December 10th, 2016

Merkel and the full-face veil: nations, religions, and culture

Merkel is doing penance for her immigration policy by getting behind the banning of the full-face veil—in other words, the burqa and the niqab.

Today there’s an editorial in Bloomberg that states:

Pandering to grievances, real or imagined, rarely works. Sometimes it’s meant to soothe such feelings, as it presumably was in this case. Usually, though, it inflames them and makes matters worse.

Which grievances are being pandered to by the Bloomberg editors?

The editorial goes on to state:

Now, elections are coming up in Germany, and Merkel rightly wants to deny support to the far-right AfD party, whose anti-immigrant thinking is driven not by prudence but by outright racism. In response, Merkel’s newly hardened position is both weak on the merits and plain bad tactics.

It’s weak because the full-face veil is not much seen in Germany — and who’s actually claiming that Shariah law should overrule German law? The effect of her statement is not to encourage assimilation, but merely to convey sympathy with the anti-immigrant worldview. Hence, bad tactics: Flattering such thinking is no way to overcome it. She’s as good as conceding that the AfD has a point.

What’s wrong with this? Let me count the ways.

We can be pretty sure that some members of the “far-right” AfD party’s anti-immigrant thinking is driven by “outright racism” (although “racism” isn’t the right word, since we’re talking about a religion, Islam, rather than a race here). But how much? It’s not at all driven by “prudence”? Not even a teeny weeny little bit? Give me a break. But perhaps the authors of this editorial also were the ones that said all objection to President Obama was racist, too, and that all supporters of Donald Trump are racists.

We don’t know on what evidence the editors based their accusation about the completely racist motives of the AfD, because they are keeping mum about it. We are just supposed to take their august word for it, I guess. Here’s the AfD’s Wiki page, if you want to get up to speed. And here’s a long (confession: I only read about 2/3 of it) article in Spiegel about the party, from which I glean that its supporters very much resemble Trump’s supporters.

Of course, where Germany is concerned, extra caution makes a certain amount of sense. But this party seems, at least as far as I can ascertain, to resemble other populist and nationalist movements that are springing up in a wide variety of places in response to the present governments’ ignoring of what seems like common sense about both unchecked immigration and the preservation of cultural identity.

But let’s get back to the Bloomberg editors. The sentence “It’s weak because the full-face veil is not much seen in Germany — and who’s actually claiming that Shariah law should overrule German law?” contains two errors. If the full-face veil is “not much seen in Germany”—well, so what? Can we only ban things that are common? After all, murder is uncommon, but it is banned. To use a more relevant example, public nudity is uncommon and yet most countries have laws against indecent exposure. They are preventative, as well.

And far as the question of who is arguing for sharia law, take a look at this sort of thing. I don’t have time right now to check the study itself, but I’ve read plenty of similar findings in the past.

Now let’s look at this from the Bloomberg editors:

The effect of her statement is not to encourage assimilation, but merely to convey sympathy with the anti-immigrant worldview. Hence, bad tactics: Flattering such thinking is no way to overcome it. She’s as good as conceding that the AfD has a point.

But do they really think the AfD doesn’t have at least a point, considering what has happened with immigration in Germany? Not to mention what has happened in this country, which has been one of the main factors leading to the election of Trump. No point at all? And what has the left ever done in Germany to “encourage assimilation”? Does allowing full-body (including face) coverage in Germany “encourage assimiliation”? Hardly.

In addition, the Bloomberg editors ignore two very important things. The first is that wearing a facial veil is not dictated by Islam, it is cultural in certain countries. The second is that covering the face entirely has security consequences, and they are not good. There are anti-mask laws in various countries that have to do with people covering their faces in any manner when in places of public assembly:

In many US states and the District of Columbia, there are anti-mask laws.

Anti-mask laws date back to the mid-20th century when states and municipalities passed them as to inhibit the Ku Klux Klan, whose members typically wore hoods of white linen to conceal their identities.

