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A visitor wearing a burqa at the 2012 exhibition 'Burquoi' at the Kunstverein in Wiesbaden, Germany.
A visitor wearing a burqa at the 2012 exhibition 'Burquoi' at the Kunstverein in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Alan Posener

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The ministers of the interior of Germany's 16 federal states have presented their plan against terrorism. Among them, the abolition of the dual citizenship and a public ban on wearing the burqa.

As far as is known, no dual citizenship holder has committed a crime of a terrorist nature. The number of women wearing the burqa in the population is about as insignificantly small as their participation in the total number of terrorist attacks in Europe over the last few years.

The ministers of the interior of Germany's leading conservative parties, the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union, aren't really thinking about the fight against terror anyway — they want to fight the insurgence from the anti-immigrant, populist Alternative for Germany party. With upcoming elections, they hope such proposals can win over voters worried about security and immigrants. It will be in vain. Experience shows that imitating the populists, only makes them stronger.

Having two passports myself, I am, I have to confess, biased. I am forced to ponder, like my fellow British citizens who live and work in Britain following the Brexit referendum, how to exercise our rights of dual citizenship. Why can't I be a loyal taxpaying citizen, and still root for the English soccer national team? (Which is punishment enough, to be honest) How can you expect Israeli-Germans to be more loyal towards Germany, than the Jewish state?

Ah, but we're not talking about you, we say. It's all about the Turkish, we admit without shame. We're still negotiating Turkey's accession to the European Union, which would give them the right to two passports, like other EU citizens too, and yet, we're not really serious about it. It's about the Turkish minority's discrimination, as we claim. The Turkish, not the British, not Bulgarians, neither Israelis, nor even Americans, are asked for unconditional loyalty. But the Turkish are. They are constantly under the cloud of suspicion of disloyalty. How this should serve the fight against terror remains unclear.

The burqa ban is, if possible, even more absurd. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fight against terror, but rather with an unhealthy male obsession with the female body and its disguise.

If there should be fear of hiding weapons or a bomb under the burqa, they shall simply, just like people wearing backpacks, be searched before entering security-relevant areas.

As far as identification is concerned, women wearing a burqa can be asked to reveal their face if necessary. That's the current legislation and requires no additional amendments.

It wasn't so long ago that feminists began burning their bras as the symbol of male oppression. They refused to wear miniskirts and high heels, these garments beaming the male gaze on the female body, reducing them to "sex objects" who are, thanks to the contraceptive pill, constantly at their disposal, simulating a state of relentless sexual arousal with their pouting lips, red cheeks and round eyes.

Mixed message

Endless series of seminars are held about it. I remember discussions with female German professors who welcomed the Ayatollah Khomeini-led revolution in Iran, arguing that the veiling black chador is nothing but the female refusal of the objectifying, Western, sexualized male gaze that colonizes the female body.

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A sexist Western billboard — Photo: Owlin Aolin

Well, women can be mistaken; or change their minds. But I'm not entirely sure if the German professors were all wrong. Women are, on the one hand, always objects, and therefore victims, of male expectations; but, on the other hand, they have different means to allow them to escape such a condition.

A woman wearing a miniskirt, can signal that she's aware of her sexual power over men, and that she's deliberately making use of it; a woman wearing a head scarf can signal that she, as a self-conscious Muslim, doesn't want to be bothered.

When it comes to the burqa, there's no doubt about that, the situation is different. We have fought a war in Afghanistan in order to — among other things — free women from locking themselves away in this piece of garment. But this war was not fought to suspect all women who wear the burqa in Germany of being terrorists, of usurping their right to express and live their personality and religion freely and without constraint.

After all, they're not harming anyone by doing so, except for themselves. Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleiologus, whom Pope Benedict XVI cited in his controversial 2006 speech in Regensburg, put it this way: "Faith descends from the soul, not the body. Those who want to guide towards faith, therefore need the ability to speak and think rightly, and most certainly do not need violence or terror."

That was 1391. We don't want to go back to Middle Ages, many call out disgusted, demanding the ban on the burqa, and even on Islam altogether. But in reality those medieval emperors are much more progressive than them.

And this current Pope has added his voice: "Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence."

Some say the burqa simply does not fit into a democratic society. They are wrong. It fits perfectly well into a liberal democracy where the rights of minorities, even maniacs and cult worshipers, are protected. It does not fit into an illiberal democracy, which is where these latest proposal from German politicians are pushing us.

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