Is Obama Actually Considering a Ban on the Burqa?

Phyllis Chesler, the premier American writer on women in Islam, has generously offered to post a guest essay at Gates of Vienna. She asked that anyone who links to it be sure to include the GoV URL.

Before you read the essay, let me introduce you to Dr. Chesler’s work. She is prodigiously productive: just google her name and see the MSM links come up: everything from Fox News to the London Sunday Times. Dr. Chesler’s foundation is a font of information on her work and background.

She has told her story many times, of being married to a westernized Afghan man, only to have the façade drop when he took her as his new bride to a nightmare life in Muslim Kabul. Her biography is here.

Notice the long list of books she has authored, and the two important studies she has done on honor killings. These may be the only systematic studies available on the topic. Both have been translated into Italian and Polish. Dr. Chesler has carefully documented the sharp distinctions between Western-style domestic abuse and that “Cold, Premeditated, Ritual Murder” which is part of Islam’s cultural and religious ‘heritage’. Don’t let anyone tell you there is a moral equivalence between the two.

Her biography includes broad areas of expertise:

Dr. Chesler has lectured on mental health, legal, medical, interfaith, and feminist subjects. In the last decade, her work has concerned women’s religious rights, the resurgence of anti-Semitism and jihad, Islamic gender and religious apartheid, and the ideological and propaganda war against America, Israel and the West.

She is an old hand at “the talking head” routine on national media:

Dr. Chesler has appeared on The Today Show, The O’Reilly Factor, Oprah, Nightline, CSPAN, 700 Club, CNN, Court TV, CSPAN, The Dennis Prager Show, Donahue, Geraldo, The History Channel, Israel National Radio, Al-Hurrah, The MacNeil-Lehrer Report, MSNBC, NPR, and Washington Journal and on network and local radio and TV programs all over North America and Europe. For three years, she was a regular contributor to NPR’s program At the Opera. In the last few years, she has been interviewed hundreds of times in the media about anti-Semitism, jihadic terrorism and violence against women, including honor killings, and has delivered many lectures on these subjects.

Dr. Chesler is an eminent scholar who has been systematically shunned by Leftist feminists who don’t want to hear the truth about women’s fate in Islam. She has earned their enmity for refusing to follow the p.c. line or to be silent about life for women under Sharia. Having survived a nightmare marriage in Kabul, Dr. Chesler brushes away the fatuous criticisms of the spoiled so-called feminists in the West.

This past year during the Rifqa Bary trial in Florida, she was asked to present written expert testimony on the likelihood of the danger Ms. Bary faced if she were to be returned home. Dr. Chesler’s letter to the judge was placed in the file of evidence that followed Ms. Bary back to Ohio. At the time, when I asked Dr. Chesler if she thought Bary was in danger should she be forced to return home, she replied, “Of course she’d be at risk. This is a script for an honor killing eventually. And she may not be safe even if she reaches adulthood without returning home. She could be targeted eventually”…

Our thanks to Dr. Chesler for generously offering Gates of Vienna the opportunity to publish one of her essays. It is a signal honor. Not only is she is a psychologist but she is also an anthropologist in the old-fashioned academy’s sense; one whose field work in her area of expertise became an unexpected and dangerous kind of participant observation in Kabul all those years ago. That experience was to transform her life as it become the nucleus of her studies.

Is the Obama administration ready to consider banning the burqa in America-as France and Belgium have done?
by Phyllis Chesler

I wasn’t there, I can’t be sure exactly what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the other day in Melbourne, Australia but the reportage sure had me sit up and take notice.

BurqasAccording to an Australian news article titled “The Burqa Ban Has Merit,” Clinton said that “the belief that burqas should be banned in order to stop suicide bombers disguising themselves is a legitimate one,” and she also described the status of women as ‘one of the biggest pieces of unfinished business in this century.’ and said their persecution was a common factor in repressed and impoverished nations.” Secretary of State Clinton went on to say:

‘‘I know that in Pakistan, many of the men who are conducting suicide bombing missions arrive covered in a burqa,’’ and ‘‘If you’re a Pakistani police officer, respectful of the women of your culture and that’s being abused and misused by the suicide terrorists, that causes a real dilemma. So if you are looking at other countries that are understandably nervous about extremist activity, like France and other European countries, I think it’s a close question.’’

