Not All Head Coverings Are Equal

Pinch me. I must be dreaming.

Prof. Phyllis Chesler,

Prof. Phyllis Chesler
Prof. Phyllis Chesler
Why has the New York Times published an article this week (“Veiled Democracy”) written by Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, in which Feldman explains that if Turkey allows Muslim women to wear the Islamic
Does Feldman think that Islam is more liberal than Judaism?
headscarf in universities, then Turkey will be that much closer to a liberal democracy?

Pinch me. I must be dreaming.

Isn’t Feldman the very man who wrote a long, bitter and rather shameful article in the Sunday New York Times magazine in which he excoriated his own Orthodox Jewish brethren for (accidentally, as it turns out), not including a photo of himself together with his non-Jewish, non-Orthodox, non-convert wife at a class reunion?

Oh, how he carried on about the hard-hearted prejudices of Orthodox Jews (some of whom also wear head coverings). And yet, here he is suggesting that an Islamic religious symbol - a head covering - might be the key to a liberal democracy and, as such, might also render Turkey a worthy entrant into the European Union.

Turkey - but not Israel.

More: Feldman says that allowing the Islamic headscarf is the “best possible refutation of the claim that Islam and democracy are incompatible” and would be a “case study of religious freedom against coercive secularism.”

So, Feldman is a passionate warrior for Islamic religious expression, but an equally passionate warrior against similar Jewish religious expression.

Why? Does Feldman think that Islam is more liberal than Judaism? Does the professor understand that Muslims are not allowed to convert, nor can they marry a non-Muslim who does not convert to Islam? Does Feldman understand that Muslim women are being killed for refusing to wear the headscarf? Do the editors at the New York Times “get” it? If not, why not?

Maybe I’m just a bit cranky, what with the Archbishop of Canterbury calling for Shari’a law in Britain - a first article of faith in the Church of Fundamentalist Liberalism. By the way, rest assured, Shari’a law has already been hard at work in settling many disputes in the United Kingdom, ranging from violent crimes to divorces.

Is Feldman entirely out of touch with Muslim-world realities? How about the American woman who was just
Why is the New York Times so invested in securing an Islamic religious right in Turkey?
arrested and strip-searched in Riyadh for the “crime” of sitting in Starbuck’s with a male non-relative business associate? How about the two sisters in Iran who were savagely lashed and who are now slated to be stoned to death for the alleged crime of “adultery"?

What is wrong with Noah Feldman?

Curiouser and curiouser - an update: On the very next day, February 9, the New York Times featured an interview with a Turkish woman lawyer, Fatma Benli, titled: “Under a Scarf, a Turkish Lawyer Fighting to Wear It.” Why is the New York Times so invested in securing an Islamic religious right in Turkey?

Here’s an idea: In a gesture towards even-handedness, perhaps The Paper of Record might also agitate for the right of European Jews to wear head coverings (kipot or yarmulkes) without risking being cursed, beaten or knifed to death. Better yet, how about some even-handed agitation not only for the religious rights of Muslims in Turkey, but for the rights of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Ba’hai and Zoroastrians to practice their religions openly in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia without being arrested and stoned to death?

Really, why not?

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