“Take it all off”

During the 60s, one of the rallying cries of the Left was to “take it all off.” Daniel Pipes definitely doesn’t advocate that, but he does argue that it is reasonable for democratic societies (indeed, for any societies) to ban entirely the tribal garments known as burqas and niqabs, since the former cover the wearer entirely, while the latter leave only the eyes exposed:

[B]urqas and niqabs should be banned in all public spaces because they present a security risk. Anyone might lurk under those shrouds – female or male, Muslim or non-Muslim, decent citizen, fugitive, or criminal – with who knows what evil purposes.

Some examples (full details can be found at my weblog entry, “The Niqab and Burqa as Security Threats“): A spectacular act of would-be escape took place in early July, when Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz Ghazi, 46, tried to flee the Red Mosque complex in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he had helped lead an insurrection aiming to topple the government. He donned a black burqa and high heels but, unfortunately for him, his height, demeanor, and pot belly gave him away, leading to his arrest.

One of the July 2005 London bombers, Yassin Omar, 26, took on the burqa twice – once when fleeing the scene of the crime, then a day later, when fleeing London for the Midlands.

Other male burqa’ed fugitives include a Somali murder suspect in the United Kingdom, Palestinian killers fleeing Israeli justice, a member of the Taliban fleeing NATO forces in Afghanistan, and the murderer of a Sunni Islamist in Pakistan.

Burqas and niqabs also facilitate non-political criminal behavior. Unsurprisingly, favorite targets of robberies include jewelry stores (examples come from Canada, Great Britain, and India) and banks (Great Britain, Bosnia, and two 2007 attacks in Philadelphia). Curiously, in Kenya, street prostitutes have donned buibuis (which reveals slightly more of the face than a niqab), the better to blend into the night population and avoid the police.

Expressing the universal fear aroused by these garments, a recent Pakistani horror film, Zibahkhana (meaning “slaughterhouse” in Urdu) includes a sadistic cannibalistic killer figure dubbed “Burqa Man.”

The practice of covering the face derives from tribal customs that build on Islamic law, not the law itself. For example, some tribeswomen in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Kharj region put on the burqa at puberty, then never take it off – not for other women, not for their husbands, and not for their children. These family members typically see the woman’s face only when viewing her corpse.

British research offers another reason to drop the burqa and niqab, finding that covered women and their breast-fed children lack sufficient amounts of vitamin D (which the skin absorbs from sunlight) and are at serious risk of rickets.

Nothing in Islam requires turning females into shapeless, faceless zombies; good sense calls for modesty itself to be modest. The time has come everywhere to ban from public places these hideous, unhealthy, socially divisive, terrorist-enabling, and criminal-friendly garments.

To which I say, Hear! Hear!


28 Responses

  1. Along with that, we ought to nip in the bud the call for “female only” beaches in the US. The beaches are public. We don’t have “white only”, “Christian only”, “Protestant only” “buff only” public accomodations in this country anymore.

  2. Just speaking as one woman gazing on another, looking on a woman in a burqa inflames my sense of the injustice done to this woman as an individual and a human being. Besides all the practical reasons for not wearing burquas that you listed, the woman in a burqa is the walking graphic embodiment of nullification.

    As a woman of a democratic republic founded dedicated to liberty, I’m proud to realize and say that I seem to have no natural “multicultural” politically correct sense about it. To speak plainly: such clothing is a travesty, an offense, a crime against the individual woman.

    Remember how we used to say that about restraints like corsets, whalebone stays, and girdles? How much worse are these burquas?

    I have no problem with native costumes or modest clothing in general. I have no beef with “the other” or “the different.” But covering a human being up to the extent a burqa does is just plain insane and cruel. It is a nasty message imposed by a sick society. That these women may be brainwashed into believing it is “normal” is no excuse for that kind of human rights violation.

    I feel I have an obligation to intervene, don’t you?

    I put it on par with walking past a slave market or seeing Chinese women with bound feet. Those of us who know better have an obligation to speak out against such cruelty. Confronting the woman herself may not be the best way to help (or maybe it is), but I sincerely believe help is called for. The women are to be pitied; the society that supports this is to be condemned.

  3. I feel the same way, Zabrina. What’s interesting is that last week’s New Yorker cover showed three women sitting side by side on a subway train: a Muslim in a niqab, a Western woman in a sports bra and shorts, and a Nun in the type of medieval habit no nuns wear any more. I couldn’t help but suspect that the illustrator was trying to show the nun and the Muslim woman as being equivalent. However, the nun assumes her habit voluntarily, while most Muslim woman are forced into their burqas or niqabs. Indeed, in many primarily Muslim neighborhoods, non-Muslim women are donning these garments so as not be to raped. For the majority of women, these clothes are almost certainly not expressions of faith, but are instead defenses against a violent, Muslim masculine culture.

