‘The crucial point is that it is not up to the state to define or interpret the meaning of religious symbols; what is decisive is that the individual considers it to be a manifestation of his or her religious belief.’

With France enacting, or attempting to enact, much tougher anti-veiling legislation, UD has been grappling with the question of how far a secular state (or province – Quebec has also been passing increasingly restrictive legislation) can legitimately go in the anti-clerical direction … in the direction of banning, in public spaces, symbols of religion. Human Rights Watch, from which I’ve drawn my headline, takes a firm anti-anti-religious position: absolutely whatever an individual asserts as religious clothes or jewels or weapons always goes; it’s none of the state’s business what people claim as religious self-expression. As Katha Pollitt once wrote: “[R]eligion is what people make of it.”

Yet how can this be true, really? On the most fundamental level, no state with any sense of self-preservation is going to cede legitimate religious self-designation to groups that in fact constitute state-reviling cults, like radical Salafists. For extremist Muslim women resident in France, the burqa virtually all of them wear communicates above all that “one does not belong to other groups, but only to Islam.” Their clothing conveys “complete loyalty to God, Islam, and fellow-Muslims and their utter rejection of everything else.”

(“These outfits are also available for children as young as two,” explains a writer visiting the Hijabi Store in Germany.)

I’m not seeing much in here touching even lightly on being a citizen of France, with even a rudimentary sense of affiliation with or responsibility toward France. (Does HRW absolve religious people of any responsibility to consider the meaning of state symbols?) It seems to ol’ UD that it is definitely up to the state to be aware of markers of perilously corrosive anti-state convictions among people who live in your country. (‘The national authorities say that the networks that once recruited jihadists have been weakened or have disappeared. The most visible signs of fundamentalism in [the once jihadi-rich city of] Trappes have also diminished, like the wearing of full-face coverings in public, which is illegal in France,’ a New York Times writer notes matter-of-factly.)

HRW does not seem to have glanced at human history; if it did, it would discover that plenty of religions – groups of people who called themselves religions – have been plenty dangerous to civilization, and civilization has every right to detect them and protect itself from them. Hell, religions have every right to protect against them. Think of the long history of the Vatican, or of Mormons, guarding against extremist offshoots.

UD also understands that free states should go as far as possible in the direction of neutrality in regard to belligerently non-assimilationist, and even extremist, groups within them. It is a sign of the strength of democracies that they can tolerate weird, utterly uncooperative sects like ultra-orthodox Jews and their fellow insurrectionists, the worshippers of Hitler. Spiritual extremity makes for strange bedfellows, and confident democracies can keep an eye on their zanies even as they trash the Capitol. But keeping an eye is the point I’m making – if a democratic state would like to do something other than roll from one street beheading and congressional beshitting to another, it would be wise to identify people who are likelier to behead and beshit than other people.

People who are pissed with Paris because it’s not a caliphate do indeed tend to dress in a certain rather rigorously invisible way on its streets. Not all of them; some burqa wearers don’t think this way at all. But some do, and the state and its citizens have a right to be unnerved by them. When you parade opposition to every foundational value of a secular state, you shouldn’t be surprised when people look at you funny. Doesn’t matter if you’re not a Salafist. I’ll quote Pollitt again: Religion is what people make of it. Goes both ways, see.

One of those foundational values, yes indeed, is neutrality in regard to religion; but what I’m trying to argue here is that not every cult should be accorded the status of a legitimate religion. So that is my first problem with HRW‘s argument.

[W]e uphold the right to express opinions which some deem contrary to the principles of human dignity, tolerance and respect, and which may deeply offend, because of the fundamental importance of freedom of religion and expression in democratic societies.

Of course no one’s talking about opinions here; we are talking about the symbolic action/expression of dressing in a certain very public, evocative way. And here again UD’s willing to be way offended by the enactment on the streets of her cities of female submission (remember: what people make of it. Yes? UD makes of entirely covered women an undignified statement of submission. On what basis does she make this judgment? Well, she listens to what women in burqas – and women who no longer wear them – say to interviewers; and she reads what Islamic texts and clerics tell women about submission.). She ain’t happy to be offended, but okay. Her daughter’s elementary school classroom, though? No. Her daughter is young, impressionable, just learning. She will take her daughter out of any school that normalizes the idea that an entirely blacked-out woman – with cloth over her mouth – is a role model.

