundamentalist” atheists into an article that tries to rationalize or sanitize the issue of genital mutilating terrorists.

            1. And on the issue (or non-issue) of petty and ineffectual government enforced dress codes has anybody here spared a thought for Britain’s poor hoodies? Damn those fundamentalist ahoodies!

            2. If you go back and read the post, I was referencing a prior thread, not sanitizing genital mutilation.

              1. Oh, wait, you’re talking about something else. Whoops. So much for my snipe about your reading comprehension.

              2. It’s always a good idea to sanitize the genitals prior to mutilation. It’s just good, basic science.

      2. I don’t think that point was made in this thread anywhere except in your head due to poor reading comprehension.

        1. SECOND comment:

          Chris|5.20.10 @ 10:52AM|#

          “…fellow athesists [sic] such as Christopher Hitchens who are cheering French efforts to ban it.”

          THIS is what I meant by fundamentalist atheists

          Yeah you’ll have to excuse my poor reading skills, I thought they were talking about atheists, they were talking about athesists. That’s an easy mistake to make you know?

          1. How is that ANYWHERE near “atheists are as bad as honour killing Jihadist savages”?

            1. I wasn’t talking about you, although you were the first person to bring back this subject of “fundamentalist atheists”. I said that when mainstream news sources discuss the rather emotive issue of the religion of peace and the actions of the religion of peacenicks there always has to be a minor or major snipe against atheists too.

              Hell, here’s one that just goes after atheists for the sake of going after atheists:…..iousandcow

              1. Or “militant atheists” (see Grauniad sludge heap). People fly aeroplanes into buildings. Man writes book saying they are naughty boys. Former is peaceful, latter is militant. ‘Kay.

              2. I see. Looks like you overreacted to my post, and then I overreacted to yours. So it goes.

                1. Yeah I overreacted. Sorry. It wasn’t so much your post but this whole “militant/fundamentalist/adjective with negative connotations” atheist bullshit. It just really pisses me off. Like when Christopher Hitchens suggested that the pope should be arrested ? because he led an international conspiracy to protect paedophiles. The response from the press: those horrid atheists are at it again! Honestly, does nobody else see anything wrong with that mentality?

                  Anyway call me when the Mohamed pictures are available for viewing.

              3. It’s the public’s obsession with ‘fairness’ and ‘balance.’ As if any of the religious believe that their beliefs are just as likely as anyone else’s.

                The Guardian is a bad example as well, because they have plenty of articles from Dawkins, etc, since that one from 2007…but many media outlets seem to treat all religions and atheism as equally likely propositions.

        2. Actually, Nitori is making a valid point, but that point is about past threads and not the current one. There have been some vile and retarded things said about atheists on this board, and they have been way out of proportion to whatever anti-religious bias has ever been expressed.

          For example.

          1. For clairty’s sake… the valid point is the attacks on atheists that lot of regular commenters indulge in.

            1. Gotcha. Well, he could have broached the topic a little better.

          2. Yeah, that seems to be one of John’s sore spots, doesn’t it.

    4. I keep mixing Christopher Hitchens up with Christopher Cerf and Christopher Buckley. How do you keep those Christophers straight?

  3. I agree you should be able to cover yourself from head to toe if you like, but the burqa really is an eye sore as it thwarts the power of my male gaze.

    1. Thou shalt not cover thy neighbor’s wife!

      1. Cover the face, if necessary….

    2. Except in banks in Washington state, where you’re not even allowed to wear a hat.

  4. If society can require you to cover your crotch, can’t it require you to uncover your face?

    1. How do you tell the difference in your case, Alan?

      1. Must be pretty tough…shit comes out and cocks go in both of them.

    2. Shouldn’t you be at home working on another Truman Capote novel or something?

  5. Burqas are stupid, but yeah, if people feel compelled to wear them because their invisible sky-king demands it, they can go right the fuck ahead.

    I don’t think Dahlmia pays enough attention to the fact that many women are forced to wear the burqa, though. She mentions it, but sort of glosses over it. I wonder how many of them would wear it, given a choice to remove it without consequence?

    Burqas are certainly a tool of female oppression in Islamic theocracies where sharia law sanctions violence against women who violate its strictures. But that is not true in liberal democracies where the reason government exists is to protect personal choices from physical violence. When women wear burqas despite such protection, it has to be assumed that they are doing so of their own free will. This doesn’t mean that all Muslim women affirmatively embrace burqas–although no doubt some do. But it does mean that their emotional ties with their communities and families are, on balance, stronger than their distaste for the burqa and hence they’d rather wear it than face rejection.

    I’m not ready to assume that Muslim women are wearing the burqa of their own free will in these “liberal democracies.” That is a rather vast oversimplification.

