Before I'm excoriated by incoming visitors who only bothered to read the above headline, I'd like to emphasize a couple of things. First, I don't support laws that outlaw religious garb, be it burqas, burkinis, yamulkas or pope hats, even though I have serious questions about the religions that mandate the aforementioned items. Second, I don't endorse the local law banning burkinis and similar regalia in Nice, France, the site of a recent terrorist attack. Indeed, the law was overturned on Friday, but only after a Muslim beachgoer was asked to remove the outer layer of her burkini, a lighter version of a burqa, in order to remain in compliance with the (former) law.
Now, down to it.
It's increasingly difficult to negotiate the standard liberal posture on Islam and its practices, especially in reference to nations where Sharia is the law of the land. Specifically, why does Islam get a pass, yet Christianity is routinely and rightfully criticized by the left? Indeed, Islam is uniquely shielded by American liberals, while anyone who dares to condemn its more archaic, homophobic and misogynistic practices, or, for that matter, the very existence of another mythological set of beliefs, is condemned as intolerant.
We've covered this topic extensively here at The Daily Banter, and I recently examined the left's inconsistencies in the July 7 edition of Banter M, so there's no need to retread old ideas.
Suffice to say, when I brought up the contradictions again on Twitter the other day, I was greeted in some cases as if I were the new Pam Gellar. I simply couldn't grasp why liberals have defended the concept of the burqa, as if it were an innocent lifestyle choice and not a means of subjugating Muslim women. For my nuanced opinion, I was predictably called a bigot because I dared to observe how the burqa is, by its very nature, an unmistakable example of Islam's oppression of women. Others questioned my liberalism and wondered whether I was planning to endorse Trump.
Because I believe burqas are oppressive?
As I faced the slow gurgle of another Twitter pile-on, more than a few liberals repeated obvious misinformation about what went down in Nice. I was told that the French gendarmes forced this 34-year-old mother to strip naked at gunpoint. No wonder this was a thing. Sites like Feministing actually used the term "gunpoint" even though none of the gendarmes had their guns drawn, and there isn't a single photo proving the woman was forced to strip naked. In fact, she was only asked to remove the turquoise outer garment, leaving the black inner garments on, revealing her arms and face. This doesn't excuse what happened, of course, but it shows yet again how social media memes can be distorted and transformed into objectively understood facts.
I was also told that it ought to be a woman's choice to wear whatever religious clothing she chooses. I partly agree. Most of us with a functioning radar for misogyny can tell the difference between harmless religious accessories and a full-blown tent that's intended to cover the entire female frame because Muhammad, via an earthly patriarchal enforcement unit, wills it, with apostates threatened by an eternity of fire. But, sure. If you choose to wear a burqa outside the mandates of your husband or your messiah, and you do so on your own accord, who am I to stop you or to somehow grant you tacit permission? That said, it's difficult to accept that most women in the Muslim world, much of which is based in the hottest parts of the planet, would choose burqas if their religion didn't coerce them into it.
No, they're too often forced to wear burqas under threat of real-world penalties -- penalties that are far harsher against female violators than male violators. (Illustrating the difference, married men who commit adultery are caned, while the women they're sleeping with are usually executed. In their burqas, by the way.)
I was also encouraged to talk to Muslim women before rendering my opinion, which is a strange new requirement for expressing an opinion. Do I need to interview Trump before criticizing his hair? Furthermore, as my colleague Michael Luciano said to me yesterday, I'd probably have to get the husbands' permission before interviewing their Muslim wives. Was that bigoted to say, or a reflection of generally how it is?
It doesn't require significant predictive abilities to know what most liberals would think about fundamentalist Christian women whose husbands beat them, for example, using the justifications in the Bible to condone their subservience and his dominance. While it's not a one-to-one comparison, a listener of my podcast with Chez Pazienza noted that if we saw a woman in these deeply religious families with bruises on her face, we'd be alarmed by it. Should we accept her circumstances as a matter of religious choice? She chose to be married to a religious monster, so...whatevs. Should we allow private business owners to discriminate against LGBT citizens due to religious choice? No and no. So why do we shrug off the Islamic oppression, mutilation and execution of women, while targeting anyone who doesn't shrug it off as bigots and haters?
I suppose I also have to clarify that I don't agree with Trump's racist Muslim ban. Obviously. My questioning of Islam and its misogynistic rules emerge from my feminism (yes, really) and my liberal worldview, and not some form of xenophobia as it does with Trump and the "alt-right." I can't possibly defend a religion that expressly requires women to hide their shameful, slutty bodies, while Muslim men, on the other hand, are allowed to wear regular street clothes -- the same men who gender-exclusively hand down the bullshit, dark ages penalties that include the world's most horrendous punishments. This fair and acceptable? And, conversely, it's bigoted to see it for what it is: subjugation?
Sure, "burkinis" are a compromise between eastern dogma and western liberalism. For this, we should be grateful. I guess.
Honestly, conceding this point feels a little like when Sean Connery compromised on how exactly to punch women in the face: use an open fist, he suggested, not a closed one.