  4. Jesus. Does Bookworm NOT know how to use the Google?

    The expression “Take it off” was used in a commercial for Noxzema Shaving Cream. It was never political, left or right.

    I realize that Bookworm’s mapping her “commentary” to empirical fact has ever been of even flickering interest to her, but we’re talking popular culture here, which I previously thought was apolitical (and thus — I’m an optimist at heart — one of the few grounds for rapport in the right’s attack on American society).

  5. Well, greg, yes and no. “Take it off” was the theme of a Noxzema commercial, but the commercial was played to a tune called “The Stripper.” There is no denying that the 60s was the time of the sexual revolution and nudity was a part of that. Whether the phrase was a rallying cry or not, taking it all off (and doing things your parents wouldn’t have approved of once you had it all off) was a political statement at the time. And definitely a political statement of the left.

    I’m more concerned about “the right’s attack on American society.” It is the left that is attacking American society, and all too successfully. I’ll lay odds that 80% of people flying American flags on their homes, and proclaiming that they are proud to be Americans are to the right of center and probably 90% of Americans who claim to be ashamed of America on on the left. To be sure, both sides see America as far from perfect — the right thinks we’re going to hell in a handbasket and the left thinks we aren’t getting there fast enough.

    By the way, just for the record I completely disagree with Bookworm on this. My libertarian side comes out any time the government starts telling me what I can and can’t do, wear, etc. But we disagree politely as friends, a concept that seems from your comments to completely escape you. I’d love it if you would join the discussion here in a polite, constructive way. You might actually have something to contribute to the discussion.

  6. Where’s the evidence, DQ?

    I keep hearing about the “something” that Greg might contribute….but can you point me to an example?

    Give it up. He’s just snark all the way down.

  7. DQ, I also have conceptual problems, usually, with the idea of legislating clothing. But in fact, we do it all the time, only in the other direction. With the exception of that wacky town in New Hampshire or Vermont, we insist that people wear a minimal level of clothing. In other words, no nudity. As a society, we’ve decided that the downsides of nudity (whether you’re pointing to children and sexuality, sexuality generally, or sanitary issues) outweigh the desire some people have to be naked. Here, I think we’re seeing an appropriate mirror image. We’re not outlawing religious expression. We are saying, though, that certain societal needs trump a specific type of clothing, with those needs be public security (with the clothes sometimes serving as the functional equivalent of a sawed-off shotgun) or protecting women. I say the latter because the ability to wear those clothes is used by radical Islamists to coerce women, against their will, and regardless of religion, into dangerous invisibility.

    Please note also the public health risks associated with forcing women into these tents, something I’ve known for a long time. When I was in Israel in the early 1980s, I took a tour in the Sinai. We went by some Bedouin camps were the women were in niqabs. The Israeli guide noted then that these women, who had full access to the Israeli health care system, had huge health problems because of lack of vitamin D. They were at especial risk of death in childbirth, because their bones were so poorly developed, the almost all needed C-sections to survive birth at all, or survive it intact — which they could get only get if they could reach a hospital in time.

  8. Jesus. Does Bookworm NOT know how to use the Google?

    Why does G always want to pick a fight with one woman in a post about men oppressing women?

    Is this God having a sense of humour?

    I keep hearing about the “something” that Greg might contribute….but can you point me to an example?

    Well, G inspired me to contribute to this thread here.
    Does that count?

    I’d love it if you would join the discussion here in a polite, constructive way.

    How can he do that when he runs away from me whenever I hit one of his detonation triggers?

    I say the latter because the ability to wear those clothes is used by radical Islamists to coerce women, against their will, and regardless of religion, into dangerous invisibility.

    It is essentially “no backpacks” in certain locations. You could bring bombs or explosives through there if you have a garment or item that can conceal such. Same goes for clothes. However those huge tent like things can hide almost anything really. The real trigger is that people will want to walk around in those things and never have to be searched.

    I prefered “Let it All Out” as the motto for the 60s.

  9. […] Narcissists Filed under: Psychology, Humanity — ymarsakar @ 10:33 pm Oh joy. People think of John Kerry but there are also small time narcissists as well that are productive citizens. Just look at G. […]

  10. To outlaw certain clothing is one thing and I confess to being somewhat ambivalent to the idea of banning the right of Muslims to wear niqabs, provided that it is worn through an individual’s voluntary decision (like the nun’s habit). However, my tendency is to believe that security trumps the issue of “rights”-we require people to expose their faces for passport photos, for example. So, put me in Book’s corner on this one even as my instincts side with DQ.

