Religious Freedom vs. The War On Terrorby Doug Mataconis
There are few symbols of Islam that arose more controversy in the West than the burqa, a covering that some Islamic women wear, either by force or by choice, that completely covers their body and hides even their eyes from public view. In what may well be a sign of things to come in Europe, the Netherlands is preparing to completely outlaw the wearing of the burqa:
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government agreed on Friday a total ban on the wearing of burqas and other Muslim face veils in public, justifying the move on security grounds.
Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk will now draw up legislation which will result in the Netherlands, once one of Europe’s most easy-going nations, imposing some of the continent’s toughest laws against concealing the face.
“The cabinet finds it undesirable that garments covering the face — including the burqa — should be worn in public in view of public order, (and) the security and protection of fellow citizens,” the Dutch Justice Ministry said in a statement.
Here’s the question. If a woman truly believes that her religious beliefs require her to wear a burqa, or a headscarf, or whatever garment one might name, does the state have the right to make it a crime for her to do so ?
Clearly, I think the answer is no.
However, this move in the Netherlands is only the latest development in what looks for all the world like a clash between European values and those of its predominantly Muslim immigrants:
Existing legislation [in the Netherlands] already limits the wearing of burqas and other total coverings on public transport or in schools.
France has banned the Muslim headscarf and other religious garb from state schools while discussion in Britain centers on limiting the full facial veil, or niqab.
Italy has a decades-old law against covering the face in public as an anti-terrorism measure. Some politicians have called for this rule to be enforced against veiled Muslim women.
So, one can expect things like this to continue. Whether that makes it right, though, is another question entirely.