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Rabbi Condemns French Ban on Burkas

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights upheld a French law forbidding the wearing of face-covering headgear, including burkas and niqabs, in public. France argued, and the ECHR agreed, that a ban was justified in order to support “social cohesion.” Today the Telegraph ran a piece by the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt, condemning the ruling. He argues that France’s reasoning is unpersuasive and that the ruling should alarm Europeans of all faith. More:

The bans on the building of minarets in Switzerland in 2009 and on wearing a burka, upheld by the ECHR in the last few days, have crossed a red line.

My personal view is that to suggest that the particular appearance of a place of worship (of which there were only four across the entire country at the time of the Swiss referendum) could somehow negatively impact on a person in any meaningful way is ludicrous in the extreme.

I am also deeply suspicious of claims that a ban on the burka is designed to promote intercommunal relations […]

Faith communities around Europe are feeling more and more disaffected and marginalised, not less.

Europe is becoming increasingly illiberal, intolerant of and hostile to religious and non-religious minorities alike. Even as bureaucrats in Brussels profess fealty to progressive ideals, the basic freedoms of many groups they supposedly represent are under threat. The burka ban is the most explicit and egregious manifestation of the new illiberalism but is not the first and it won’t be the last. European Jews, of course, have faced their own discrimination issues in a Europe that is becoming increasingly anti-Semitic. So it’s encouraging to see an important Jewish leader decry discrimination against those outside his own beset fold. If the turn toward illiberalism is be to checked at all, friends of liberty will have to follow Goldschmidt’s example and band together across sectarian lines. 

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  • FriendlyGoat

    “Liberals” are people who, without resorting to hate and persecution, realize that Islam as a philosophy is one of the least “liberal” ideas on earth. It is therefore not “illiberal” for a legislative body in a “liberal” place to decide that clothing intended as personal advertising signage for one of the least “liberal” ideas on earth is not only a security risk for its disguise opportunity but also a provocation in the age of the new “IS” or Islamic State recently declared.

    If I went to Saudi Arabia, I would expect to behave according to their local standards. Muslims in Europe can be expected to do likewise.and asking such is not an infringement on anything whatsoever.

    I won’t knock a Rabbi for his generous personal view of tolerance, but I won’t pretend his view should be imposed on everyone in Europe. No liberals should.

    • LivingRock

      How can a society that legalizes persecution, as France has, be considered a society that strives for ordered liberty? Some women choose to wear burqas. Now you can’t do that in public in France w/o facing legal sanction.

      Perhaps what’s happening here is some of France’s ideas of liberty are dated.

      • FriendlyGoat

        The women who “choose” to wear burqas are doing so to advertise one of the least liberal schools of thought on earth. They are the “women’s auxiliary” for the sector of Islamic men who FORCE this nonsense on any woman they can control. To whatever extent the French can just politely say “no,no,no,no,no and no” to the pollution of its culture, they should do so.

        Europe is in danger with too much of this stuff, and they know it.

        • LivingRock

          Relating a French born Muslim woman to IS is far fetched to say the least.

          • FriendlyGoat

            If a French-born Muslim woman cannot discern why Islam is a dangerous crock of baloney, she needs to watch the news about IS to discover what her burqa is actually promoting.

  • gabrielsyme

    While I oppose both the burka and minaret bans, let’s introduce a little sense of proportion into the conversation. As I understand it, neither the burka nor the minaret are in the realm of religious or moral obligation. Nor do their bans prevent Muslims from participating in every part of society. As obnoxious as bans on church bells are, they are fairly common and very similar to the ban on minarets.

    In the case of the contraception mandate, however, religious individuals were being asked to do something they understood to be morally forbidden or cease running their business. Christian adoption agencies have been shuttered because they cannot in good conscience give a child to be adopted by homosexual parents. In Canada, a Christian university may well be prevented from opening a law school because of the refusal of some law societies to recognise its graduates. These are far graver threats to the full participation of religious communities in society.

  • Fat_Man

    There is no such thing as a Muslim friend of liberty. Islam is a totalitarian and intolerant system just like Communism. A friend of liberty cannot make common cause with a Muslim unless the friend of liberty is bent on suicide.

  • sh

    Ironically, given your article this morning about Anti-Semitism in Russia, Rabbi Goldschmidt is NOT a Western European Rabbi. He is actually the Chief Rabbi of Moscow and the first President of the CER to be selected from Eastern Europe and not be part of the E.U. Perhaps his experiences in Russia have given him a clearer sense of the issues regarding religious freedoms?

    More information on Rabbi Goldschmidt here:

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