Liberté, Égalité, Sororité

Today marks the official introduction of France’s new law banning the burqua and niqab in public places. Under it, gendarmes encountering a person wearing this garment are forbidden to forcibly remove it, but if she refuses their request to lift her veil and submit to an identity check, she can be arrested and taken to a police station. If she continues to refuse to remove her veil, she (or he?) faces a fine of up to €150, and can additionally be forced to attend what are ominously referred to as re-education classes.

Let’s be clear here: organised religion has been, both traditionally and of its nature, the greatest threat to human liberty the world has ever known; compared to it, socialism is a mere last-minute newcomer. This despite all the civilizing restraints on human behaviour religion has provided down through the ages, the innumerable tales of heroic virtue of its legions of practitioners. All of them put together cannot erase the ocean of blood, torture, cruelty and enslavement that have been carried out in His name, or at any rate with His supposed nod and a wink of approval. The clear, legal and constitutional separation of Church and State is a fundamental prerequisite of any society aspiring to any kind of genuine Liberty.

But so too is freedom of worship. If someone chooses to wear a crucifix around their neck, or a skullcap or turban on their head, or the burqua over their body, and in doing so is not impeding the liberty of anyone else, then who is the State to stop them?

There seem to be two lines of argument rationalizing this new law. The first is that covering the face and preventing identification provides a boon to criminality in general, terrorism in particular. I find this argument pretty thin. Exactly how many acts of terrorism have been committed in France by people wearing the burqua, acts which could otherwise have been prevented? I daresay I could offer a pretty round figure. Are the French going to ban reflector sunglasses next? At any rate, it is estimated that of France’s Muslim community, numbering around six million, only about two thousand would wear the burqua on a regular basis.

On the other hand, the fact that it is part of religious observance should not carry any special privileges, either. Many public places, shops, airports and banks in particular insist visitors remove any motorcycle helmets, masks and the like that prevent identification. They should be perfectly free to extend this prohibition to the burqua. And anyone offended by this should be perfectly free to take their business elsewhere. As a practical matter, women required to wear such a garment are generally excluded by their menfolk from anything to do with banking or other dealings with the outside world. The issue thus becomes increasingly moot.

The second line of argument is that the wearing of the burqua is, both in practice and in symbol, a demeaning of the status of women, and thus violates any number of gender-discrimination statutes. I don’t buy this argument, either. For many Muslim women, recent converts in particular, the burqua is a public proclamation of their faith, and worn with pride. No doubt it is also worn by some women in oppressive sub-cultures where cruelty and separation are reinforced by the cultural interpretation of their faith. But wait a moment: the State that openly invited immigrants from these cultures, welcomed them with reassurances that their way of life would be validated and enabled in a multicultural society, is now the same State that has banned the wearing of the burqua in public! Talk about mixed messages. Sounds to me as if Multiculturalism has finally been forced to face the implications of its own philosophy.

In any case, I’m old enough to remember going to mass in the pre-Vatican II Catholic church, at which women were expected to keep their heads covered. It didn’t take a law of the land to relegate that practice to the past; but according to the French government, Muslims are somewhat more backward than Christians and need a bit of a push-along by the State in order to modernize. Hmmm.

One could almost be forgiven for concluding that the Fifth Republic has adopted atheism as its new official state religion. And will brook no rival. Pardon me if I chuckle when this gets challenged in the EU, and Brussels and the Froggies beat each other up over this singularly ill-considered law. Vive la difference!