Clinton seems to be straddling two fences…

…she is suggesting that security concerns may trump cultural or ethnic customs and that the burqa itself may be part of the way in which women are being “persecuted in repressed and impoverished nations.” Although she specifically mentioned Pakistan she did not use the word Muslim.

Do her words represent a small and welcome departure from President Obama’s position-that of a respectful dhimmi-vis-à-vis the Muslim world?

Clinton’s words may represent a trial balloon, or they may be entirely spontaneous comments made in the course of a public conversation in Melbourne.

I have written many articles about whether the West should ban the burqa as France and Belgium have now done.

I have a more considered piece just out in the new issue of Middle East Quarterly which is not yet online. I do argue for such a ban, not only on the grounds of security, a case which Dr. Daniel Pipes has argued before, but also as a violation of a woman’s human rights. Think about it: The face veil and the burqa (I am not talking about the headscarf) are sensory deprivation isolation chambers. They literally constitute a low-level form of torture which leads to both physical and mental illnesses. Imagine having no peripheral vision while you walk, imagine allowing no sunlight into your life for your entire life, imagine being at risk for dangerous falls. But also imagine the inevitable social isolation that such clothing, a “moveable prison” entails.

Most of all, please understand that many Arab and Muslim countries are banning or restricting the face veil and the burqa. They have security and anti-terrorist concerns of their own and they know full well that such clothing is not a religious requirement and that women have not always veiled their faces. From the 1980s onward, Turkish women have been prohibited from wearing face veils (and even headscarves) in parliament and in public buildings. Since 1981, women in Tunisia have been prohibited from wearing Islamic dress, including headscarves, in schools or government offices. In October 2009, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, perhaps the foremost formal spiritual authority in Sunni Islam and grand sheikh of al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s highest institution of religious learning, was reportedly “angered” when he toured a school in Cairo and saw a teenage girl wearing niqab. Asking the girl to remove her face veil, he said, “The niqab is a tradition; it has no connection with religion.” He then instructed the girl never to wear the niqab again and issued a fatwa against its use in schools. And on July 18, 2010, Syria became the latest Muslim state to ban full face veils in some public places.

When will the West wake up and smell the bomb/the fear and abject subordination of Muslim women?

I am not talking about freeing the women in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. I am talking about banning this visual symbol of political Islam, fundamentalist misogyny, and jihad on our own soil, in our own country.

11 thoughts on “Is Obama Actually Considering a Ban on the Burqa?

  1. An interesting question, but I can answer it easily: No, Obama will not ban the burqa or veil. Whatever Hillary Clinton meant, and we may never know because she’s a PC Liberal politician who talks out of both sides of her mouth, the fact she never mentioned “Islam” or “Muslim” tells us much.

    I thought about the Muslim burqa and veil today as I read the testimony of Elizabeth Smart.

    Ms. Smart was kidnapped from her home at age 14, brutally and repeatedly raped month after month. Her captor forced her to wear a veil.

    They were approached not once, but twice, by a police and detective. The detective “asked” the captor if he could move the veil aside to look at her face “to see if she was Elizabeth Smart, because he was looking for her”. The request was denied and Elizabeth was sentenced to even more months of sexual, emotional, physical abuse.

    This should never happen under the guise of religion.

    Right Truth

  2. Of course not.

    Is that headline meant as a gag or is it wishful thinking.

    Quite the opposite. As I see it, there will at least in Britain and Canada if not the US soon be demands that non-Muslim women dress more conservatively to satisfy Muslim demands. These demands will start on university campuses, probably in the UK (where female students do indeed dress in a manner that could be likened to 1970’s street hookers,much to my approval) but also the more PC US colleges. This is the direction we are going in. Not restrictions on Muslims but restrictions on the rest of us to satisfy Muslims.

