Dutch tolerance

In today’s Times, it’s reported that Rita Verdonk (what a name!), the “hardline” integration minister of the Netherlands, has told the country’s Parliament that “she was going to investigate where and when the burka should be banned”. The author, Anthony Browne, calls the burka “traditional clothing in some Islamic societies [which] covers a woman’s face and body, leaving only a strip of gauze for the eyes”. Marcus, a regular blogger at Harry’s Place, calls it “further evidence of how deeply the murder of Theo Van Gogh has affected Dutch society”.

It’s interesting that this piece was written by Anthony Browne, who has in the past printed articles attacking Muslims which were somewhat selective in their use of facts. Shaikh Riyadh Nadwi, an imam in Oxford, pulled apart Browne’s article in the Spectator of 27th March this year, in which he reeled off a list of places where Christians were being persecuted by Muslims, and even supposedly in some European countries, but failed to mention Israel:

At the time of the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, it is estimated that the Christians in Palestine numbered some 350,000. Almost 20 per cent of the total population at the time, they constituted a vibrant and ancient community, living in harmony with their Muslim neighbours for over a thousand years. … Of the 750,000 Palestinians that were forced from their homes in 1948, some 50,000 were Christians – 7 per cent of the total number of refugees and 15 per cent of the total number of Christians living in Palestine at the time.

In the process of ‘Judaizing’ Palestine, numerous convents, hospices, seminaries, and churches were either destroyed or cleared of their Christian owners and custodians. In one of the most spectacular attacks on a Christian target, on 17 May 1948, the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate was shelled with about 100 mortar rounds, launched by Zionist forces from the already occupied monastery of the Benedictine Fathers on Mount Zion. The bombardment also damaged St Jacob’s Convent, the Archangel’s Convent, their appended churches, two elementary and seminary schools, as well as their libraries. Eight people were killed and 120 wounded.

Shaikh Nadwi concludes that people like Browne and Patrick Sookhdeo, a Christian polemicist with a similar blind spot, have an intention “to foment anger against Muslims in the West” and that they have a pro-Israeli agenda. In this particular article, he reveals his ignorance by continually calling the garment a burka. There is a mass of literature online about Muslim women’s veiling, a lot of it produced by the women themselves, and they don’t call it a burka; they usually call it a niqab. It is not the Afghan-style burqa pictured on the Harry’s Place entry linked above; it’s usually a black veil which does not cover the eyes, and most of those that do can “flip up” so that the woman can see more clearly. (There is also the Gulf burqa, which is also a small black face-only veil, in which metal is sometimes used. Wealthier women sometimes wear exquisitely-decorated burqas, believe it or not.)

Verdonk’s attitude reveals the culture of contempt for Muslims’ values which lie behind such repressive measures:

Mrs Verdonk gave warning that the “time of cosy tea-drinking” with Muslim groups had passed and that natives and immigrants should have the courage to be critical of each other. She recently cancelled a meeting with Muslim leaders who refused to shake her hand because she was a woman.

It’s not mentioned whether the Muslim leaders she was meeting were foreign or born in the Netherlands, but either way it’s not a wise tactic to make any negotiations conditional on the other side’s participation in your pointless and malicious show of contempt for their religion. The decision actually sounds like a calculated insult by Verdonk and/or the people around her: set up a meeting, send a woman to meet a group of men (or vice versa), and pull out when the rebuff for which you set yourselves up materialises.

The Netherlands, if this ban goes ahead (and Browne thinks it will, because the ruling party has the support of the far right in Parliament), it will be the third country in which such bans have been imposed; the others being Italy and certain areas in Belgium. In Italy, the laws being invoked are old ones dating back to the time of Mussolini. Spurious security concerns have been invoked in each case, when in reality these countries have not suffered any violence from the various groups associated with the “global jihad”. The Netherlands has seen one murder, of a professional arsehole who made it his mission to offend everyone. People should remember this before they justify it on the grounds that the world has started seeing female suicide bombers; the point is, none of the countries which ban the niqab or interfere with Muslim women’s rights in other ways has suffered terrorism from Muslim women.

The report brought out the real jafi element among the Harry’s Place comment-box regulars. The first serious jafi appeared in comment no. 6:

Wearing a burka is like wearing a neon sign that says “my menfolk are jerks” except jerks isn’t the word I would use.

I see these gals walking down the street, forced to advertise just how repulsive their men are, and it’s no wonder they all have such tragic eyes.

When I see tiny, prepubescent girls wearing the full black burka, I want to report the child abuse that’s being inflicted on them.

Now, Browne’s report makes it clear that only a few dozen women in the Netherlands cover their face (the Daily Mail’s report on the same topic said fewer than 100), but even so, to say this does not take into account the fact that women sometimes choose to wear it themselves, and some women cover their faces on some occasions (such as religious gatherings) and not on others. I’ve never come across “tiny, prepubescent girls” wearing it, at least not in this country. Islam is clear on this point; the necessity of wearing hijab starts at puberty.

Fellow jafi “Old Peculier” comes in at no. 7:

You mean intelligent women who dislike Islam because it is the most misogynist force ever to have cursed the planet? Yep, count me in. But ‘Muslim hater’ - no, I feel sorry for them, particularly the women, who are its victims.

Again, no taking into account the notion of the women having any choice in the matter. It’s an article of faith for this sort that they don’t. OP comes in again further down to allege that the “burkha” “is such an intrinsically oppressive garment that nobody would freely choose to wear one”, but only wear because of “very real threats of violence, or by brainwashing that effectively has turned them insane.

Harry’s Place at one point gained the nickname “Little Green Soccer Balls” ([link], seventh comment down), because of the material which dominated its comments box:

But somehow, I’ve been banned on four separate occasions, whereas people who post nothing but abuse, SWP talking points or, to be frank, outright Islam-hatred, don’t appear to ever have been banned at all.

As far as I can tell, the power of the ban has been used nearly exclusively at Harry’s Place to get rid of people who were dangerously close to winning arguments against the hosts (cf: the “International Law Wars”), while leaving enough morons present to allow the impression to remain that Harry, Marcus and the “Decent Left” were taking on all comers and emerging triumphant.

That’s the exact policy of Charles Whatshisface at Little Green Footballs, who also allows outright hate speech to remain while deleting civil disagreement with the prevailing rather extremist line. It’s why I coined the nickname “Little Green Soccer Balls” for your blog, and why it stuck.

To be fair, Harry’s Place is nothing like as bad as LGF ever was or as Robert Spencer’s comment boxes were the last time I bothered to venture into them. He posts story after story, and dozens of comments come in their wake from jafi after jafi. The jafi element at Harry’s Place are actually more sarcastic and don’t gratuitously insult Islam. But it’s still not a place worth going if you want civilised discussion on pretty much any topic related to Islam.

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