    I don’t really know what to say about “emotional ties…stronger than their distate for the burqa…” Look, the burqa is a tool used to oppress and control women (and how convenient if such methods are called expressions of chasteness and piety), and if avoiding rejection is the primary reason for wearing it, it’s not a very good one.

    1. Burqas are stupid, but yeah, if people feel compelled to wear them because their invisible sky-king demands it, they can go right the fuck ahead.

      Really? You honestly believe that anyone is wearing one of these things because they feel individually compelled, and not because they feel that they’ll wind up the victim of an honor killing at worst or just abused, disowned and left for dead at best?

      I’m trying to understand how the whole thing is even defensible. You’d have to work very very hard to convince me that there’s absolutely no coercion involved in a Muslim woman’s choice to wear the burqa. Or is coercion OK as long as it’s not the state doing it?

      Even if the decision to wear it is individual it would necessarily be a result of lies told to the woman wearing the burqa. There is no choice involved in the submission to a set of lies told to someone their entire life.

      1. Did you bother to read the rest of the post, dude?

  6. Social convention is different from state law. The former is natural, and the latter is first superfluous, and eventually harmful once social convention evolves past the law.

    1. ?

      “Social Convention” is nothing more than “the way we do it at home/in our village.”

      It can be far more stifling than law.

      1. True, but in a complex society such as ours, these social conventions change quite frequently. It seems as soon as enough people agree on one, they pass a law to solidify it. Then, as our culture evolves, the laws remain on the books and hinder things.

  7. People like Hitchens and my father astound me. Yeah, I’m an atheist too, but since when are government enforced dress codes a good thing?

    Happy Everybody Draw Mohammed Day – My Drawing:

    1. Not to mention, since when is abridging freedom of religion and expression a good thing? Its definitely not good even for us atheists, because if they can abridge the religion and expression of muslims they can do it to us too.

  8. In other news, Pakistan has added Youtube to the banned websites that feature things about Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. source:…..ccessible/

  9. The French government–or anyone else–has no right to tell people who to dress. I think burqas are stupid, but if you want to wear them (or want to bow to the social/family pressure to wear one) that is nobody’s business but your own.

    Get off my side, Hitchens. Once a totalitarian, always a totalitarian, I guess.

    1. The French government–or anyone else–has no right to tell people who to dress.

      Prove it.

      1. Shut up, cuntsnot.

    2. Burqas – the attire preferred by suicide bombers and bank robbers the world over!

  10. THIS is what I meant by fundamentalist atheists…

    I could not agree with you more, though I would substitute or at least add the word “evangelical”. Fundamentalism is not the problem. (Anyway who is to determine when a belief stops being moderate and becomes fundamental?) I have no truck with the Old Order Amish and if there ever were a definition of a fundamental Christian, it is the Amish. The Amish leave me alone and I leave them alone. (Ok, they have given me a fright when I am riding my motorbike in Lancaster County and I have come around a bend in the road to find a bloody horse and buggy.)

    My problem is with evangelicals. I don’t care if they are evangelical Christians, Moslems, Atheists or AGW warmists. They are all a pain in the ass and wish they would leave me alone.

    1. I don’t see a problem with evangelical atheists, if you don’t like what they are saying you are free to not listen to them. As an atheist and libertarian I think its a good thing to try and convince people, who are willing to listen, that they should question their superstitions and embrace reason.

      1. I don’t see a problem with evangelical atheists…

        I do!

        Say that I am a fundemental, but no evangelical Moslem woman that wishes to push no of my belifs on anyone, but I do want to wear a burqa becuase that is just what I want to do. So along comes some asshat evangelical Atheist that makes it a crime for me to wear a burqa. You don;t see a problem with that?


        What Ken wrote in his 2nd paragraph at 11:43AM

      2. “Evangelical atheists” makes sense to me. But I’m leery of making all “evangelicals,” regardless of belief, out to be assholes. I think there is a continuum of evangelical behavior, from the quiet lead by example to the obnoxious fuckwad.

        I myself will tell people when asked (or if they are confused by what I’m asserting) but I really only turn into a complete asshole when people deliberately misrepresent what I believe. I am the same in my libertarianism as well.

        1. What about the Church of Latter Day Atheists? Don’t you just want to punch their lights out when they drag you to the front door at 7:00AM on Sunday? (Working on the Sabbath? Stone them!) Yeah they’re even worse than the evangelical atheists. **Bangs head. Bangs head. Bangs head**

    2. After SugarFree’s response, I don’t think Fundamentalist is the word anymore. However, I don’t think evangelical is, either. Basically, it’s just when people think that in order for their beliefs to be justified, everyone needs to share them (or die). It’s another manifestation of sheepism. They want as much wool around them as possible.

