Ladies (?) wearing burqas
While visiting a tourist hotspot earlier this summer, Walt and the Mrs noticed some people covered in cloth from head to toe, in spite of 90-degree heat.
"What are they?" Mrs Walt wanted to know, "and why are they wearing those sheets?"
Walt replied that they were most likely strict Muslim women and that they were "those sheets" as a religious observance. I said "most likely" because you can't tell if they're women or men, which is one of the reasons for demands to ban the wearing of such dress -- to avoid terrorists disguising themselves and then wreaking havoc.
The dress in question is called the burqa, and for those who have always wanted to know the difference between the burqa, the niqab and the hijab, Walt will now explain.
The burqa, shown above, is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire body from head to toe, with just a small piece of mesh covering the eyes allowing the wearer to see out, as if through a cage.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the eyes uncovered. It is commonly worn in much of the Middle East, and increasingly in Europe and North America as the number of Muslims here keeps growing. Recent demands that Muslim ladies remove the veil for identification purposes, for instance when voting or registering for something, have been called "racist" and "Islamophobic" by the usual gang of leftist human rights whiners.
The hijab is a square scarf covering head and neck, so as to conceal the hair but not the face. It is the most common style worn by Muslim women in the West.
Are the burqa and its milder variants symbols of devotion to Islam or symbols of the oppression of women? Does it matter? If someone wants to wear a particular uniform or costume or dress, a true libertarian would say, let them.
But when the manner of dress conflicts with the values of mainstream society, perhaps that's another matter. If someone feels like parading down the street naked, we have laws that say such undress is unacceptable.
What if someone wants to wear something which conceals their identity? Increasingly numbers of Europeans and North Americans feel this is also unacceptable.
France has banned the wearing of burqas in public. Today comes news that 54% of Canadians feel Canada should follow France's lead. A Leger Marketing online poll found anti-burqa sentiment highest in Quebec (73%) and the East (over 50% in Ontario and the Atlantic), and lowest (39%) in --you guessed it -- British Columbia.
UPDATE September 2013: If you're reading this because of the fuss about Québec's proposed Charter of Values, please read our comments "Multiculti types horrified as Charter of Québec Values bans religious headgear" and "What Québec's new Charter of Values will and will not do".
And don't be afraid to join the debate. We have a feeling that the Charter's ban on religious headgear has a lot of silent support, not just in Québec where it's clearly popular, but in the rest of Canada and other countries where people are sick of having to accommodate themselves to certain "minorities".