I wonder whether the editors would champion the KKK’s right to cover their faces. Somehow I doubt it.

France has what is probably the most restrictive law of all in that respect:

The French ban on face covering is an act of parliament passed by the Senate of France on 14 September 2010, resulting in the ban on the wearing of face-covering headgear, including masks, helmets, balaclava, niqābs and other veils covering the face in public places, except under specified circumstances.

Here’s an article on the extent of bans on face-veiling, which includes this map:


Western countries—not just Germany—are struggling with issues of nationalism versus immigration. To what extent will a nation declare its own culture to be something with which immigrants must conform? What is the proper proportion of immigrants to natives in order to preserve a country’s own culture, and how many people even want to preserve that culture? What is racism and what is common sense? How far can the left go in accusing people of blanket racism before the word becomes meaningless and causes a backlash (and has that point already arrived)? What form will that backlash take (considering that Germany, for example, has a very troubling history)?

And it’s not just western countries, either. Many Muslim countries have struggled with related cultural issues. When the Shah was in power in Iran, for example, women didn’t wear the chador, but it came back with a vengeance (literally) after 1979, along with the theocracy.

And let’s not forget Turkey’s Ataturk:

The Ottoman Empire had a social system based on religious affiliation. The religious insignia extended to every social function. It was common to wear clothing that identified the person with their own particular religious grouping and accompanied headgear which distinguished rank and profession throughout the Ottoman Empire. The turbans, fezes, bonnets and head-dresses surmounting Ottoman styles showed the sex, rank, and profession (both civil and military) of the wearer…

Atatürk’s Reforms defined a non-civilized (non-scientific, non-positivist) person as one who functioned within the boundaries of superstition. The ulema was not a scientific group, and it was acting according to superstitions developed throughout centuries. Their name was “Gerici”, literally means “backward”, but it was used to mean bigot. On February 25, 1925 parliament passed a law stating that religion was not to be used as a tool in politics. The question became how this law could be brought to life in a country whose scholars are dominated by the ulema. Kemalist ideology waged a war against superstition by banning the practices of the ulema and promoting the civilized way (“westernization”), with establishing lawyers, teachers, doctors. The ban on the ulema’s social existence came in the form of dress code. The strategic goal was to change the large influence of the ulema over politics by removing them from the social arena. However, there was the danger of being perceived as anti-religious…

Beginning in 1923, a series of laws progressively limited the wearing of selected items of traditional clothing. Mustafa Kemal first made the hat compulsory to the civil servants. The guidelines for the proper dressing of students and state employees (public space controlled by state) was passed during his lifetime. After most of the relatively better educated civil servants adopted the hat with their own he gradually moved further. The Hat Law of 1925 introduced the use of Western style hats instead of the fez. Legislation did not explicitly prohibit veils or headscarves and focused instead on banning fezzes and turbans for men. Another control on the dress was passed in 1934 with the law relating to the wearing of ‘Prohibited Garments’. It banned religion-based clothing, such as the veil and turban, while actively promoting western-style attire.

This is not a small topic, nor is it a simple one, although the editors of Bloomberg would like to pretend that it is. The way we dress is not the least bit arbitrary, as any wearer of the burqa could tell you. The issues are not simply religious, either—they are cultural too, and they also have security implications in a world in which Islamic terrorism is an important and dangerous phenomenon even in western nations. To say otherwise and to declare that all of this is simply a racist brouhaha is delusional.

14 Responses to “Merkel and the full-face veil: nations, religions, and culture”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    Merkel saw what happened to Hillary and her response is way better. First demonize your opponent as alt-right. Then take the second and better step of a superficial and inconsequential burqua ban.

    But is Merkel sending anyone back home? I doubt it.

  2. Ann Says:


    From November 27 article: “In one of the most shocking flip-flops in recent political history, German Chancellor Angela Merkel now says she will deport about 10% of recently arrived migrants — 100,000 of them.”

  3. Eric K Says:

    The fact is Atatürk’s Mustafa Kemal Reforms to give a modern outlook.

