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Uncover for Security's Sake?

Reader comment on item: Boston Bombing Lesson: Ban Niqabs and Burqas

Submitted by Martin H. Katchen (United States), Apr 21, 2013 at 19:31

I have to confess that back during the Second Intifada when Israelis were being murdered by suicide bombers right and left, I toyed with the idea that for the sake of preventing suicide bombing, everyone in Israel should dress in revealing clothing in public places and that Orthodox Jewish values of snius must give way to pikuach hanefesh in order that bombs not be concealed. Fortunately, a combination of the Security Fence, increased watchfulness and arming of Israelis and the exhaustion of Palestinian Arabs ended the Second Intifada before such measures became thinkable, but the question does remain. Or even insist that bags and backpacks be transparent, which would seem to be an elementary and reasonable first precaution before going to the extent of legislating fashion.

In a free society, especially one with religious freedom, what is the balance between modesty, fashion and security when religiously based covering can be easily used to cover up a criminal or terrorist's identity and what is the proper response?

Countries like France or Mexico or even the UK with traditions of secularism and Parliamentary superiority may be able to get away with banning burkas in public places, but I cannot see the United States managing to do so. Though I can easily see PRIVATE public places such as banks, retail outlets and even private universities managing to do so.

Fortunately, technology was developed by the Transportation Safety Administration (though too controversial for them to fully implement) that deals with that particular problem if it can be installed on our surveillance cameras and drones and in police cars. It is possible for police and security people to see under people's clothing and under these circumstances, people are just going to have to live with the loss of privacy that that entails. We may have to accept that police have a right to see inside people's clothing and see who is carrying a weapon and if it is a place like New York with a strict anti-gun law, arrest them for it and if it is a place with a legal carry permit, ask to see that carry permit. That may be the price for seeing if someone is carrying a bomb, and it will stop a lot of street crime cold too. And banks and storeowners may need cameras that can see underneath burkas and masks in the event of a robbery, since robbers may not politely come up to the teller window with a note while wearing a burka or a balaclava. (And if occasionally, details of customer's anatomy turn up online, the bank can only cringe and invest in better internal security and pay higher insurance premiums later). After all, the United States, Canada and much of Europe have cold climates in which covering up in winter is necessary. Terrorists could simply wait for winter to attack when their identity would be obscured by the context of inclement weather. Even in a place like O'Hare Airport on the day before Thanksgiving--the biggest tavel day of the year. Or in the lift line of a ski area or a ski competition where a ski mask would not be out of place.

The real problem with going after burkas, though is that it distracts people's attention on a mutitude and minority of individual Muslim citizens and residents and what they happen to be wearing, instead of focusing American's concern on the real problem which is continued American investment in Saudi Arabia and continued Saudi investment in the United States that funds terrorism. surely we should be more concerned with the Saudi royalty and it's money that t continues to fund terrorism, some of which we contribute at the pump, than with what people from a variety of countries, mostly women happen to be wearing. WAe need to worry less about the niqab and more about what's in the bank account of the man three paces in front of the woman wearing the niqab and where that money might be going.

Submitting....

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