      1. Basically, it’s just when people think that in order for their beliefs to be justified, everyone needs to share them…

        Hmm…sounds familiar.

        1. Yeah, sounds like liberals to me to.

      2. The best word in common use to describe this is “militant”, though even that one is pretty stretched from it’s normal meaning too.

        Seriously, I’m enough of a semantic relativist to think that a word means what the person you’re talking to thinks it means. If you say “fundamentalist atheist” and the other person understands what you mean, that’s what it means.

  11. When assimilation is seen as the solution, anything that’s seen as getting in the way of that is considered a problem.

    But assimilation isn’t the solution. Freedom is. Reinforcing people’s individual rights is the solution–and banning the burqa gets in the way of that.

  12. I don’t care if they wear a burqa, but will someone please let them know that in America, bathing is preferable to dousing one’s self with cheap perfume?

  13. Perhaps that rule should only apply when authentication is an issue. For example, if you’re wearing your burqa in driver’s license pic, it’s not possible to verify that you’re truly permitted to drive the car or use a credit card/write a check.

    I’m all for individual style but wearing a bandana over your face with your hat pulled low will definitely make others unconformtable. I imagine that burqa-wearing women have the same impact (I don’t believe that I’ve ever encountered one, though). However, discomfort is not sufficient to make a law abridging freedom of expression.

    1. I actually did encounter a burqa-wearing woman (full battle dress too, black garment from head to toe) in Big Lots, of all places. It was startling to come around the corner of the aisle and see it, but not uncomfortable per se. It isn’t a common sight where I live, even though we have an “Islamic Center” right down the street. Those women mainly go for a head scarf and modest clothing from what I see on Friday evenings.

    2. I’m all for individual style but wearing a bandana over your face with your hat pulled low will definitely make others unconformtable. I imagine that burqa-wearing women have the same impact (I don’t believe that I’ve ever encountered one, though).

      Yeah, it makes me uncomfortable, but not because I’m worried about the woman wearing the burqa. I’m worried about what scars and bruises she has from the man walking in front of her.

      1. Because he keeps stopping short?

        1. Stop me? He can’t even slow me down.

  14. Hacha Cha|5.20.10 @ 11:45AM
    ?who are willing to listen…

    Only if I ask you first. Otherwise, leave me along.

    they should question their superstitions

    You really could not be a more condescending bastard if you tried.

    1. In certain situations I agree that you should ask first, but that isn’t true in all situations.
      There is nothing reasonable with stating “there is a god” without any proof. I am not saying “there is definitely no god” or “it is impossible for god to exist”, I am saying there is no reason to believe in god because there is no evidence to suggest god exists.

      1. there is no reason to believe in god because there is no evidence to suggest god exists

        In your opinion. In a free society, some people will choose otherwise because they feel that atheism is nihilistic. In a not-free society, they will choose otherwise because they fear that they will be harmed or abandoned by the people that provide for them. I’d suggest that anyone who is wearing a burqa probably falls into the latter category.

        1. thats not an opinion. faith is not reasonable. Explain why believing in something without evidence is reasonable. I don’t have a problem with people believing in false ideas if they aren’t harming others because of their beliefs. But that doesn’t change the fact that their beliefs aren’t reasonable. Many admit that and that they are willing to go on faith, I respect those who are up front, instead of those who argue they have reason on their side.

          1. But yeah, I wanted to make sure that you understand I am against the burqa ban, I am for a free market of ideas where people are free to choose what they want to believe and wear. I wasn’t sure if you thought because I’m an atheist that I was supporting the ban.

    2. GoNavy

      Otherwise, leave me along.

      Only if you tow the lion.

  15. I am much more concerned about my being denied the right to wear my giant anatomically correct form fitting codspiece, which I prefer to call penis pants. Its a cross I have to bear…a big, buldgeing, spurting cross…

  16. I’d say something but, as a fundamentalist solipsist, it’s against my beliefs.

  17. “Art of the Father,” a young man’s tale about his father and the lessons instilled in him. Please read it at

  18. I certainly support the right of women to wear extremely uncomfortable clothing if they actually WANT to.

    But how many of the Muslims who demand their right to wear this garb using western pro-freedom arguments understand the double standard if they then turn around and demand that cartoons of Muhammed be banned.

  19. I actually run into a lot of these women here in St. Louis, both are where I would expect (Global Market) and where I wouldn’t (Wal-Mart).

    Anyway, it’s really the face covering that is the creepy part.

    Should people have the right to make themselves faceless?

    In theory, yes. But when you actually see it in practice. Well, it’s pretty damn creepy. And you have to wonder if they are doing it because they want to, or because they have no choice.

    I think the latter is ultimately behind the ban in France (and elsewhere). Because Islamic society is so insular, you have no way of knowing they are really doing it by choice, or if by threat of force.

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