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This is simply blather from Nazneen Sheikh, rather dangerous blather, demonstrating not understanding but attitude.

It is well known that neither the niqab nor the burqa are requirements for the world’s billion or so Muslims.

But they are nevertheless deeply traditional parts of some primitive cultures, and indeed primitive cultures everywhere have backward and superstitious customs. That is precisely what it means to be backward.

Societies leave their backward customs behind when they enjoy healthy economic growth. They don’t bind women’s feet anymore in China or Japan.

What still goes on in the backward corners of India, South America, Thailand, Africa, and other places is appalling. Countless savageries are committed daily against women from accepted rape and selling children into prostitution to bride-burning and “honor killing.”

Considering the vast scope of horrors against women in this world, I think it slightly ridiculous to be riveted on the situation of several hundred immigrant women in France who wear the niqab, and that is the order of magnitude we are concerned with here because the overwhelming majority of Muslim women in France have never worn the niqab.

As anyone who studies the ways of people without a political agenda knows perfectly well, you cannot change backward customs quickly.

Indeed, if you try, you do so with tyrant behavior as bad or worse than the custom itself, and often run the risk of bad reactions from those charged with special and unfair laws.

It sometimes takes a couple of generations in a new land for strongly-entrenched customs to fade, as we can easily observe in other groups who live in Canada.

Indeed, some seem never to change, and one may ask justly, why should they if that is their choice? They live quiet lives, just as the Muslims with their niqabs.

Hasidic Jewish men still wear full face beards and large dark hats.

Traditional Mennonite women wear ugly long formless dresses with ugly caps on their heads and they drive in silly box carriages pulled by horses.

Both those groups are stuck somewhere in the 19th century. They both also do not truly integrate into the greater society, keeping in their own close-knit communities.

And so long as they do no one any harm and obey our laws, who cares?

Telling people what they must or must not wear is in the same spirit of human rights as telling people what they should say.

Sarkozy is only responding to the increased popularity of the National Front, effectively setting himself a race with the society’s least decent political party.

Hardly admirable, but we should know from many of Sarkozy’s other deeds and words that he is an unpleasant man altogether, from his treatment of gypsies to his calling people scum.

Yet, the thoughtless writer of this piece sets him up as someone to be emulated.

I suspect Ms Sheikh to be one of those people who are ashamed of their more backward cousins, but that is no excuse to advocate corrupting the laws of civil society.

I suspect, too, this is one of her ways of responding to the irrational pressure created by the “war on terror” with its daily freely-communicated ignorant prejudices against Muslims in our society. It is a way of responding – jumping on the simpler and more backward members of her community – that is aimed at gaining approval from the ugly noisy mob, when it is the mob that is the problem.

How quickly our perceptions vary under such conditions. Not that long ago, the niqab was viewed as alluring and mysteriously beautiful, highlighting the eyes as it does. We saw that in countless movies and television shows and read it in many books. Suddenly, it is evil and must be expunged.

Ridiculous, unthinking, and unenlightened.

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