    However, even though I might cede the right to a Muslim to wear a niqab or burqa, I do not cede my own right to condemn the wearing of a burqa as an offensive political statement, just as I would condemn anyone wearing a Che shirt or a swastika. Islam is a religion, yes, but it is also a political creed – even Muslims will tell you that the Koran considers church and state to be inseparable. So, the burqa may be a religious obligation but it is also a political statement.

    Can Islam and its practices be condemned? Absolutely. I have no problem condemning religions that practice human sacrifice, so why should Islam be sacrosanct? We can argue about whether it is polite or in good taste to critique another’s religion, but doing so does not infringe upon the right of anyone to practice that religion (I am sure that Greg must be totally confused at this point).

    In fact, having read the Koran and Hadiths and observing over the years the incontrovertible evidence of the social and human disasters that this religion has inflicted and continues to inflict upon humanity wherever it reigns, I feel obligated to exercise my opinions of it under the rights recognized for me in the First Amendment. For, not to do so would be to acquiesce to its barbarities.

    That beings said, every action has its proper time and place. I count numerous Muslim individuals as friends and business acquaintances and I refrain from expressing my opinion of their religion in their presence because doing so would be counter-productive. They may be mistaken in their religious beliefs and allegiances but that does not detract from their basic humanity. I know that at least some agree with my objections to Islam and I also suspect that at least a couple are “secret” Christians that fear to speak out lest they lose all their ties to friends and family…or worse.

  11. The problem is singling out burqas and niqabs. I suppose you could also ban nun’s habits, priest’s robes and any other religous dress you could hide a bomb in, but I can hide a bomb in an overcoat and I don’t think you’ll get very far trying to ban overcoats in Chicago in January. The idea of banning any kind of clothing you could hide a bomb in is complately impractical and banning only certain religious garb is discriminatory and offensive.

  12. I am OK with everything that you wrote, DQ – except with regard to covering the face. One should be able to force someone to reveal their face in response to security threats, religious practice or no religious practice.

  13. It’s not banning, it’s making areas more or less secure. If you can’t take backpacks to certain locations then you can’t also be wearing burqas as well.

  14. I’m going to go with the visible-face requirement, as well.
    Banning the full garb would be terrible. When France banned religious expression in classrooms, that seemed like a fairly sad triumph for all but the atheists. We must learn to live in a free society, which means we’ll all express different values. Although I can’t see the point of donning the ninja garb, I don’t have to understand to appreciate that it’s another person’s choice to do so.
    Ensuring that we can tell people apart is just sensible. Shoot, what’s the point of picture ID? Allowing total anonymity is a security risk.

  15. DQ….if you’re wearing an overcoat and the need arises for you to reassure us that you’re not carrying a bomb, off comes the overcoat, right?

    When Muslim women are as cooperative concerning their dress, then I suspect that much of the objection will go away.

    What do you think the answer will be when we ask for that?

  16. We make religious accommodations all the time, of many sorts. However, there are some accommodations that we refuse to allow. Peyote for Indian ceremonies. Polygamy. We would not allow animal sacrifice. We do reserve the right to not allow certain practices.

    Should a religion appear in our midst that requires its women to walk around naked – or its priestesses to engage in public streetcorner sex – we would not allow it (though some might find the prospect pleasant, privately imagining Britney Spears rather than Cindy Sheehan as their designated preistess extraordinaire…) We need not allow, at the other extreme, the full burqa either. I am however certain that as long as the face is clearly visible (as with nuns), we’d have no problem with it.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with an American laws against the anonymity of the burqa. Should that be our choice.

  17. All the terrorists escaping in burkhas by posing as women is a rather interesting lesson in reality. The burkhas aren’t for the women, it is for the men.

  18. Earl, you are right on the money. In the interests of security, anything that could hide a bomb is searchable. And, yes, people must be willing to show their faces to the authorities.

    Yes, Mike, we can ban ALL peyote, animal sacrifice (maybe) and public sex. But we are not about to ban all clothes in which a bomb could be held, at least not in the parts of our country where such clothing is a necessity in the winter. Consider the reaction if we said that public sex & peyote are okay, but are crimes if done for religious reasons. Singling out the burqas is the problem.

  19. There’s no point in banning all clothes because not every place is going to be at a high risk of an explosives problem.

    There will be and should all ways be, different security arrangements for different places. If only to keep the attackers guessing.