    Atatürk introduced many reforms: European hats replaced the fez; women stopped wearing the veil; all citizens took surnames; and the Islamic calendar gave way to the Western calendar.

    The social change by in Atatürk’s Mustafa Kemal done with civil servants looks to bring or put the new state on the road for western look rather to built on more than three centuries of high achievement by his nation.

    You should remember a language change . In 1928, when he decided that the Arabic script, which had been used by the Turks for a thousand years, should be replaced with the Latin alphabet. By doing so the nation lost its hiratage after more than three centuries of high achievement of the Ottoman Empire

  4. expat Says:

    The French ban was a reaction to girls not wearing headscarves being molested and sometimes raped on their way to and from school. The radicals then used this as a way to put pressure on their parents, many of whom were far from radical. This kind of thing can happen under the radar in enclaves.

    In Germany, you have a slightly different problem given the number of Turks who have lived here for decades. Most of these people were fairly well assimilated except in the enclaves in places like Cologne and Berlin. Not many people paid attention to what was happening there and that kids were not being sent to school and that arranged marriages were common. I think that since 9/11, people, especially in Merkel’s party have been trying to get a handle on what is happening. Certainly, their resistance to accepting Turkey into the EU was based on mistrust of allowing more Turks into the country. With the rise of Erdogan, the mistrust has risen, especially since his visit to Germany a few years ago when he told Turks not to assimilate.

    So basically, Merkel and co. are trying to tread a line between getting the Turkish residents to assimilate more and to protect the country. Rabid anti-Muslim rhetoric could tip the resident Turks into a more radical position.

    As far as I know, the AfD started out more as resistance to overwhelming EU socialistic overreach, but it as morphed into more of an anti-immigration party. So I’m not sure how much Merkel’s burqua ban is totally a reaction to the AfD.
    It could also be partially a response to radicals trying to use the burqua, which is not really a problem now, to try to make inroads into Muslim communities as happened in France. I think there is a whole lot going on. I do get POd at commenters on various blogs who pass judgement on Merkel and call her a East German socialist without knowing a thing about the situation. Merkel is one who tries to solve problems quietly and make deals. She doesn’t stand up loudly for an ideology. As I said when she was first elected, remember that she is chancellor of the Germans. She reflects the society that is composed of lots of do-gooders, activists, big business people, and ordinary people who want a normal life. She letss others raise ell and then tries to manage the situation.

  5. Sergey Says:

    Two considerations applied to USA, too: 1) Anti-immigrant and anti-immigration are two different things. The first is attitude to people, and the second – to the government policy. One can be quite tolerant for individuals but object the policy disrupting communities. 2) Racism is motivation, and unless the person openly admits his racist views, it is impossible to ascribe him any motives without mind-reading. That makes this accusation impossible to refute.

  6. A_Nonny_Mouse Says:

    Naaah, she’s just doing what the Left *DOES* when people start threatening their various suzerainties: “Ohh, lookie over here at this SQUIRREL, the face-veil. I’ll address the SQUIRREL, while at the very same time I’ll not-so-gently remind the German people that they REALLY must do a better job of acclimating themselves to the “delicate sensibilities” of Our Peaceful Muslim Refugees.”

    The wholesale importation of hostile Third-Worlders will NOT cease, and will NOT be slowed down. The German MFMSM will just play up these little instances of The Globalists pretending to take their citizens’ concerns seriously as being “the dawn of a new direction”, but in actuality these ruthless and treasonous “Leaders” see the social chaos of competing client-tribes as their ONLY guarantee of cementing power.

    The Global Elitists of the world KNOW that the economic dominoes must fall; they just don’t know when or what the trigger will be. But they *DO* know they have to ALREADY be on-top and in-charge when it happens. And they will need a GUARANTEED source of internal terrorism to prevent social cohesion and cooperation from being the public response to the economic crisis.