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16 Responses to Liberté, Égalité, Sororité

  1. meltemian says:

    Hi Oz’,
    I think you’ve probably opened a ‘can of worms’ here.
    I’m having a great deal of difficulty analysing my feelings about this.
    I don’t like the burqua or the niqab but it’s not for racial or religious reasons – I think it’s because it de-personalises and isolates a woman from the non-muslim community. It’s very difficult to engage in any sort of contact, conversation or even give a smile to someone unless you can see their reaction and can only hinder any sort of relationship with them. There is no way for them to integrate into the rest of the community – and that may be what they want, but if it isn’t it creates a barrier between muslim and non-muslims which is very difficult to overcome.
    I don’t think it’s xenophobic to feel that immigrants into a country should at least try to integrate or else what is the point of it all?
    By the way I remember having to wear a lace mantilla to Mass, it was actually part of our uniform at my convent school, but I left school around the time of Vatican II and I don’t remember it being compulsory to wear something on my head in church well before that. Perhaps we were a little more liberated than you.

  2. Luton Ian says:

    The Burqa is one of the less objectionable parts of mohammedism’s cradle to grave and all things in between totalitarianism. Without alcohol, the ugly ones have to resort to a bag over the head, and it might well be for the woman’s benefit.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who is certainly not ugly) described hers, which she chose to wear, as giving her an enjoyable feeling of being hidden and mysterious, as well as pious.

    That said, I think that this at least provides a start to tackling the problem of moslem boys beating and intimidating none moslem girls at school into adopting islamic dress codes and behaviours.

    In state schools, there is a case for forbidding the display of obvious symbols of religion. I’m pretty ambivalent about what goes on in state education/indoctrination as a whole, but it is probably better than the madressas that the moslem boys would be going to if there were no state education.

    I’m cautious about your use of the tu quoque example of the Church of Rome. Certainly Rome, like any other institutionalised religion, has it’s problems, which it is belatedly and reluctantly facing up to, but they are quantitatively and qualitatively different to mohammedism’s treatment of women;

    Genital mutilation (in some schools of sura)
    having to be the “property” of a male,
    women having only a fraction of the value of males in sharia evidence and inheritance
    forced marriage
    child marriage and sex with children
    the requirement to be sexually available at any time
    koranic endorsement for rape of female prisoners of jihad, and of wife beating for refusing sex.
    koranic doctrine that moslem males can help themselves to non moslem females (ask a female student who makes a lot of train journeys about the pinching and groping from moslem males)

    It’s a nasty little collectivism

    Apparently there was a priest involved in the torture and burning of a woman (accused of being a changeling) here in Ireland as recently as 1895, but by and large, the pre vatican ii church was still centuries ahead of the unchangeable sharia (suggesting changes is considered blasphemy and punishable by – yep, what else but?)

  3. Dr. Dave says:

    There is an old internet story about a wealthy Sheik who once met Gene Roddenberry at a party. He asked Roddenberry why there were no Muslims on the Enterprise in the Star Trek series. Roddenberry responded, “because it’s set in the future.”

    I think Luton Ian is on to something regarding the bag over the head. I have heard that the only time it’s acceptable for an infidel to slap a Muslim woman in the face is if her mustache is on fire.

    Personally I’m quite tolerant of almost all religions…except Islam (and a few voodoo cults that sacrifice animals as part of their rituals). Islam is not really a religion, it is a socio-political ideology. The fundamentals of Islam preach death or slavery to infidels (i.e. anybody who doesn’t go along with their way of thinking). It is OK to lie to or steal from an infidel according to the Koran. This is not a religion that is compatible with a free society. Tyranny is a central feature of Islam. I’ve actually spent some time and read about Islam to educate myself. Although it is anathema to the true libertarian, western nations should protect themselves from the infection that is Islam. In this era of political correctness no one has the germinal tissue to state the obvious. You don’t see a lot of terrorism perpetrated by Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus or Sikhs. Islam is a vile and violent 7th century Arabic tribal mythology that is little more than a political ideology masquerading as a “major religion”. How many societies that are predominately Islamic are actually free societies? Not a one! Being opposed to Islam as a “religion” is morally no different than being opposed to to socialism as a political belief. Both are “anti-libertarian”.

