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The Niqab And Us — A Fateful Bus Ride In Frankfurt

Waiting for the bus in Frankfurt
Waiting for the bus in Frankfurt
Uwe Schmitt

FRANKFURT — It's a Thursday morning on the No. 39 bus in Frankfurt, Germany. Suddenly, a migrant woman with an accent begins to complain loudly and aggressively about a woman wearing a niqab. "I don't feel safe next to her," she says to no one in particular.

The other passengers remain silent, though one eventually speaks up to defend the woman in the dark blue niqab whose eye slits were covered with trendy, slim glasses.

But the woman continues her lament. "I don't feel safe next to you, especially in times like these... I don't even know if you're a woman or a man."

The veiled woman remains silent, sitting with her baby in a stroller in front of her, and her 5-year-old son sitting at her side, her hand resting calmly on the boy's thigh. Her husband, a heavy man with a full black beard, jeans and a leather jacket, is sitting on the other side of her, silently as well. Maybe they don't understand what their tormenter was saying, though her rude tone is crystal clear.

"Equality rules"

The bus keeps going, and so does the woman. "For myself, I come from your same culture," the abusive woman continues. "I know what I'm talking about."

[rebelmouse-image 27089932 alt="""" original_size="1024x714" expand=1]

Street scene in London — Photo: Photocapy

She is shaking with anger but keeps her distance. The driver too remains silent, as do the two dozen or so other passengers. Everyone is avoiding the husband's eyes as he scans the bus for help, some kind of support.

"Leave the woman alone," another passenger finally speaks up. Even before anyone could say anything else, the angry woman now starts to scream: "Here, equality rules, and it will remain like that."

She gets off the bus, mumbling to herself, at which point the couple's hands relax.

The outburst lasted about 10 minutes, and when it was finally over, everyone on the bus breathed a collective sigh of relief. She was impolite and offensive, and unfair to focus on one person, but was her criticism really wrong? It took a while until it began to dawn on me that perhaps I had seen the future, what is to come in an increasingly anxious Europe.

The fundamental clash between more secular Muslims who have integrated in Europe and strict Muslims among more recent arrivals, is not going away anytime soon. And it is bound to become nasty.

Though silent, any veiled woman does make her own kind of statement, speaking through her clothing and attitude and, in her own way, denouncing others as dishonorable. One of those who refuses such judgment wanted to let the world know, beginning with the No. 39 bus in Frankfurt.

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An End To Venezuela Sanctions? The Lula Factor In Biden's Democratization Gamble

The Biden administration's exploration to lift sanctions on Venezuela, hoping to gently push its regime back on the path of democracy, might have taken its cue from Brazilian President Lula's calls to stop demonizing Venezuela.

Photo of a man driving a motorbike past a wall with a mural depicting former President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela

Driving past a Chavez mural in Caracas, Venezuela

Leopoldo Villar Borda


BOGOTÁ — Reports last month that U.S. President Joe Biden's apparent decision to unblock billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, frozen since 2015 as part of the United States' sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, could be the first of many pieces to fall in a domino effect that could help end the decades-long Venezuelan deadlock.

It may move the next piece — the renewal of conversations in Mexico between the Venezuelan government and opposition — before pushing over other obstacles to elections due in 2024 and to Venezuela's return into the community of American states.

I don't think I'm being naïve in anticipating developments that would lead to a new narrative around Venezuela, very different to the one criticized by Brazil's president, Lula da Silva. He told a regional summit in Brasilia in June that there were prejudices about Venezuela — and I dare say he wasn't entirely wrong, based on the things I hear from a Venezuelan friend who lives in Bogotá but travels frequently home.

My friend insists his country's recent history is not quite as depicted in the foreign press. The price of basic goods found in a food market are much the same as those in Bogotá, he says.

He goes to the theater when he visits Caracas, eats in restaurants and strolls in parks and squares. There are new building works, he says. He uses the Caracas metro and insists its trains and stations are clean — showing me pictures on his cellphone to prove it.

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