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Posted in: Hijab & Burqa, Free Speech

Published on Apr 04, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Published by Pajamas Media

The Orwellian Times

Burqa Bans - No; Free Speech Bans - Yes

A Parliamentary committee in Belgium has recently voted to ban the burqa. The language of the ban is strategically neutral in terms of religion and ethnicity: it bans "face coverings," not "niqab" or the "burqa." As Christopher Caldwell wisely concluded in Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, this is the only approach that might work, but I doubt that the full Parliament will approve this ban; and, if they do, I predict that Muslims, both men and women, as well as their Western accomplices, will don burqas as a form of "resistance" and sit in jail for a week or pay their fines. No doubt the European Union will ultimately find that such a ban violates human and religious rights.

In my view, as I've said many times before, the burqa is a form of severe sensory deprivation and social isolation. If the West imposed the burqa upon Muslim women, it might be viewed as torture and quickly challenged as a human and women's rights violation. But for now, it is erroneously viewed as a private, religious right —and not as the visible statement of political Islam and jihad that it really is.

However, at the University of Antwerp (in Belgium), the poet and critic of Islam, Benno Barnard, tried to deliver a lecture with the provocative title "The Islam Debate. Long Live God, Down with Allah." Forty Muslim protesters allowed Barnard barely two minutes before they began yelling "Allahu Akbar" and stormed the podium — which effectively ended the lecture. Barnard said:

"Isn't it appalling that an intellectual wants to give a lecture in the year 2010, and needs police protection? Actually, this is my best lecture ever. This incident shows what I've been trying to make clear for years: that Islam is a completely intolerant system."

The rioters were not arrested. Someone — Barnard? The university? The city of Antwerp? — had to pay for Barnard's bodyguards so that he would not be killed as he tried to exercise his right to express his views. I doubt that the European Union would find that Barnard's civil or human rights were violated. Barnard himself might be treated as a human rights offender and racist. Sympathy only for specific "offended" victims rules Europe and is what Obama's America seeks to emulate.

Welcome to our Orwellian times.

Right here in the good old U.S.A., we do not yet have European- or Canadian-style punishment for certain kinds of free speech — but we do censor, denigrate, and silence free speech with which we disagree. "Wrong" thinking is simply not published; if published, it is not reviewed in the mainstream media — or it is damned; therefore, such books are not read by too many people. "Wrong" thinking speakers require bodyguards on American campuses; their lectures are interrupted or end in violence. Mainly, "wrong" thinkers are not invited to speak at mainstream universities.

But there is another, quieter, ongoing, and equally insidious silencing at work in presumably free America. Recently, a Jewish lesbian feminist and red diaper baby came to visit me. She lives in Berkeley and spent many years before that in Eugene, Oregon. She visited Israel for the first time last year, loved it, and made the fatal error of telling her friends all about it. Conversations ended abruptly. Dinner parties ground to a halt. Friendships — many with prominent Jewish, Israeli, and feminist leftists–soon followed. She's been reading, hard, ever since; she found my work and came to visit.

Let me share just one of her anecdotes. Based on her new understanding of the matters at hand, my brave Berkeley friend has begun to stand with the StandWithUs group every Friday at Sproul Plaza, right opposite the Women in Black, who demonstrate against Israel. She recognized some of her old friends among the Women in Black — and was, herself, recognized. Both she and another woman left their respective groups (SWU had five people, WIB had twenty) and greeted each other with affection. They live right near each other in Berkeley. The friendly conversation was quickly interrupted by a member of Women in Black who came over and said, "She's one of them, she's for Israel." Abruptly, loudly, the WIB demonstrator said: "You're not a friend of mine." My SWU demonstrator said, "But we're neighbors. We know each other for years." SWU: "I don't care." And she marched off.

When they meet in their neighborhood supermarket, the WIB demonstrator looks down and away. "She won't even look at me."

There may be thousands of such interactions taking place all across America every day. We just never get to hear about it.

Thus, Orwell's "Goldstein" is back, big time. ("Goldstein" is the Enemy of the People in 1984, and people are indoctrinated, over and over again, to blame and hate him. Quite simply, they are brainwashed).

Palestinianized leftist groups, many headed by Jews and Israelis, aggressively confront anyone who dares depart from the Party Line against Israel. That might be alright if multiculturally relativist leftists were open to a give-and-take conversation. They are not. In the name of free speech, they quash all speech but their own. In the name of anti-racism, they attack only Jews and Israel. In the name of diversity and justice, they stop talking to and refuse to "hear" anyone who does not agree with them.

My Berkeley friend has many more such anecdotes. We all do. Send me some of your stories. They are important to share. They comprise important political information.

Update: The city of Antwerp is now asking for a summary judgment against Sharia4Belgium, for undermining freedom of expression by preventing Benno Barnard's lecture at the University of Antwerp (UA). "The alderman college said that as the municipality is charged with ensuring respect for the law…in order to prevent such attacks in the future, they want Sharia4Belgium to be fined 25,000 euro as a penalty." We will see how this plays out.

The first part of this piece about burqas and free speech in Belgium appeared at NewsRealBlog where I will now be blogging once a week. They plied me with food and fine wine, dubbed me the Godmother of all Feminist Hawks, and it worked. Thank you David Swindle!

I would also like to thank "Esther" for her excellent and consistent choice of articles at IslaminEurope.

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