    Separation of church and state is an interesting concept. Oddly, the concept of “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in the US Constitution. You will find it nowhere in the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights. It is a construct of the courts and their interpretation of the First Amendment which assigns freedom of religion. The Founders did not seek to protect the state from the church, but rather to protect the church from the state (see Anglican Church, England). Freedom to believe or not believe in any faith and to practice any religion or belief as one sees fit is central to a free society. I believe in this. No one should be forced to pray in school but at the same time no one should be prevented from praying in school…or in the legislature.

    I don’t care if a Muslim woman wants to wear a bag over her head. At the same time I think it’s hypocritical to expect a gentleman to remove his hat in a church, courtroom or restaurant.

  4. Ozboy says:

    G’day everyone. I think I’d better make some clarifications before the thread gets out of hand.

    Today’s topic isn’t the merits of Islam generally. Or whether we should have ever permitted Muslims to migrate to the West in the first place. It’s whether there should be a law of the land banning the wearing of a garment generally associated with the practice of one religion in particular. Look, I find many of the practices and attitudes of Islam as backward, barbaric, medieval and totalitarian as you do. So what’s to discuss?

    Mel’s comment that she finds it difficult to initiate any social contact with a woman in a burqua, echos that of former Australian PM John Howard who described the burqua as confronting; a word often used in the public discourse on this issue. There is no doubt most Westerners have similar reactions on seeing a woman so clothed. Should we make it illegal on that score – and where will that line of thinking take us next?

    It’s cheap and easy to proclaim liberties with which no-one seriously disagrees. To assert a liberty in favour of those members of society who themselves subscribe to a fundamentally totalitarian ideology; to proclaim freedoms even when we have to hold our noses in order to do so: I would suggest that is when our commitment to Liberty matters the most. N’est-ce pas?

  5. Dr. Dave says:


    OK…let’s cut to the chase. I think France’s prohibition of wearing a “religious” garment is stupid and their justification is vacuous. In a free society one should be allowed to wear anything one wishes. In reality, however, one would not survive long wearing KKK robes in Watts or a Star of David pendant in Dearborn, Michigan. It is not the role of the state to impose social mores.

    It’s been over 20 years since I’ve visited the Alamo, that sacred shrine in Texas devoted to utterly failed military policy (nobody mentions the battle of San Jacinto where Santa Ana’s forces were surrounded and defeated by a farce smaller than that which defended the Alamo). As you approach the Alamo Mission there is a sign instructing gentlemen to remove their hats before entering. Men wearing Stetsons and Resistols reverently remove their hats before entering. I’ve often wondered if orthodox Jewish men removed their yarmulkes or if turban wearing ragheads take the diaper off their heads (or if anybody ever dared to ask them to or leave).

    Again, I don’t believe the state has any right to impose such restrictions on garments. At the same time I believe private citizens and businesses have every right to deny service or access to anyone for any reason (including offensive religious garments). Many night clubs deny access to men not wearing shirts without collars. Many fine restaurants deny entry to gentlemen not wearing a suit or sport coat. Nobody blinks an eye. Deny access to a raghead wearing a diaper wrapped around his head and you’ll be slapped with a civil suit for infringing on his rights. Is this right?

    I’m reminded of this little tale by Ron White:

    Private versus public, Dave. As I said at the top, private premises should be free to impose any dress standards they see fit. Anyone who doesn’t like them is free to take their business elsewhere. And yes, regarding your example of the Alamo, stigmatization of offenders in public places goes a long way towards enforcing dress codes there. The same thing applies in our War Memorials down here – Oz

  6. Luton Ian says:

    Dr Dave,
    can I steal your “germinal tissue” euphemism please?

    I guess that I’ve seen (but not taken part in) the modern day equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah, in Newcastle’s big market on a Friday night

    That is one place where the mystery bus operates a regular service – they visit the men’s room after a few pints of wifey beater, and when they come out, the mystery bus has been around, discharging it’s cargo of beauties, and taking away all of the ugly folk that were occupying the bar/club / pick-up joint.