This is the root of the legislation we are seeing. We shouldn’t be surprised. Most of us don’t like lies, or exposing our children to lies. Everyone outside of certain adherents knows that “The burqa is a vehicle of personal liberation” or “self-expression” is a terrible lie. Our children are going to have enough politically correct twistedness to negotiate as they grow up. Enough already.


UD thanks David, a reader, for linking her to the NYT story about Trappes.

“If you belong to a religious minority that, say, doesn’t believe in the theory of evolution and does not accept that history is an important discipline, what do you do with that?”

Quebec is now ground zero for the fight between state and sect, having recently passed Bill 21, which bans all religious clothing and accessories among certain public sector employees in the workplace, and also having begun a Superior Court trial in a case brought against the province by an ex-hasid for educational neglect. Fiercely secular, Quebec followed France (which it sees as a model in the matter of laïcité) in banning burqas and niqabs from much of the public sector; Bill 21 extends this government constraint of religious expression (let’s be generous and agree that the burqa/niqab have something to do with religion – even though it’s more persuasive, it seems to me, to characterize them as pre- or even anti-Islamic and tribal) to things like hijabs and turbans and crucifixes on people who are working in the state sector. The ongoing Superior Court trial reveals that although Quebec claims to be quite secular, it’s not vigilant in secularity’s defense: If the complaints at the trial stand up, the government was perfectly aware for decades of the Tash cult, which kept its children in abysmal ignorance.

Jewish cultists all over the world, including the United States and of course notoriously in Israel, practice appalling educational malpractice, and although the court cases and school inspections and for real and we really mean it this time national education standards keep coming, the cultists persist in turning out unemployably ignorant people whose lifelong dysfunction our welfare payments support. No doubt the outcome of the Quebec trial will be a concession on the part of the province that they certainly fucked up in letting Canadian citizens raise their children according to thirteenth century standards; but without severe and unremitting penalties (school closures; unpleasant financial implications) nothing will change.


And as to the business of believing horseshit — the sort of thing the professor quoted in this post’s title mentions — well here’s how ol’ UD feels about that.

Our current vice-president doesn’t believe in evolution. Millions of Americans don’t believe in evolution along with him. Pence is leading the coronavirus effort, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he personally disbelieved the germ theory of disease.

The vice president thinks smoking doesn’t kill, condoms are “very poor” protection against disease, and the best way to curb an H.I.V. outbreak is through prayer.

Mehdi Hasan, whose opinion piece on the burqa I linked to up there, thinks Muhammed flew up to heaven on a winged horse. Plenty of competent, upstanding citizens who went to good colleges believe a crapload of horseshit. UD has some pretty weird articles of faith – or call them intuitions – herself, come to that… I mean, not as weird as the stuff I’ve been citing, but pretty weird.

So what. It’s the essence of personal liberty in the pursuit of happiness within a liberal democratic state that you can dabble in the alchemy of your choice on your own time as long as it doesn’t put anyone in danger, and as long as you fulfill the basic duties of a citizen. Mike Pence’s entry into the age of reason might all be a ruse, but as long as he keeps up the pretense of being one of us I don’t care. We’re onto ye olde private/public distinction here; and the position you take on Quebec’s Bill 21 will ride on whether you regard the outward exposure of your inward, arguably anti-democratic, and often anti-intellectual, beliefs to be damaging to the education of citizens of a secular state, or as undermining the authority and identity of a secular judicial system.

‘Even though the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religion, this does not give carte blanche to people to do anything they want by claiming that it is religious practice.’

Lise Ravary, a writer for the Montreal Gazette, makes the simple, crucial argument UD‘s been making since Blog Day One: Despite Katha Pollitt’s lazy claim that “religion is what people make of it,” religion actually isn’t anything people might claim it is. All sorts of acts, ranging from socially destructive to barbaric, are routinely defended as religious, and secular societies have an obligation to scrutinize these acts and when appropriate call them legally out of bounds.

