Sunday, October 22, 2006

Babel

There's been a kerfuffle in the U.K. over Muslim women covering their heads and faces in the niqab, or veil. It started when Jack Straw commented that he felt that the niqab was a symptom of subservience of women in Muslim societies. A female schoolteacher was suspended for refusing to uncover her face because she was teaching English as a second language and the children needed to see her mouth. She argued that they could learn all they needed from her eyes, intonations and body language.

Today, the Washington Post gets into the act with two articles, How I came to love the veil by Yvonne Ridley who seems to have the worst case of Stockholm Syndrome ever, and Clothes Aren't the Issue by Asra Q. Nomani, who takes issue with the practice of wife-beating which is supported by a shura in the Koran, but which seems inconsistant with other verses in the same book.

All this reveals that Islam is, like most of Christianity and Judaism, largely a product of "scholars" rather than revelation. The original revelations in the Old and New Testaments and the Koran are the foundations of these religions, but in each case, what followed, a huge body of "interpretations" by learned men who were not prophets, but assumed that because they were trained in philosophy, they could make clear what was in the mind of the Almighty. How successful they have been is demonstrated by the multiplicity of the resulting traditions, sects, schisms, factions and splinter groups. You'd think that more people would wonder how God could be the author of such confusion. The idea that conflicting interpretations, denials, innovations and reinterpretations could all be true at once is illogical, but widely accepted. And yet people continue to argue about the truth, but hardly anybody seems to think to ask God himself. Perhaps because they can't even agree on what kind of being, or non-being, he is.

Update: The AP is reporting that this niqab issue is becoming so hot in Britain that it may cause riots. I would tell the Muslims that the country they live in allows freedom of speech and that if they can't accept that, they should move on. In Western tradition, masking one's face is usually a sign that you're about to commit robbery.
What is there to prevent anybody from donning a burqa, for example, and carrying a bomb into a public place, or a subway train? The insistence on this absolutism by Muslims will probably result in restricted immigration privileges for them, on the grounds that they're a big pain to have around.

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