Saturday, May 1, 2010

Veiled threats

My reaction to the wave of anti-burka legislation sweeping through western Europe is a mix of revulsion and amusement. Akin to how I feel about recent anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona, the state which gave us Barry Goldwater and John McCain.

Fear is a potent emotion, and especially fear of the 'other', the non-conformist, the unusual, the square peg for which there are no round holes. In America, we are supposed to celebrate the diversity of our country. We are the melting pot, welcoming all that 'wretched refuse'. Yet, fact is, we don't much like Hispanics and Asians and African-Americans, and Jews, and gays. Muslims? Fuhgeddaboutit.

Although there may be legitimate security concerns about not being able to identify people (i.e. women) hidden beneath the veil, I was not aware that this had become an urgent matter as of late. In fact, based on experience, we are better off banning underwear and socks rather than veils on flights and in the public domain.

The French first and now the Belgians have joined in a crusade to ban veiled women in public parks, government offices, and so forth. This, in addition to French Pres Sarkozy's push to ban young Muslim women from wearing head scarves in the public schools, leaves me wondering whether there's something else afoot.

BobOnARoll believes that freedom of religious expression trumps just about all other concerns, except perhaps for free speech and a free press. Though one who rejects most religious practice and all religious hierarchies, I think we tread on dangerous ground when we single out one faith or people for selective treatment in this manner. Do I think the veiling of women is a medieval, weird, quasi-repressive practice? Yep. But I also think the Hasidim with the long black coats and women with wigs forced to sit apart from the men in public worship is just as weird.

I don't rule the world, thank god. Let's deal with real problems and stop ostracizing people for what they believe or how they dress.

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