Friday, August 20, 2010

Point/Counterpoint: Hijabs and Burqas, Oh My!

The dress of different groups of people has sparked controversy since the beginning of recorded history. The ancient Greeks owned numerous slaves. It once was proposed in the Senate that all slaves be required to wear common clothing, so they could be readily identified. After debate and careful consideration, however, it was determined that commonly dressed slaves might recognize the large proportion of the population they represented, and rise up against their owners/oppressors. The proposal failed.

Ornamental dress has been used to distinguish the social, economic, military or religious affiliation of the wearer. The hijab is no different in principal from a priest's long, flowing gown; the headscarf of Muslim women no different than the yarmulke of Jewish men.

So why the big fuss over burqas and hijabs?

It is because the latter are identified with a religion, Islam, that is intolerant of other religions and anyone who is not Muslim. That same religion engages in some singularly barbaric practices, such as stoning young lovers who elope to death in public places by their own friends, relatives, and local residents, and by burying women adulterers to their chests and letting passersby stone them to death.

While these practices are abhorrent to most westerners, they are widely accepted and vigorously applauded by many of the faithful adherents to Islam. Further, the notion of death to infidels (those who do not believe in Islam)is a fundamental tenet of many Islamic extremist groups.

More importantly, most Muslims believe that all civil law is subordinate to religious law and that civil governments must accept Islamic law. All civil law must conform to Islamic religious law.

At one time Catholicism was the dominant religion of Mexico. It, too, was very powerful and exercised control over civil laws, which were required to conform to Catholic dogma. There were thousands and thousands of priests, nuns, and monks who wore only Catholic garb in public. Their presence was ubiquitous and served as a constant reminder that the Church was all powerful, in religious and civic matters.

After the Mexican revolution, the new, civil government banned the wearing of religious apparel in public, to emphasize that Mexico was a secular nation and the former cozy relationship between church and state was no more.

So long as Muslims represent only a small minority of the population, there is minimal threat of Islamic law working its way into U.S. civil law. But as the Muslim population grows and Muslims are elected to political office, the presence of tens of thousands of Muslims dressed in Muslim garb is an open invitation to politicians to cater to the religious interests of these groups, gradually eroding the separation of church and state and undermining the First Amendment.

The requirement that Muslim women keep their bodies and heads concealed when outside the home is oppressive to many Muslim women and is indicative of second class citizenship for women.

Lastly, the history of most immigrant groups is to assimilate and to adopt the dress styles of their host country, as a matter of common courtesy and respect. For Muslim women to go about in full Islamic regalia and thus be in a position to conceal contraband, such as a bomb or illegal drugs, is a potential threat to national security and to the violation of laws. Secrecy is no way to win the friendship and tolerance of the host citizens of their adoptive nation.

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