Monday, April 11, 2011

Banning the Burqa, and Other Good Ideas

We are told that: "Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy and forgiveness that should not be associated with acts of violence against the innocent." Therefore, it is unfair to characterize Islam as a whole as violent, intolerant and oppressive, for this is only true of certain strains of Islam variously referred to as "fundamentalist" or "extremist".

Fine. Let us only direct our attention to those subsets of Islam that are undeniably violent, intolerant, and oppressive. Like, for instance, those Muslims who impose on women a state of subjugation worse than slavery, and as part of this subjugation force women to wear the so-called "burqa".

Wait, what's that you say? Banning the burqa violates freedom of religion? Really? But Islam does not require women to wear the burqa. Only certain interpretations of Islam do. Just as certain interpretations of Islam call for "acts of violence against the innocent."

If we are to believe that Islam as a whole is not oppressive, then why is it that Muslims as a group band together and rally to defend the most repugnant "interpretations" of their religion, such as the burqa, in the name of "freedom of religion" (a concept utterly foreign to Islam anyway)?

But perhaps there are good reasons to not ban the burqa. Telling people what they can and cannot wear is, after all, an inherently objectionable idea. Ayan Hirsi Ali, one of the world's fiercest critics of Islam, says that banning the burqa "misses the point" (link), and maybe she has a point. Ali says it's far more important to educate people about why the burqa is such an odious symbol of oppression, than it is to be sucked into culture war debates over regulating things that are normally (and properly) left up to individual choice.

Although I am a big fan of Ayan Hirsi Ali, I think I'm going to have to disagree with her on this one. The burqa ban is a blunt instrument, and sometimes that is exactly what is needed. It's like that old anarchist saying: "Any tool can be a weapon if you hold it right."

People in Europe are afraid of Islam. Why? Because they are all evil racists and/or mindless Christian fundamentalists? No. Because they are all high-minded humanists steeped in the ideals of the Enlightenment? No.

People in Europe are afraid of Islam because they have, over many decades, come to know Islam up close and personal. They have seen the real effects that Islam has had in their societies and they do not like it. They have come to understand that more Islam means less freedom.

This isn't the case of the boy who cried wolf, or of someone shouting fire in a crowded theater. The wolf is real, and the theater is on fire. Both freedom of expression and freedom of religion are already being eroded thanks to the spread of Islam in the West.

In the United States, anyone who has a mind to is perfectly free to buy and read and express open admiration for Mein Kampf; the Communist Manifesto; the writings of Ayn Rand; the Turner Diaries; David Ray Griffin's Debunking 9/11 Debunking; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; Naked Lunch; Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging; the Captain Underpants novels; A Clockwork Orange; the Left Behind novels; Lolita; Che Guevara on Guerrilla Warfare; Mao's Little Red Book; the writings of Subcomandante Marcos; Sex, Orgasm and the Mind of Clear Light: The Sixty Four Arts of Gay Male Love, etc, etc, etc ....

And in the United States, anyone who feels so moved is free to buy any or all of the above named books and then set them on fire and film the whole thing and upload it to youtube and no one can say anything other than, oh my do you really think you should do that? But if you burn the Koran all bets are off. Why? Because Islam is different, evidently. But if Islam is different then it deserves to be treated differently. But lets not even go that far. Lets just say that certain aspects of Islam are clearly deserving of being treated differently, like those aspects of Islam that are blatantly violent, intolerant, and oppressive. Like the burqa. And Sharia. And the whole killing apostates thing. And the demand that the Koran be treated (by non-Muslims) with special respect not accorded to any other book or writing . . . .