    There is however the mystery taxi, which calls just before they wake up the next morning, taking away the Venus that they just spent a delightful night (of brewer’s dro**) with, and dropping off:

    I know a burqa is sad, but it is a bit better than an ugly girl hiding her insecurities behind drink, makeup applied with a shovel, heels she can’t even stand up in and a miniskirt and top that are both 4 sizes too small for her.

    I’d better stop before I accidentally plagarize the Viz’ Fat Slags;

    or one of Tom Sharpe’s larger than life ™ female characters.

    I’m not even a fan of heavy make-up, perfume or peroxide, but if girls want to pierce, tattoo, inflate, reduce, indulge in eating disorders or whatever else, they’re welcome to it, same with a bag over their heads (I couldn’t find a link to the scary movie bag with a mouth hole in it).

    I do have a problem with compulsion to conform though, especially if it is compulsion to conform to the dictates of someone else’s religion, which is the point you were making about conforming with French Statist atheism.

  7. Luton Ian says:

    Dr Dave,
    Thinking about US separation of state and religion, I’m not entirely surprised if it doesn’t appear in the founding documents, although I’m no expert on the main ones, let alone the collections of federalist and anti federalist papers.

    I’m guessing that separation would have been consistent, and possibly so obvious that no one thought to write it down?

    I saw a list the other day (can’t remember where though), of the religious affiliations of the signatories to the US constitution, and, apart from a couple of still practising quakers and a few Christians amongst the older ones present, most were deist or unitarian, and even more opposed to an established church and priesthood than the quakers.

    It seems that until the great Christian revivals of the latter half of the 19th century (and the cursed appearance of the “christian progressives”) that Christianity was almost dying a death in Britain and the US.

    As the other strand to my guess, apart from the Founder’s interest in Lockeian separation of powers, most, if not all were Freemasons, and like the invisible college which became the royal institution, they appear to have drawn heavily on masonic themes for their organisation. One of the prominent rules is a prohibition on discussing religion within the lodge.

    There was also a prohibition on talking politics, but they seem to have ignored that one.

  8. Dr. Dave says:


    The problem is that there is little (or a very subtle) distinction between “private” and “public”. A woman can wear a bikini on a public beach with impunity yet would be expelled from a public courtroom for wearing exactly the same thing. One cannot claim a “religious right” to go naked in public. Social mores have defined public nudity as “indecent exposure”. A man can walk down a public street without a shirt on but a woman cannot.

    In the USA between 20-25% of the adult population smokes cigarettes. This drives the other 75-80% nuts. They HATE it that anyone smokes (yet they love the tax revenues). In most of this country one can stand outside on public property and smoke (except in NYC), yet laws enacted by government prevent the individual in many areas from smoking in a privately own bar or restaurant. The proprietor of the privately owned business is compelled to ban smoking on their premises because the business is “open to the public”. Personally I favor allowing proprietors and patrons to make their own choices. They can either have smoking or non-smoking establishments and let the free market decide. But the rabid anti-smoking zealots want to be able to go into ANY establishment they choose and not be offended by cigarette smoke. Government coercion allows them this and denies the proprietors of their right to decide…all in the name of a “public place”.

    We have decidedly unconstitutional anti-discrimination laws in this country. One may not discriminate based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, creed or sexual orientation. If any private business refuses service or a job to someone because they’re Black, Jewish or Hispanic or gay you can bet they’ll be slapped with a civil rights violation. For some reason we have all come to view this as “moral” and “just” when in fact it is government coercion that denies the bigot his or her rights.

    Forget about the burqa for a moment. What if some idiot wanted to wear a baseball cap that had the words “NIGGER HATER” emblazoned on the front. Where I live he might only be able to buy gas (and only if he paid at the pump). NO ONE would serve him. It’s simply too offensive…yet technically it’s legal. He would have no grounds for a discrimination suit.