    Look, that IS the main thrust of all changes in our societies isnt it? Airport security!

    As for banning anything. All in all I would say the Burqa is a political symbol like the Swastika. In most parts of our society Swastikas wouldnt be accepted but it isnt actually banned. Doesnt need to be. If everyone refused service or admission to women in burqas (if women they are, not dogs as is often likely the case) it would get the message accross.Alas, “hate” laws prevent this. So a ban is necessary.

    However, it IS complex. Because whilst the burqa is a symbol of female oppression, some people want and should be allowed to be slaves. BDSM should not be stymied as a side-effect of this. I have lead women on leashes in public on a couple of occasions and would defend the right of anyone to so lead or be lead. That this is not the same as the male-imposed, non-consensual burqa-culture is not at all an easy thing to explain to someone not on “the scene”.

  3. “Because whilst the burqa is a symbol of female oppression, some people want and should be allowed to be slaves.”

    al-ttt: You sicken me. While some people might want to be slaves, those who would facilitate this example of mental illness should be imprisoned as slave owners.

    A burqa is a full body disguise that should ALWAYS be banned.

    My right to life trumps anyone else’s right to false modesty.

    Just as civilized people are NOT allowed to wander around naked because of public health concerns, civilized people should NOT be allowed to wander around in a full body disguise because of security issues.

  4. I agree with al-ttt. I’m not into that scene, but I know many strong women, who identify as feminists, who enjoy role-playing and fantasy. In a free society, some people’s self-expression will look strange or even oppressive to other people, but as long as they choose it, as opposed to being forced by others, it’s compatible with freedom and feminism. People have always been kinky, even if they had to be more discreet in the past. To be honest, some of the things my neighbors in the Bay Area do make me a little squeamish, but they’re the very opposite of Muslim fundies, because kink is about fun, and Islam isn’t.

  5. Interesting. Clinton’s visit was much discussed yesterday in the Australian press due to significant military agreements between the US and Australia. The loudest stories were of Greens senators bleating about how they didn’t like the outcome. Typical. Of course today, the visit is over, the MSM has lost interest and the story is gone. Again, typical.

    Most outlets yesterday did say that Clinton had her question and answer session, and listed the topics, but very very briefly. The common description of that topic was “wearing of the islamic burka” before listing another topic and moving on. Nowhere seem to have actually covered the content of the what Clinton said, even though there must have been 20 journalists there. That is telling you something.

  6. Egghead…you need to readwhat I actually wrote…comprehend what I actually said and then reply if you liketomy actual message, which I take it isclear enough becausesomeone else already has, rather than yapping off like a terrier at shadows in the gloom.

    On the other hand, I guess you may be simply completely innocent of the most popular forms of sexual games engaged in by your neighbours on the same street (as it were). In which case you arent going to be able to understand what im talking about. In which case you ought not comment on what you know nothing about.

  7. “Is Obama Actually Considering a Ban on the Burqa?”


    Don’t go all Ed Morrissey on us, Dymphna. If a headline needs a question mark, the article should not be written at all. In my arrogant opinion at least.

  8. al-ttt: You STILL sicken me….

    Your statement that concludes “…some people want and should be allowed to be slaves” indicates perversion.

    Just because other people agree with you and choose to be perverted, too, is irrelevant to the fundamental immorality of your statement.

    Maybe YOU ought to avoid comment if you are so thin-skinned about being criticized for your immorality.

    People should find a better way to express themselves than acting as “pretend” slaves and slave owners.

  9. If people want to play-act as pretend slaves and masters, they can do so IN PRIVATE, or in private clubs designated for that specific activity.

    Indulging in that sort of activity IN PUBLIC is simply not acceptable. It IS appropriate to set limits on PUBLIC behavior. For example, our laws forbid people from engaging in sexual intercourse in public.

    ANYBODY, male or female, could be under a burka, and a vast cornucopia of weapons and destructive devices could be concealed under it. The burka is a security risk that we cannot tolerate.

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