France’s recent step closer to a ban on the burqa, the subject of today’s NRO symposium, does not refer to the “Islamic” veil, only to a religion- and ethnicity-neutral “face veil.” Nor is the ban guaranteed to become law; there are several hurdles, including the skeptical European Court of Human Rights, still to be cleared.
France is not the only European country mulling such a ban; Spain, Belgium, parts of Germany, and Italy are also wrestling with this issue.
But prithee pause: On Sunday, Syria banned the Islamic face veil in universities.
Arab and Muslim countries with hard-won secular identities are also under attack by Islamists who want women to wear face veils. Jordan discourages it as something thieves wear; Turkey has banned headscarves in their universities; Tunisia has banned headscarves in government offices; Algeria has banned it for passport photos; at the University of Cairo, face veils are banned. Contrast this with Saudi and Afghan women, who are forced to shroud, and with Iranian women, who must wear chadors.
In the West, burqas are flags of jihad; in the East, they signify the rising power of political Islam. It is time for America to begin a national conversation about the burqa, here and now, before it is too late.