By Phyllis Chesler
In 2010, France became the first European country to ban the burqa.
The French law is religion-neutral; it refers only to generic “face coverings,” not to any particular religion. The French law imposed a fine of 150 euros ($190) and/or a citizenship course as punishment for wearing a face-covering veil. Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or a burqa became punishable by a year in prison or a 15,000 euro ($19,000) fine.
Immediately, al-Qaida threatened a terrorist action in France. Specifically, al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb (Algeria and Tunisia), warned of an imminent terrorist attack for daring to ban the burqa. Al-Qaida also threatened a Mumbai-like attack somewhere in Europe, most likely in France.
Fortunately, this did not happen.
Fast forward to March 2012, in Toulouse, France.
Between March 11 and March 15, French-Algerian Mohammed Merah murdered three French soldiers who presumably had served in Afghanistan; and on March 19, Merah shot one rabbi and three very young Jewish schoolchildren at a Jewish school in Toulouse. One of the children, 3-year-old Gabriel Sandler, was named after Rabbi Gabriel Hertzberg whom jihadists had tortured and murdered in the Mumbai massacre.
This morning, Merah was surrounded by three hundred French police officers. Calmly and purposefully, Merah called a French radio station and spoke to senior editor Ebba Kalondo.
Merah understood that jihad is also a war of ideas, one which is fought on the radio, on television, with films. In fact, as the police later discovered, Merah had already captured his murder of seven people on video.
According to France’s Channel 24 News, Merah claimed affiliation with al-Qaida in France. He took responsibility for murdering the three French soldiers and four Jews. He then said: His actions were part of a much larger campaign and that further attacks would be carried out in Lyons, Marseilles and Paris in protest against the “ban on the burqa” and the “country’s military presence in Afghanistan.” When asked why he had killed four Jewish people, including three children, he said: “The Jews kill our brothers and sisters in Palestine. … (I) wanted to avenge Palestinian children and take revenge on the French army because of its foreign intervention.”
While others have had many important things to say about Merah’s statements about “Palestine” and Afghanistan, I would like to note that the first thing Mehrah is quoted as protesting is the French “ban on the burqa.”
In the 20th century, the burqa was banned in one Muslim country after the other including Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. For a while, many Muslim women were naked-faced all over the Arab and Muslim world.
Nevertheless, Islamists have opposed bans on face veils and Westernization. They insist that women be face-veiled and that all naked-faced women are whores and fair game for rape and sex slavery. Islamists also insist on polygamy, arranged child arranged marriage, cousin marriage and in honor killing any girl or woman who refuses the veil and all it entails.
Here is an important and little known fact. According to Hillel Fradkin and Lewis Libby, the history of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is one fraught with ideological splits. Divisions arose “within the Brotherhood’s leadership. It even led to defections from the Brotherhood and the founding of alternative groups. One such group assassinated Sadat. As later interviews with the conspirators revealed, they undertook their plot not only or even primarily because of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty which had been signed two years earlier. Rather, they considered work on women’s rights championed by Sadat’s wife, Jihan, an existential threat to true Muslim society.”
And so it is. And that may be why the Terrorist of Toulouse mentioned the abolition of the burqa first. Follow the burqa-wearing women: They will invariably lead you to the Islamist terrorist men in their family.
Merah is not a “deranged monster.” He is a political actor. Merah did not want to be taken alive to be questioned about his bomb-making skills, or training in and visits to Afghanistan and Waziristan, Pakistan. Reportedly, after being surrounded by French law enforcement, Merah stormed-out of his bathroom wearing a bulletproof vest and opened rapid fire on the policemen (injuring five), before diving out a window yelling, “Allahu Akbar.” He died from a gun shot to the head.
This is not an isolated instance. Like the Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, and the Times Square would-be bomber, Faisal Shahzad, Merah viewed his actions as part of an Islamic religious-military-political ideology. That ideology is symbolized by the face veil.
There is a link between terrorism and forced veiling. Please bear this in mind before opposing bans on face veils for “religious” reasons.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler is an emerita professor of psychology, a psychotherapist, courtroom witness and the best-selling and influential author of 14 books (“Women and Madness,” “Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman,” “The New Anti-Semitism,” “The Death of Feminism”). She has lived in Afghanistan and Israel, and is currently based in New York City. She may be reached through her website, www.phyllis-chesler.com.