    So yeah…I think France is wrong for banning the burqa. But they’re equally as wrong for denying private citizens and businesses from freely exercising their own biases and prejudices. Left to their own devices a free people and a free market will arrive at the optimal equilibrium. What defines public and private anymore?

    Very little argument from me Dave, and I promise I will do a thread on smoking sometime soonish.

    OT, I’m surprised the N-word got through the filter, but there you go: WordPress is a Libertarian place, too! – Oz

  9. Dr. Dave says:


    I quit smoking in 1982, less than a year after I got out school. I never really thought much about it after that. I watched hospitals, businesses, airplanes and airports transition to non-smoking environments over the years and never gave it a second thought. I adopted smokers’ rights as a cause célèbre when I saw that the non-smoking zealotry was becoming unfair and oppressive. It’s also a cause that pisses off the right and left almost equally.

    In many respects smokers’ rights is even a better example of oppressive statism than drug prohibition. As a general rule I have stayed out of smoky bars since I was in my mid-20s and I have long had a preference for non-smoking restaurants. I was glad when hospital cafeterias no longer had a “smoking section”. But I still had a number of friends who smoked and it didn’t really bother me. What changed my mind was a plane trip I took a few years back. The Albuquerque airport used to have a local brew pub/restaurant in the airport. They had a glassed in designated smoking area with an automatic door and negative pressure so all smoke was vented to the outside. Many years ago one could smoke in virtually any airport bar. When the first wave of restrictions hit the little brew pub was the only place in the entire airport where smoking was allowed. I used to walk past it and marvel at the business their smoking section generated. It was always packed. Then one day I noticed it was gone. The City of Albuquerque forbade all smoking anywhere in the terminal. I noticed how travelers would check in then exit the terminal to smoke outdoors. The lines at airport security got longer and slower as the smokers waited until the last minute to get in line. I noticed that the Atlanta airport has glassed in designated smoking areas in their terminal but it’s about the only one I know of. An airport bartender explained to me the smoking ban has really snarled up security because people with a 2 hour layover will actually leave the secure area to go outside to smoke and then have to go through security all over again. Further, the ban cut into their bar business. I thought about all the “reasonable accommodation” that is made for those with handicaps while at the same time no reasonable accommodation is made for smokers (who vastly outnumber those with handicaps). While I was visiting in Michigan I read in the local paper that new state law now prohibits smoking even in bars. A bar or restaurant owner no longer had the option to make his or her own business a smoking or non-smoking establishment. The state decided it for them. This is tyranny.

    In many ways this is no different from France telling Muslim women they can’t wear a burqa in public. One does not have to agree with smoking or Islam, but tyranny is not the answer. The rate of smoking in this country has been drastically reduced through stigmatization, education and taxation but it remains (mostly) an individual’s right. If France wants to diminish Muslim influence they should do so my changing their immigration laws to forbid entry to anyone who subscribes to an ideology that promotes the killing of infidels, not what these people choose to wear.

  10. Kitler says:

    Oz it should be remembered that the Algerians used Burkha clad women to move munitions and weapons around when they fought the French for independence. Sarkozy is old enough maybe to remember this. With 6 million muslims in his country and growing and him being of Jewish origin he is trying to nip a problem in the bud early.
    I’m not a libertarian as you know just a fellow traveler on a lot of issues so for me banning this seems like a good idea but being British it goes against everything that I have been taught, we have fought our religious wars over 400 years ago and it was decided a certain amount of toleration is good idea.
    Which reminds of a story I read many years ago I think it was Sir Richard Burton on a secret mission to what is Saudi Arabia, they were traveling with an Arab guide and his family his wife was in full Burkha when she fell off her camel and was exposed totally to him as she was nude underneath. The guide did not seem offended but rather proud that during this she had kept her head covered.
    Strange people the Arabs it is interesting to note that the veil entered middle eastern custom around AD 1000 as a fashion statement rather than as a mandatory thing in Islam, only the hair must be covered and men and women must dress modestly.
    The Taliban or Pathans are actually a lost tribe of Israel and the Burkha there is a pre reform Judaic custom where women are strictly controlled dating back to at least 2400 years. A lot of there strict rules and customs date from that time period and are not Islamic in origin. I have no idea what they thought of Alexanders Greeks when they marched through.

