Breaking with a pattern of small town parochialism, I am doing a bit of Golden Gate Bridge touristing with my daughter and my little granddaughter . It’s a nice Saturday. There are hundreds of visitors from everywhere in the world at Vista Point. A woman with two little girls, comes fairly close to me to have their picture taken against the bridge. Innocent and expected but I step back with a little bit of horror in my heart. The woman is wearing the full niqab, the full covering, including of her face. I know it’s her right but I don’t have to like it. I especially don’t have to like it if this fashion statement has security implications. How do I know this person is not a medium size hairy guy with a bomb under the lose garment? And if this person does anything that threatens my security and fails, how am I going to describe him or her to the police?
Of course, I wonder why she even wants her picture taken. Who is going to know if it’s her, back home? Her behavior is bizarre to me, a reason to be alert. I don’t know if she is forced to wear this outfit or if it’s “her choice,” as Muslims often say to me. I don’t know where she is from; she might be French, for all I know taking advantage of a vacation abroad to indulge in her favorite outfit. (See below.) My guess ( a guess) is that she if from one of the countries where the niqab originated, not Estonia, not China, not Burundi, not Uruguay, for example.
In Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf countries , the temperature often hovers around 90F (about 40 C) . In that heat, wearing a garment that encloses body and head, with only hands and feet exposed for heat dissipation has to be torture. (We lose about half of the heat we lose through the head.) I believe few woman would gladly impose this discomfort on themselves without pressure. Besides, those are countries where female education is discouraged. (Correct me if I am wrong.) I don’t know what “choice” means there. A partial answer stands next to niqab-ed woman. The 8 or 9 year old girl next to her is wearing the hijab, the head covering. Maybe the girl asked for it. It’s possible; it still looks to me like mild child abuse, at least, preparing a little girl for a lifetime of submission. Remember that women’s hair covering is recommended (it’s not the in Koran, I am told) to avoid exciting men’s lust. What am is supposed to think; it’s a little girl whose hair is so covered?
I recognize that wearing the niqab in public is not much of a torture if women are destined to leave their house but rarely; if they don’t work outside the home, for example. And, yes, of course, I am well aware of the fact that the domestic oppression of young women if often implemented by older women. And, you silly academic liberals, spare me another empty and hypocritical lecture: Of course, I know that women often impose terrible tortures on themselves in Western countries, spike-heel shoes for one. It’s always, always, because they want to exhibit themselves sexually, never to conceal their advantages. And, incidentally, I have not heard from American feminists for a long time. Where are they when we might actually need them?
The niqab is an old issue in Europe. It has not been confronted in the US. We suffer from the same sort of politically correct complacency that led France to where you know. This, although the niqab, specifically, is actually prohibited in public places in France. The French though have failed to deal with related issues crying out for attention. If it’s not hurting now, let’s ignore it, is the policy in Europe and here too: a habitual petty shoplifter just purchased an assault rifle and a bullet proof vest, no big deal!
Yesterday or the day before (01/19/15) Saudi authorities arrested a man for showing pictures on the Internet. The pictures were of an official, judicially determined beheading of a woman on the public street. (The report I heard did not say what she as convicted of. I don’t know what it was.) A few days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the Saudi authorities started the year (our year) by quietly beginning to implement the sentence of a man named El Badawi: (Means “Beduin” probably not completely a foreign agitator although he appears to have Canadian ties.) The first ten (or twenty, but who is counting?) of a thousand lashes (1,000) in addition to a five year jail sentence, were administered. The culprit was not convicted of single murder, or of multiple murder, or, of high treason. He was convicted of saying wrong things on-line. He is a bad apple blogger. Some Saudi think he got off easy because he was not beheaded. Another time, during 2014, a woman was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for being a witch (a witch). That’s what Human Rights Watch says. It’s an organization I have learned to respect.
I can already hear the protests: Not all Muslim countries recognize witchcraft as a crime. I would guess most don’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if Saudi Arabia were the only one. So? The Saudis, the Saudi dynasty are supposed to be our friends. I am pretty sure I don’t want that kind of friends; I would do without. As I write, they don’t have a single soldier on the ground fighting Daish (ISIL) which seems to threaten them directly. (The first Daish fighter who beheads a Saudi prince will get a reward of five virgins slaves. -Yes, I made this up but why was is so easy to make you believe it?)
Saudi oil and oil from the Arab side of the Gulf will remain cheaper to extract and cheaper to refine than North American products. This will be true for the foreseeable future irrespective of the technological prowess of our fracking industry. This would be true even if the inadvertently criminal environmentalist organizations stopped creating obstacles in its path based on bad science. So, I find myself wondering the obvious: How much of a surcharge would I be willing to pay at the pump, and on all the products I consume to avoid forever having such friends? Economic knowledge I don’t have would be required to answer the second part of the question. The first part is easy: I would gladly pay fifty cents more a gallon for the privilege of not pretending they are my friends. I sense that I could be talked into doubling this amount. A little poverty is better than a lot of shame and disgust. Our politicians are too cowardly on the whole to raise the question openly. We could have a sort of referendum on-line that might influence them in that specific area.
After Charlie Hebdo published its post massacre issue, again with a mild caricature of the Prophet on the cover, there were protests in many parts of the Muslim world. Of course, Muslims have a perfect right to express their disgust at blasphemy. No one is denying them this right, least of all in the Western democracies. (Correct me if I am wrong.) However, in mass protests everywhere more is usually expressed than what is intended at the center of the protests. People always say more t when they are excited.
In Pakistan, several American flags were burnt. It’s fine with me. The right to burn the American flags is even protected by the courts within the US. Some protesters shouted, “The punishment for blasphemy is decapitation.” (That’s according to a French television channel filming the whole thing, France 2, I think.) The protest was presented as one of lawyers and they looked the part. They shouted, “The punishment for blasphemy is death!”I will take their word for it; I have no legal training: In Islam the punishment for blasphemy is really death, a gruesome kind of death, a kind of death we have become familiar with. You learn a great deal if you are not shy about paying attention.