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Should America Ban the Burqa? By: Phyllis Chesler
Pajamas Media | Friday, July 03, 2009

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Earlier today, Muslims demonstrated in Antwerp to oppose the banning of headscarves in two schools–and the new Swedish head of the European Union, Justice Minister Beatrice Ask, stated that the “27 member European Union must not dictate an Islamic dress code…(that) the European Union is a union of freedom.” As my readers know, yesterday, al-Qaeda threatened France because President Sarkozy had called for a ban on the burqa.

Clearly, this is a major issue in Europe where anywhere from 30-50 million Muslims live. Paradoxically, various European countries have banned or restricted the far less restrictive headscarf (hijab) in schools, universities, and courtrooms–but have not yet restricted the far more smothering burqa. Perhaps hijab is seen as the “nose of the camel,” a garment which, if allowed, will lead Europe right down the slippery slope to more oppressively restricted clothing for Muslim-European women.

Could this issue arise in America with its much smaller Muslim population? Is this an issue we must address?

America is a nation of immigrants, one that is dedicated to freedom of religion and to the separation of religion and state. Thus, most Americans are probably inclined to accept that wearing the Islamic burqa (full-face-and-body shroud), niqab (Islamic face mask), and hijab (Islamic headscarf) is a religious choice and should therefore be protected as a religious right. If not, it is feared, other religious symbols and practices might also be banned; and America would be indulging in religious persecution.

For the moment, I do not want to discuss the politicization of Islamic female attire as a visual statement on behalf of Islamist supremacism and jihad, nor do I want to focus on the headscarf (hijab). In fact, I do not yet want to address whether such Islamic female attire ( burqa, niqab, hijab) is a free or a forced choice and whether or not it is mandated by the Qu’ran.

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Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (2005). She has just published a new edition of Woman's Inhumanity to Woman (2009). She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1976). Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.

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