  20. I’m not too worried about bombs. DQ is right that they can be hidden anywhere. I’m more concerned about the hidden face. Keep in mind that the burqas and niqabs as defined have either an eye slit or not. Both still hide the face. I think that’s a huge problem, and I think Y nailed the issue: clothing that hides women benefits men in many ways. First, it allows them to keep their women private to themselves. Second, it allows them to keep their women subordinate. And, third, it allows them to use those same women’s clothes to escape notice when necessary — and it’s this last point that’s a problem. If we hold that the tribal practice of full facial coverage is religiously sacrosanct, we’ve created a perfect escape for every radical Muslim.

  21. Hi Bookworm,

    To that extent, I agree. As I said, people must be willing to show their faces to authorities when appropriate. But there is no need to ban the garb completely to accomplish that.

  22. Oh, go ahead and ban the garb!

    Why not stand up for our Western heritage and values as being superior in this case? Because they surely are. Any man who wants his women to wear burqas can take his shrouded chattel “prisoners” to one of the many other lands where burqas are worn and where he and his family will feel more comfortable (and evidently the burqa-wearing women are duty-bound to go in following them, as no woman wearing a burqa is supposed to go anywhere without a male relative as escort).

    Why would such people come here anyway? That’s the real question we should be wondering. Like polygamy, honor killings, and human sacrifice, there are some things you can’t do in America. You want to swath your prisoners in burqas and brainwash them into believing they should wear those things–take it outside. You want the benefits of our society, you need to accept the rules and responsibilities. There should be “Americanization” classes to teach these people how to adjust to U.S. society–if they don’t accept, our values, out they go.

    Women who choose to wear burqas in America and signal that much subservience and self-abnegation are signaling a big problem, both for them and for us. They can either decide to take the opportunity they are offered to accept a few Western freedoms while they are here (let a little light shine in) or choose to go elsewhere. They have that choice, while they’re on U.S. soil (not afterwards), whether they recognize and respect it or not. We can choose to either insist they follow our rules or, sadly, go back to the darker side of the world.

    I would advocate for the sight of a burqa being grounds for Social Services to investigate spousal/family abuse, or for local police to investigate for missing persons, fraud, or robbery or other crimes committed; for traffic cops to pull drivers over as the burqa restricts vision and creates a hazard endangering others. Or for security services to suspect criminal activity being covered up. Wear a burqa, get hassled–the burqa is anti-social, pathological, and deeply anti-American.

    Nice modest Amish garb or a scarf on the head is no social sticking point. It’s really not about modesty, it’s about grotesquely misogynistic practices. And since Islam doesn’t dictate the wearing of burqas, it’s not about religion. I’d say let the world know we are benevolently tolerant of diversity here but we have our limits, based on recognizing human rights for all people, men and women. The burqa is odious both practically and as a symbol. It is not cool, it is an artifact of ignorance. It has no place in America.

    Burqa-wearing women drivers:

    If they’re medieval enough to wear burqas, they shouldn’t be driving! If you want a driver’s license, grow up and join the 21st century.

  23. Hi Zabrina,

    Thanks for your well-stated view. I certainly agree that no one should be forced to wear a burqa, but I cannot say one who wants to wear one is not entitled to do so. We can punish the behavior without banning the symbol. You have a good point about driving. I’d agree that no one should be allowed to drive wearing anything that restricts vision.

  24. Sorry, Don, I can’t go along with that — wearing what amounts to a full-body and facial disguise creates legitimate security concerns. I could see stores being quite justified in banning burqa wearers — in fact, just about any public place would have a legitimate reason for banning them.

    But if Muslim women want to go about in robes and hoods, maybe Christians should do likewise. Only we could wear white ones…

  25. DQ – You got me; I can’t refute your argument. Thanks!

    To ban the burqa – and then allow others to walk around fully concealed for any OTHER, non-religious reason – is precisely the basis for religious discrimination. I can’t see a way around the point you’ve made.

  26. Thanks, Mike.

  27. and then allow others to walk around fully concealed for any OTHER, non-religious reason

    Who do we allow to walk around in society fully concealed? Or even for religious reasons?

  28. Y,
    That’s the thing: we do allow people to walk around in full concealment. No one takes advantage of the fact, but we do allow it. I’m not aware of any laws concerning the concealment of the face nor the concealment of the body.

    I agree it is a security concern, but we have many other security concerns.

    Community or state or federal law mandating certain styles of public dress – such as no anonymity for any reason – could be passed I think, and would probably be open to court challenge, since it seems to be a new area.

    I have a philosophical, libertarian bias against such public dress codes for all citizens, which is why I felt I couldn’t refute DQ’s argument.

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