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More thoughts on criminalizing dress

Reader comment on item: Niqabs and Burqas - The Veiled Threat Continues
in response to reader comment: Ok, JSheff, Let's have a real discussion about this

Submitted by JSheff (United States), Sep 3, 2009 at 11:45

Thank you, Sara, for your thoughtful reply.

Although I think highly of Daniel Pipes and often agree with his positions, I can't support him on this issue, in which his solution goes against my strong beliefs in freedom of expression, whether based in culture or religion. As a Jew, I know that there is often no clearcut distinction between the two, especially in the mind of the individual believer.

If the huge majority of niqab-garbed individuals are not threats, as you admit, your position becomes that that these garments must be banned because of community values such as cohesiveness, openness, trust, etc. I certainly relished seeing the smirks of my elementary school classmates at my teachers' attempts at humor, and the pained expressions on the face of girls whose pigtails were pulled, but, as an adult, I believe those pleasures could be sacrificed for respect to the girls' traditions . I agree that in this increasingly multicultural society, cohesiveness is an important goal, and happen to feel that the adoption of English as the official national language may be warranted, but, in this world of Tweets and emoticons ,where the option of keeping one's feelings private is less and less valued, I believe that cultures and individuals who go against the grain in valuing privacy over openness should have their rights protected.

Your reference to male domination indicates that feminism may also inform your views. Since this issue is all about female modesty and right to privacy, do you think that there is any irony in the position that this right should permit women to abort their fetuses, but not to hide their faces?

Regarding law enforcement: policing is a difficult job, and sometimes one's personal or cultural preferences make jobs of police and security agents more difficult. Perhaps eventually we will all have microchips implanted in us that can be scanned from a distance -- that certainly would make their jobs easier. In fact, there now exist techniques, such as fingerprint and eyeball scanning, that allow immediate identification without facial exposure. Although police profiling is a different issue, I assume you will agree that the niqab does not make this more difficult.

In addition to the above,I believe that banning Islamic dress constitutes a declaration of war, against the traditions of tens- or even hundreds of millions of people. Certainly some of these people are sworn enemies of our way of life, but others, particularly among those who choose to live among us, or to visit our country, may not be. I contend that narrowing our own sphere of freedom and further alienating them by criminalizing female head-coverings is not justified by the clash of our civilizations.


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