As much as I admire much of Western Europe’s cool stance toward the Iraq War and their keenly global and socially-aware outlook on affairs, one thing they don’t understand is freedom of speech and religion. Cities and countries throughout Europe are legislating bans or significant restrictions on the Muslim custom of wearing burqas, a woman’s garment that covers nearly every inch of her body, including her face (news article here). In a country – the Netherlands – where I can legally smoke dope and hire a prostitute, a woman is not allowed to cover herself in obedience to her religion’s teachings? What’s wrong with this picture?
I’m no fan of the burqa or of the conservative reading of Islam that calls for such practices, but I’m less a fan of governments that cannot allow its people to dress, pray or practice faith as they wish. It is in many of these same countries that hate crimes against Jews are on the rise. Hmmm . . . anger toward the Jews, laws restricting the Muslims . . . this sounds like the worst of Martin Luther’s 16th century vitriol. I’d hope that in 500 years our European brethren have learned a thing or two about honoring minority peoples in their midst.