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The Orwellian Times in Belgium: Burqa Bans? Or the Banning of Free Speech?

Posted on April 1 2010 10:49 am
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.
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A Parliamentary committee in Belgium has just voted to ban the burqa. The language of the ban is strategically neutral in terms of religion and ethnicity: It bans “face coverings,” not “niqab” or the “burqa.” This is the only approach that might work but I doubt that the full Parliament will approve it; and, if they do, I predict that Muslims, both men and women, as well as their western accomplices, will don burqas as a form of “resistance” and sit in jail for a week or pay their fines.  No doubt, the European Union will ultimately find that such a ban violates human and religious rights.

In my view, the burqa is a form of severe sensory deprivation and social isolation. If the West imposed this upon Muslim women– it might be viewed as torture and quickly challenged as a human and woman’s  rights violation. But for now, it is erroneously viewed as a private, religious right—and not as the visible statement of political Islam and jihad that it really is.

Guess what? Last night, at the University of Antwerp, the poet and critic of Islam, Benno Barnard, tried to deliver a lecture with the provocative title “The Islam Debate. Long Live God, Down with Allah.” Forty Muslim protesters allowed Barnard two minutes before they began yelling “Allahu Akbar” and stormed the podium—which effectively ended the lecture. Barnard said:

“Isn’t it appalling that an intellectual wants to give a lecture in the year 2010, and needs police protection? Actually, this is my best lecture ever. This incident shows what I’ve been trying to make clear for years: that the Islam is a completely intolerant system.”

The rioters were not arrested. Someone—Barnard? The University? The city of Antwerp? had to pay for Barnard’s bodyguards so that he would not be killed as he tried to exercise his right to express his views. I doubt that the European Union would find that Barnard’s civil or human rights were violated. Sympathy for the “offended” victim rules Europe and is what Obama’s America seeks to emulate.

Welcome to our Orwellian times.

I would like to thank “Esther” for her excellent and consistent choice of articles at

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