    They await the inevitable “Save us, Obi-Wan,
    you’re our only hope” — and they’ll be quite happy to “temporarily” suspend civil rights and due process in order to maintain “public stability”. They KNOW there’s a Crisis coming (which they of course helped to arrange), and they darn-well intend to be the people managing and profiting from that crisis.

  7. Cornhead Says:


    900k left; half of the population of Nebraska.

  8. junior Says:

    Unfortunately, the only real way to make the refugee problem go away is to fix the countries that the refugees are coming from. We tried that in Iraq and Afghanistan. And any progress that was made under Bush was discarded by Obama for domestic political points. So, not happening.

    Further, a lot (I’m guessing most, actually) of the refugees are not coming from Syria, which is the current trouble spot. Michael Totten had an article several months ago that pointed out that the “taharush” thing (did I spell that properly?), where a group of men encircle a woman and attempt to molest her, is a North Africa thing. It’s not something common to the Middle East (like Syria). So if the attacks are on the rise in Europe, that suggests that a lot of the “Syrian” refugees are not actually from Syria.

    Trying to fix the entirety of northern Africa isn’t realistic at this time.

  9. expat Says:

    People from North Africa have been flooding Greece and Italy for years. The EU did little to stop it, but te media reported regularly every time a boat full of people sank in the Mediterranean. It was known that people smugglers were involved, but little seemed to have been done to counter teir propaganda. Now we know that people have been told to throw away their IDs and claim to be from another country.
    I agree that we can’t fix NA at this time, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to do some straight talking and try to counter the propaganda being spread there.

  10. parker Says:

    Europe has two options to stop the flood. Either immediately confine them behind guarded, tall, electrified fences before shipping them back or sink the boats out in open water.

  11. Sonny Wayze Says:

    Recent passport photo shoot:

    Me: Remove glasses
    Mrs. Wayze: Remove earrings
    Woman behind us: Rearrange hair off forehead.

    Watcha think would happen if a woman in a burka showed up?

  12. J.J Says:

    Neo: “The issues are not simply religious, either—they are cultural too, and they also have security implications in a world in which Islamic terrorism is an important and dangerous phenomenon even in western nations.”

    The problem of Islam is that it is not simply a religion. It is a religion, political system (sharia law), and culture (modes of dress, rules for eating, facial hair for men, honor/shame practices, and more) all rolled up into one package. It’s central belief that Islam must convert (by any means necessary) or kill (by any means necessary) all infidels makes it a threat to any other culture, religion of government. Until the West gets this and begins to treat it as seriously as it is, we will continue top muddle along gradually submitting.

    The only way to combat this is to recognize that the jihadis and their supporters are as serious as a heart attack. We must expose their beliefs as dangerous and unacceptable to the West and its way of life.

    I have just finished reading “Enhanced Interrogation” by James Mitchell. The words of KSM, as reported by Dr. Mitchell, should be common knowledge among all citizens. KSM makes clear the goals of the jihadis and how they intend to accomplish them. We are engaged in an existential war to save our culture, our government, and our freedom of religion. Only by recognizing this and being willing to defend our way of life will we win this war. Wake up America!

  13. J.J Says:

    Not ” …religion of government” but “religion OR government…” 🙁

  14. Lizzy Says:

    Merkel’s move seems too little, too late.

    Reminds me of the burkini bans in France last summer. The burqa, along with the veil are, as mentioned above, a way to identify who is a candidate for sexual assault. Also, one imagines that just as groups of immigrants attempted to enforce burkini-only rules on some beaches in Europe, so, too, will they start demanding (unoffially) head-covered or burka-clad women only, as is already done in some Muslim-concentrated neighborhoods (see: London sharia-enforcement gangs).

    Blogger Daniel Greenfield explained it well:

    Think the key is whether Merkel enforces this. She will be challenged, just as there were staged challenges to the burkini ban. Meanwhile, there are immigrant mobs that are enforcing there own rules in their new home. For example, I’m wondering how many women will be outdoors on New Year’s Even in Cologne unescorted, if at all.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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