“When she wanted to get the party going, a very progressive lawyer friend of mine liked to argue that female genital mutilation is none of the state’s business and should be allowed under the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms],” notes Ravary, who shares UD‘s incredulity that any self-respecting state would let this progressive lawyer have her way. Few things are more subject to state concern than large-scale physical assault against children.

States similarly have the right – again, I’d say the obligation – to respond to the desire of the people to sustain their secular identity in social places where this seems important. Thus, the bill Ravary talks about, which forbids religious symbols, “applies only to public service workers in positions of authority, including teachers, police officers, prison guards and Crown prosecutors, while they are at work.” So this means no, you cannot wear a niqab and teach at the same time; and if you are unable to imagine life in the social world without your niqab on you at all times, you are going to be unable to teach in the Quebec public sector. This is of course true of many other localities, including France and England.

‘[Justice Robert] Mainville, for his part, said it would be “imprudent” to assume the law would be declared unconstitutional, since several other western democracies have successfully enacted similar legislation.’

The Court of Appeal upholds Quebec’s secularism law.

Although she opts for the conventional bookending approach, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours nonetheless demonstrates how far we’ve come in press coverage of the international, ongoing, burqa-banning story.

Yes, in covering the ban in Quebec, the writer begins and ends with the difficulties one Muslim woman there has had because she veils. UD looks forward to the day when at least a few writers covering burqa and/or hijab bans will bookend their articles with arguments that some forms of veiling represent “an affront to Muslim women.” Or begin by noting the women of Iran and Saudi Arabia who are organizing, at great personal risk, to rid themselves of veils. Or how about bookending articles with comments from Frenchwomen who used to veil and now don’t (because it’s illegal), and who report feeling as if they have been freed from prison.

But this is only a quibble. UD is actually thrilled by this article, because it’s yet another indication that under the pressure of rapidly globalizing burqa bans in Muslim and non-Muslim countries, more and more journalists are finally approaching the subject with a sense of balance. Kestler-D’Amours acknowledges up front the popularity of veiling bans in Quebec; she quotes generously from government officials making the case for integration, and at no point calls anyone in favor of bans islamophobic. She is, in short, even-handed; like most rational people reporting on the subject, she has surveyed the spectacular majorities for banning in most countries of the world (here’s an example, from one of Europe’s holdouts), and, whatever her personal views, has accepted this as a reality to be taken seriously.


Indeed it’s time opponents of veil bans (which means virtually all journalists) grew up and stopped with the nahnahnah islamophobe business. The numbers (over 80% of the French supported the ban; over 70% of Germans would support one) and the laws are against them; it’s getting worse every day; and the only sensible route, it seems to ol’ UD, is for people writing about bans to make an effort to put themselves inside the heads not merely of people who want to wear veils, but also of people who object to them. In the immortal words of the immortal: You know something’s happening but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?

Natatorial Vigilance is the Price of Liberty.

Don’t make fun of the noble Grenoblers putting up serious resistance against local women who defy the law and wear burkinis to their city pools. I keep telling you and telling you that France, like Quebec, is a secular place – really truly actually legally and empirically secular. Doesn’t mean you can’t do religion there – means you can’t, in specific public settings, carry your kirpan, wear your burqa, demand sex segregation, etc. Remember the French opera company that stopped its performance until a woman in the front row, in a burqa, left? Mes petites, listen up: The French really mean it.

So they’ve closed the pool rather than allow the women to parade their religious sensibilities there. They’ve fined the women too.

A large and growing number of townspeople pledge to go naked at the pool if there’s a recurrence of the problem, and this seems to UD a sound idea.

The belle indifférence of burqa enthusiasts is really getting out of hand.

It doesn’t seem to bother them that, even as their defense of full veiling is going down the tubes all over the burqa-banning world, their arguments remain the lazy, unelaborated claims – with broad-brush insults and fear-mongering thrown in – that everyone has heard and dismissed. Behold Zahra Jamal in Foreign Policy.

Her subtitle, in which she evokes the violence of virtually pan-European burqa bans now “crashing down” on these shores (Quebec may soon ban them), sets the hyperalarmist mood of a piece written in the aftermath of countless non-violent and orderly local, regional, and national full-veiling bans. What world is the author living in? And has it not occurred to her that, given present realities, she should make some effort to accommodate herself to ours?

