Religious Freedom vs. The War On Terror

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.

  • mike

    Just the latest sign of the continuing backlash against the complete control of the PC-crowd in Europe over the past 20 years. When those in power refuse to defend their heritage in the slightest, things eventually swing back the other way.

  • Larry Stanley

    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 ?

    Does that same woman have a right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater?

    Religious freedom is a benchmark of free societies. So is behavior that protects the common good. When it is not possible to identify a person because of their garb, or that garb invokes fear (real or imagined) because of the malcontents who dress similarly – and want to blow up American airplanes and buildings and people – then, the common good should be served.

    Freedom is not free; never has been.

  • Doug Mataconis


    She’s not yelling Fire, she’s wearing a burqa, there’s a big difference.

    And what about those counties in Europe that are moving to forbid even the wearing of head scarves that don’t obscure the face ? There are many Muslim women who feel their religion requires them to do this, and yet the state forbids them from doing so. In the end, its no different from banning people from praying.

  • mike

    I just want to make clear that I wasn’t supporting the law, because as Doug points out the laws are an infringement on religious freedom.

    The point I was trying to make was that Europe is a cautionary tale in the backlash that can happen when the PC crowd takes things too far.

  • Doug Mataconis


    I take this as more of a sign that, unlike the United States, Europe has never welcomed immigrants. The Jews were immigrants and were despised. The gypsy’s have also been mistreated. African immigrants as well.

  • Adam Selene

    This is no different, in practice, than requiring a jewish person to wear a yellow star. It is singling someone out for different treatment due to their religion or ethnicity.