Robert Spencer has replied at great length and depth to Robert P. George of First Things and Michael Potemra of the National Review here, but I just want to zero in on one issue.
George writes, “I admire Muslim women and all women who practice the virtue of modesty, whether they choose to cover their hair or not. There are many ways to honor modesty and practices vary culturally in perfectly legitimate ways.”
Unfortunately he is operating under a misapprehension. The Hijab and the Burka and variations of mandatory female coverings have nothing to do with modesty.
The Koranic verse that mandates covering states, “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks all over their bodies that they may thus be distinguished and not molested” (Koran 33:59)
That’s not modesty. The covering is being worn to avoid rape.
The key words here are “distinguished and not molested”. Whom are these women being distinguished from? Women who don’t cover up and can be molested. One Koranic commentator explicitly makes that very point as I discuss in Muslim Rape Culture.
This isn’t modesty. It’s repression and fear. As Robert Spencer points out, the Hijab is accompanied by repression.
Aqsa Parvez’s Muslim father choked her to death with her hijab after she refused to wear it. Amina Muse Ali was a Christian woman in Somalia whom Muslims murdered because she wasn’t wearing a hijab. Forty women were murdered in Iraq in 2007 for not wearing the hijab.
There’s an endless list of similar cases. Robert P. George might want to examine the religious freedom he is really defending.
A survey conducted in France in May 2003 found that 77 percent of girls wearing the hijab said they did so because of physical threats from Islamist groups.
We can’t dismiss a number that large as the work of a handful of extremists. And this isn’t taking place in some Third World country. It’s happening in France.
More often the girls were under orders from their fathers and uncles and brothers, and even their male classmates. For the boys, transforming a bluejeaned teen-age sister into a docile and observant “Muslim” virgin was a rite de passage into authority, the fast track to becoming a man, and more important, a Muslim man…. it was also a license for violence.
Girls who did not conform were excoriated, or chased, or beaten by fanatical young men meting out “Islamic justice.” Sometimes the girls were gang-raped. In 2002, an unveiled Muslim girl in the cite of Vitry-sur-Seine was burned alive by a boy she turned down.
Jane Kramer, Taking the Veil, New Yorker
This isn’t modesty. It has nothing in common with modesty in the Jewish and Christian traditions which is about individual character.
Islamist activists and settlers in the West have learned how to phrase their arguments to tap into the worldviews and moral codes of indigenous cultures, but it would be a mistake to confuse the argument with the reality.
The Hijab and the Burka are not voluntary and they have nothing to do with modesty. The various Islamic coverings are motivated by fear, shame and abuse.