Europeans Want to Remove the Islamic Veil
It may be that some of our political and religious leaders have taken courage from Pope Benedict xvi’s example. Perhaps they admired his flinging down the gauntlet to encroaching Islam in his now infamous Regensburg speech of September 12. In that cleverly constructed thesis on the subject of faith and reason, the pope inferred that no good thing had come out of the religion created by Muhammad. It galvanized a hateful reaction from many quarters within extremist Islam, including al Qaeda.
No sooner had the furor over Benedict’s inflammatory comments on Islam died down than a senior British politician touched off another round of Islamic vitriol. “[British] Cabinet Minister Jack Straw has said he would prefer Muslim women not to wear veils which cover the face. The Commons leader said he did not want to be ‘prescriptive’ but he believed that covering people’s faces could make community relations more difficult” (bbc News, October 6).
Straw couched his point in typical British understatement. The fact is that the very refusal by thousands of Islamists to conform to the cultural norms of the societies to which they have migrated, in order to exploit the very freedoms that their countries of origin deny them, has imposed terribly disruptive effects on “community relations” within countries to which they have emigrated. In a further sign that the British establishment has had enough of beating around the bush on the imposition of foreign cultures upon the nation’s heritage, a Muslim lawyer who refused to remove her veil while representing a client in court in central England was removed from the case.
Now the debate is extending deeper into the arena of religion.
John Sentamu, archbishop of York (the Church of England’s second-highest office), said in an interview with Britain’s Daily Mail that Muslim women shouldn’t expect the public to accept them wearing veils because the veils did not “conform to norms of decency.” “I think the thing is in British society you can wear what you want, but you can’t expect British society to be reconfigured around you,” he said. “No minority can expect to impose this on the public or civic life.”
The following day the Vatican stepped up the debate. Cardinal Renato Martino, the Italian prelate heading the Vatican’s office on issues concerning migrants, itinerant workers and refugees, confronted the cultural and religious clash that Muslim immigrants have introduced into the countries of their adoption during a news conference to present Pope Benedict xvi’s annual message on migrant issues. In answer to a question put to him on whether Muslim immigrant women should wear veils, Martino stated that countries “must require that guests who arrive from a different culture must respect the traditions, the symbols, the culture, the religion of the countries they go to. … This seems to me to be elementary. It is quite right that [local] authorities insist on this.”
That evening, the Vatican further ratcheted up the debate, broadcasting a statement declaring that “the question of the veil for Islamic women” ought to be “considered in the context of respect for the laws of the countries which welcome them.”
There is no doubting that this crusade of words is heating up. The pope has a deliberate agenda to challenge pan-Islamism on its massive incursion into European society.
Associated Press reported, “Martino also pushed the Vatican’s campaign for Christians’ right to worship around the world. He lamented that some … countries do not allow immigrants from Christian countries to easily profess their faith. The pope has been lobbying for Christians’ right to worship openly in countries such as Saudi Arabia, which forbids Christians from practicing their religion” (November 14).
The pope is in a win-win situation in this debate. It is working powerfully to the Vatican’s advantage in Rome’s evangelizing drive to wrest Europe back from the centuries of secularism that has dominated its society since the Age of Enlightenment. The rising fear of Islamic incursion on the Continent is steadily driving people back to mother Rome in a religious counter-offensive against pan-Islamism. History and biblical prophecy indicate that this reaction will heat up into a great clash of civilizations.
Already there are signs of European reaction manifesting itself in legal changes designed to stem the tide of Islam. In France, a ban on Muslim headscarves and other “conspicuous” religious symbols at state schools was introduced in 2004. The Dutch government backed a proposal by the country’s immigration minister to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa publicly. The Dutch cabinet declared that burqas disturb public order, citizens and safety. In Belgium, the city of Maaseik has banned the niqab, which covers the whole face except for the eyes.
But it is in Italy, home to the Vatican State, that measures designed to begin limiting the impact of Islamic culture on society are most advanced. Local politicians in the north of Italy resurrected old laws against the wearing of masks to ban women from wearing the all-over burqa. The Italian parliament has approved anti-terrorist laws which make concealing one’s face in public—including by wearing the burqa—an offense. The Italian government has now said it will also draft new legislation to ban the Islamic veil that covers the face.
It is patently clear that the European Union is feeling the cultural and religious push from its south. Added to this is the constant fear of Islamic terrorism and the barraging rants from the Islamic zealot President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, his latest threat being that the EU is within the range of his increasing arsenal of weapons, destined soon to go nuclear.
This present cultural clash, seemingly long overdue for a public reaction from the European establishment, has finally broken through the politically correct barriers. The verbal gloves are off. It remains to be seen how long it will take this present war of words to spark into a war of a much more heated nature!