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Do Clothes Make the Muslim? Buddhists Don’t Wear Burqas, Page 2

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Posted on May 24 2010 10:00 pm
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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Dickey is right to say that “The real test of modernity, including our own, is tolerance.” But to suggest, as he does, that the more a person is willing to tolerate, the more modern you are, is just as mistaken as suggesting that the more nakedness you reveal, the more liberated you are. Tolerance and liberty without limits will eventually lead to their opposite.

When President Sarkozy calls the Islamic Veil a threat to France and to democracy, he may be exaggerating but he is also taking a legitimate moral stand. Dickey scoffs at French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie who insists that burqa wearers are “a threat to the values of the Republic and democracy.” Dickey finds it hard to “take her seriously.” Two thousand burqas in France (Dickey’s estimate) may not be an epidemic, but what Dickey misses is that this is the just the tip of the iceberg of Islamic misogyny. He also completely misses a larger truth: that burqas are a health hazard to women, a violation of their human and civil rights.

There may be many women like Rima Fakih in the Muslim World, but they are increasingly endangered. The once modern, educated, unveiled women of Turkey and Egypt have been re-veiled. The once emerging women of Afghanistan and Iran have been sent back to the tenth century. The women of Saudi Arabia have not yet left the seventh century—although some women are feminists and are actually fighting back against the dreaded Muttawa’a, the religious “vice and virtue” police. Muslim girls and women in the West are veiling too—as if it’s a form of “resistance” against “Islamophobia” or a statement of jihad. Some are veiling in order to show solidarity with their family or religion and in order to remain marriageable—or simply in order to avoid being beaten or killed.

I am really tired of these politically correct multi-culturally relativist pieces on this important subject. And, I do understand that a) there is absolutely no religious imperative for Muslim girls and women to veil; b) a secular state ban against the burqa is as problematic as a family who forces a girl to veil against her will. And yet—we live in treacherous times. This is not the time to sue for the right to wear this barbaric, anti-woman clothing as if winning such a “lawfare” lawsuit represents a victory for freedom. This is the time to end the practice of veiling women on behalf of women’s freedom.

Clearly, this battle must begin in the West.

Mr. Dickey: You begin your article by asking: “Do clothes make the Muslim?” My answer: Buddhists don’t wear burqas. Mr. Dickey: The ball is now squarely in your court.

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