The fundamental polemical quandary the serious burqa defender suffers is this: She seems doomed at once to assert the obviously “sordid” (Jamal’s word) nature of burqa opposition, and to note that huge left and right national majorities, as well as international courts, support bans. To put her position concisely: Everyone sucks.

From beginning to end, Jamal describes enormous populations desperately under the thumb of powerful white nationalists. Somehow these clever charismatic people are convincing mental and moral midgets like Angela Merkel to call for serious restrictions on the burqa.

“For centuries, many Western scholars, church elders, and political leaders justified colonial and imperial incursions with the call to save Muslim women from Muslim men, citing the veil as a symbol of oppression. In contrast, in European and Quebecois political and popular discourse over the past decade, hijabs and niqabs have come to symbolize terrorism, thus reconstituting Muslim women from cause to enemy, from subjugated victim to powerful terrorist. According to proponents, bans on religious coverings are meant to liberate Muslim women from oppression, emancipate them into secularism, and deter them from violence. Burqa bans thus simultaneously falsely frame veiled women as security threats and legalize Islamophobia.”

Can you detect an argument in here? There’s nothing ‘in contrast’ about rejecting the burqa as both an instrument of oppression and a security risk. There’s no religious warrant for it, all ISIS, Taliban, and al Qaeda women and girls must wear it, and it has been used to hide the identity of terrorists and ordinary criminals. In its extreme physical muzzling, it creates a population of women overwhelmingly unlikely to become assimilated into modern open European countries. So, nu?

Weirdly, most of the subsequent essay reviews the spectacular success of burqa bans in Europe, across the political spectrum. Surely this amazing massing of votes and judicial decisions against full-veiling demands a powerful counter-response, one that begins with an effort to understand the determination of millions of ordinary people to ban the burqa.

“Ultimately, veil bans are about the sordid view that human diversity is a threat, and—similar to the flurry of state abortion bans in the United States—women’s bodies must be disciplined and regulated by the state rather than by women themselves to safeguard the nation.”

Yeah, if you want to see the flourishing of human diversity at its various best, take a look at a community of burqa wearers… Veil bans are, among other things, a rejection of the sordid practice of trapping ten year old girls under cloth – of men disciplining and regulating the bodies of helpless children.

Jamal’s essay is so lazy that UD begins to think burqa-defense has degenerated into virtue signaling. The author knows perfectly well that the tidal wave (to use her metaphor) of burqa banning is unlikely to be stopped, even if you spit Islamophobia and white supremacy at everybody. In lieu of serious appraisals of the banning trend, and serious arguments against banning, burqa defenders are left with vacuous indignation.

Hey, no shit, it’s hell under a burqa.

In a statement [issued on her first day as a Canadian citizen], [Ensaf] Haidar [said] that she wanted to use her first day … to raise awareness about the plight of women forced to abide by Sharia, or traditional Islamic law.

“As a Canadian who was born in Saudi Arabia under laws of Sharia where human rights are non-existent, I realised the power [misogynist] men [have] over powerless women with no rights.

As a refugee in Quebec and Canada I have noticed the fast growth of Islamist groups loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Saudi clergy imposing the Burqa and enforcing Niqab on girls and women as political flags to mark jihadi territory.

Nowhere in Islam is a woman required to cover her face. This is medievalist misogyny that treats women as animals and property of men and shamed into attire that befits slavery, not humanity.

It is for this reason that on the first day as a Canadian I have raised the issue of banning the Burqa and Niqab in Ontario as I feel Premier Ford is a man who will listen to my plea and end the war by deception being waged by Islamists against Canadian values.”

Haider’s husband, a dissident against the appalling Saudi regime, remains in prison there.

The Dutch: The next vile, discriminatory people to outlaw the burqa.

What a rogue’s gallery. Quebec Province, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Norway, Belgium, Turkey: All have total or partial burqa bans. Germany and England will probably have them soon. And now the Dutch are on the verge of a partial ban.


Australia’s Long-Suffering Legal System; and a Muslim Martyress

They’ve already convicted her husband of terrorism.

She has

sued the police for damages over the raid [on their house], alleging violence and assault in the course of the search.

