WASHINGTON -- It was inevitable. Once the Middle Eastern burqa met the Western mind, we were in for trouble, trouble, trouble. My only surprise was that it took the experience and the explosion so long to happen.
Let me fill you in first on a couple of earlier columns of mine, which showed a well-defined suspicion of people who go around all covered up and then blame me for not trusting mankind. I plead guilty. In fact, I plead to being far worse than you already thought. If you want my REAL self, I think anyone who wants the rights of a democracy without showing his or her face should be kept inside as a safety measure for citizens who crave the fresh air of life.
Of course you know by now, after so many years of America's "friendly" meetings with the Middle East, that the burqa is a woman's black robe, worn in public places and elsewhere, which hides everything except the woman's eyes (and sometimes even those). The burqa -- also called the abaya, the hejab or the robe -- supposedly has a human being inside it, but we're never quite sure.
The burqa is widely worn across the Islamic world because, the men say, it keeps women chaste and protected from the other men in Egypt, Iran and, of course, Saudi Arabia.
It would be infinitely more fair and rational to dress the men up in outfits hiding THEM. They could wear those black face masks that terrorists and guerrillas wear. On top of that, a stylish black cap, and then a flowing burqa! What a figure the men would cut on the streets of Cairo, Beirut and even Paris!
And if the women wanted to make a move on their favorites, they could stand on the sidewalks and make suggestive remarks to the men or tickle them through the burqas.
So, what has happened to this happy picture now? Tuesday morning in Kabul -- that's in Afghanistan, where we still have 100,000 troops stationed and virtually all of the Afghan women wear burqas of some kind -- seven Afghan Taliban terrorists crept into the city. They were loaded with suicide vests and personal armaments, walking through the city in broad daylight. How could they pull this off?
Easy. They were wearing burqas! They headed immediately to a half-finished building that oversees the American Embassy and NATO headquarters. No one along the way or guarding the unfinished building saw what they carried because the flowing black burqas covered both their loot and their intention.
For 20 hours, the fight between the seven and, mostly, the Afghan police raged.
Ordinary people hunkered down as if it were war. In the end, the seven transvestite terrorists were killed, and scores of others were wounded. Still, the feeling of security that had been growing in the capital city was once again rattled.
Meanwhile, a new French law pushed by President Nicolas Sarkozy has forbidden the wearing of the burqa or full-length Islamic veil in public places in order to protect "French values." Every indicator shows that the vast majority of French men and women approve the law, as do moderate Muslims, who are working with the government to impose it. Punishment is through substantial fines or, in severe cases, imprisonment. It is the first such law in the world.
The nay-sayers have put forward unique critiques. The San Francisco Chronicle, for instance, noted wryly that now "women may bare their breasts in Cannes but not cover their faces on the Champs Elysees." This gives one pause.
Indeed, the thoughtful philosopher might well comment that pictures of women's (or men's) breasts would not be nearly so effective as pictures of faces when dealing with the needs of public order and safety -- just think about pictures of breasts as IDs on, say, driver's licenses, or marriage licenses, or passports. The fact that overwhelming percentages of males from many lands would surely approve this change should not influence any serious person's concern for the safety of our republic.
Others who are against the wearing of the burqa in the beginning argued that it caused mental illness. Everybody in France was ridiculing the statement until ... Well, it happens that reliable studies show that 97 percent of Afghan women studied displayed symptoms of major depression and 86 percent of anxiety. (They also didn't get enough vitamin D.)
The covering of a woman's face is found nowhere in the Quran, but you can bet your burqa that it will nevertheless continue to be used as a disguise as our world becomes more dangerous.