  11. Luton Ian says:

    I’m not even sure that stopping immigration of cultural enrichers is either needed, or that it would be effective.

    With ten times the birth rate of the host populations, and absolutely no sign of it diminishing (helped along by a bag or two over their heads, and their book mandating wife beating as a cure for her refusing his libidinous advances…), the colonists will likely soon form the majority, immigration ban or not.

    To my (somewhat twisted*) mind, a far more desirable tactic would be to remove social security payments from the whole population, and, much as I hate the minimum wage (FDR apparently introduced the US minimum wage as a sop to the labour union racists, as it tended to price US blacks out of the job market), keep it, or even raise it and police it vigorously.

    I guess at that point, we would see net emigration to the Maghreb, Horn and northern part of the sub-continent, and, as with every Englishman who moves to Wales, it would likely raise the average IQ of all the nations involved;

    A veritable win : win, for partial removal of statist interference, and not a mention of ethnicity or religion to be seen anywhere in it, and as a little token of statist extreme, free air tickets home for any family which can’t hack it in our advanced economy, or wishes to re-unite with the rich cultural heritage which they had become separated from.

    Interesting about Richard Burton getting an eye full.
    When I went to Borneo, the population in the two Malaysian states on the island is predominantly Christian#, but, as always, a different faith gets preference for state sector employment.

    So, standing at the urinal in the airport toilets during a stop over, in comes Mrs Mop, and cleans the floor around my feet, and probably getting a good view of Mrs Ian’s best friend while she’s busy. All was of course decent and proper, as she had her hair covered in correct and modest fashion.

    *That should be a lesson to me; stop taking an interest in blowflies, maggots, slugs, progressives and the like – I might pick up something nasty, although I do maintain that Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” is more effective at curing socialism, than penicillin is against syphilis.

    #Sarawak and Sabbah states have the best school attainments in the United States of Malaysia. Could this be absence of cousin marrying?

  12. Amanda says:

    The power of clothes. I think it IS confronting, confrontational: it’s like wearing ‘ornamental’ daggers and/or parading with aggressive or disturbing tattoos on your body, with or without the rest of the gang. It is also at bottom oppressive to women. It is moreover a danger to ME, as a free woman, even if the unfree women of Islam claim that it’s fine with them to wear it (and given that most of them are not free to give a completely frank opinion, it’s clear that we should not give much weight to it).

    France is right to ban the burka and indeed any obscuring veil outside of a church or church ceremony. There is no way that niqabs or burkas should be considered acceptable streetwear in the West.

    Ban it, and be rigorous in enforcing that ban. In so doing, we/they undermine the enemy’s attempt to undermine US — our freedoms and our way of life.

    Well, we must agree to disagree Amanda – but your point is very well put.

    I saw your last YouTube clip yesterday BTW. You’ve certainly put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, and I would concede it probably gives you more authority to speak on this issue than the rest of us here – Oz

  13. Amanda says:

    Well, Oz, I don’t know what authority it gives me. Reminds me of an Are You Being Served? episode, in which Frank Thornton’s character, Captain Peacock, complains about being made to wear lederhosen and braces over a shirt. He said to his boss, Mr Rumbold: ‘You said that my outfit would give me the proper air of authority. Well, I’m getting a lot of air and very little authority!’

    Anyway, Oz, I can’t think of anyone I’d like to agree to disagree with more. The reason being that you are a kind as well as rigorous upholder of human freedom, which is a rare and delicate flower at the best of times.

  14. Amanda says:

    P. S. The store was trying to push German goods during ‘German Week’, hence the Lederhosen, Bustenhalter, Strumpfs, Kleiderbugel, etc.

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