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Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid, Feminism

Published on Feb 08, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Not All Headcoverings are Equal

The Curious Case of Noah Feldman and the New York Times


Why has the NY Times published an article today ("Veiled Democracy") written by Harvard Law Professor, Noah Feldman, in which Feldman explains that if Turkey allows Muslim women to wear the Islamic headscarf in universities that Turkey will be that much closer to a liberal democracy?

Pinch me. I must be dreaming.

Isn't Feldman the very man who wrote a long, bitter, and rather shameful article in the Sunday New York Times magazine in which he excoriated his own Orthodox Jewish brethren for (accidentally, as it turns out), not including a photo of himself together with his non-Jewish, non-Orthodox, non-convert wife at a class reunion?

Oh, how he carried on about the hard-hearted prejudices of Orthodox Jews (some of whom also wear head coverings). And yet, here he is suggesting that an Islamic religious symbol–a head covering–might be the key to a liberal democracy and, as such, might also render Turkey a worthy entrant into the European Union.

Turkey–but not Israel.

More: Feldman says that allowing the Islamic headscarf is the "best possible refutation of the claim that Islam and democracy are incompatible" and would be a "case study of religious freedom against coercive secularism."

So, Feldman is a passionate warrior for Islamic religious expression but an equally passionate warrior against similar Jewish religious expression.

Why? Does Feldman think that Islam is more liberal than Judaism? Does the Professor understand that Muslims are not allowed to convert, nor can they marry a non-Muslim who does not convert to Islam? Does Feldman understand that Muslim women are being killed for refusing to wear the headscarf? Do the editors at the New York Times "get" it? If not, why not?

Maybe I'm just a bit cranky, what with the Archbishop of Canterbury calling for Shari'a law in Britain–a first article of faith in the Church of fundamentalist Liberalism. By the way: Rest assured, Shari'a law has already been hard at work in settling many disputes in the UK, ranging from violent crimes to divorces.

Is Feldman entirely out of touch with Muslim-world realities? How about the American woman who was just arrested and strip-searched in Riyadh for the "crime" of sitting in Starbuck's with a male non-relative business associate? How about the two sisters in Iran who were savagely lashed and who are now slated to be stoned to death for the alleged crime of "adultery?"

What is wrong with Noah Feldman?


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