On the Veil

“I think the French have got the right idea for once,” Mr. Bates said. “If those people want to live in our Western society, they have to share our values.”

Everyone instinctively turned to see how Mr. Magundi would respond, but for a moment he seemed pensive. At last, when he spoke, he seemed to be picking his words more carefully than usual.

“If, hypothetically, I were a Muslim fundamentalist demagogue who wanted to convince my followers that the so-called Western democracies were the enemies of freedom, it would be hard for me to concoct a lie that would suit my cause better than the simple truth of the anti-veil persecution in France. The full weight of the French penal system is being brought down on women who have literally done nothing wrong. It’s not possible to come up with a starker case of doing nothing wrong. These women could wear abbreviated shorts and cut-off T-shirts with offensive slogans on them, and no one would dare to object; but they incur a fine if their clothes are too modest. They’re being punished, not for being offensive in any way, but for not being offensive enough. I’ll agree that they practice the virtue of modesty to an excessive degree, but I refuse to admit modesty as a vice. And if you have a mind for history, can you look at this persecution without thinking of the Christian martyrs in Rome? The pagan Romans punished Christians for refusing to share Roman values. How did that work out for them?”

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