The family lost, and were ordered to pay $250,000 in court costs to the Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police.

Her thing is that she refused to give crucial exonerating evidence because the court – after the judge tried a variety of accommodations which she rejected – wouldn’t let her testify in her burqa and damned if she was going to let some man see her face – or her hands — or anything — even for a few moments.

Now she’s racking up more legal and other expenses by appealing that decision…

And I gotta tell you. That appeal will not end well for her. So that’s more money she’s going to have to find…

But it’s all good, ain’t it?

1. As long as she makes legal noise, she keeps her attractive way of life in full view of all Australians via news coverage. Good advertising.

2. She is a martyr for her faith, something fanatics tend to want.

3. She is shaming many other countries – like France, Canada (just the province of Quebec so far, actually), Belgium, and Germany (where currently you can’t drive while in a burqa, but it looks as though more severe measures are coming) – who fail to see the gothic beauty of actual living women inside of coffins.

Now it’s the turn of North America.

Quebec follows many European nations and regions in banning the burqa and niqab in public places.

Opponents always say the same two dumb things.

They say only a few women wear it. So? It ain’t about numbers, baby.

They say it’s all about the cynical politics of the moment.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” by the new law and that it “boils down to ugly identity politics” ahead of the 2018 provincial election.

Opposition to fully covered women, in country after country, is profound, and transcends politics.


As for ugly identity politics – hey. Better ugly identities than no identity at all.

IOW: For sure this is about identity politics. It’s about having an identity. End the blotting out of women.

‘Beyond the face-covering ban, the bill also sets out broad limits for all requests for religious accommodation. It states a request has to be “serious,” respect the right to equality between men and women and “the right of every person to be treated without discrimination.”‘

Quebec is well on its way, not only toward a significant burqa ban, but just as importantly toward an effort to discriminate between “serious” and non-serious religious accommodation requests. The intellectual laziness and social irresponsibility of beliefs like Katha Pollitt’s – “[R]eligion is what people make of it.” – make the world safe for crushing restrictions against girls and women in otherwise advanced countries.

You don’t get to say that your religion mandates that your eleven year old daughter have her clitoris cut off and her vagina sewn up and her head and body covered in veils. You don’t get to say that your religion mandates your wife can’t leave the house – ever – or if she is allowed out, it’s only under guard and under total veiling. You don’t get to say that “due to my firm religious beliefs … it will not be possible for me to meet in public with a group of women.” It’s perfectly okay for you to run your own cult in which you ban yourself from contact with the female race, but you don’t get to call this a religion, and you don’t get accommodations based on it.

You’re free to sue your daughter’s school because it won’t let you be on its grounds fully veiled. You will lose the suit, and it will cost you a lot of money and the court system a lot of time to get to that foreseeable outcome, but you’re free to do it.

But no state, and no institution within a state, is compelled to accommodate every demand made upon it simply because someone somewhere presents some behavior or other as religious.

In the matter of Canadian poet Pierre DesRuisseaux, the question is not Who did he plagiarize? The question is: Who did he not?

The old and globally popular trick of publishing poems you’ve translated from one language to another as your own has caught up with the celebrated DesRuisseaux, a plagiarist who had the good sense to die last year, shortly before a careful reader noticed that if you translate one of his poems (back) into English it’s actually the work of Maya Angelou. This discovery drew the interest of Ira Lightman, a plagiarism detective.

Angelou? Ce n’est que la pointe de l’iceberg.

At latest count this poet laureate ripped off at least ten other poets – translated their work into French and put his name on it.

The book has been pulled; and, in an effort to save the guy’s ass, various supporters ask us to believe that when he wrote the book he suffered from Dementia (Inadvertent Global Plagiarism Type).

Compare McGill’s hysteria over…

this (hysteria here) to Harvard’s reaction to this.

A hot new prospect for US university and professional football…

… advertises his wares from Canada.

[Luis-Andres Guimont-Mota, an award-winning football player for McGill University,] was arrested Wednesday afternoon and will be arraigned Thursday on charges of assaulting his girlfriend, theft and uttering threats… He pleaded guilty last February to an assault charge after he and two accomplices beat up a young man outside a Quebec City bar in May 2010.

A career assaulter! Expect a bidding war here soon.

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