Is it a religious right that a woman may cover her face at all times? It's a question that Europe is struggling with and the United States will soon have to address.
. PC Sharon Beshenivsky was gunned down in a bungled robbery, leaving a broken-hearted husband and three motherless children.
Earlier this week, four men were convicted of her killing. Two of the gang, Mustaf Jama and his younger brother Yusuf, were Somali asylum seekers with a string of criminal convictions.
But it has been reported — according to ‘police sources’ — that Mustaf may have managed to escape justice by fleeing back to Somalia using his sister’s passport and dressed as a woman in a niqab, a veil that covers the entire body leaving only the eyes visible.
At no stage, it is claimed, did anyone at Heathrow checking that passport ask him to remove the niqab — despite the fact that, after PC Beshenivsky’s murder, his photograph as a prime suspect had been circulated to every police force, port and airport in the country.
That adds a new dimension to the debate, doesn't it -- Muslim cross-dressers, who knew?
But seriously, how can we maintain our already-weakened standards of law and order if we aren't allowed to see the suspect behind the burka? It beggars common sense and yet we'll likely find that it's the most outspoken proponents of the separation of church and state that will defend it. While I respect religious belief and practice, I can't tolerate putting the rest of us in danger for them.
And unfortunately, this medieval practice of veiling woman is not unknown in the U.S. To wit, the story of the Muslim schoolgirl denied entrance to a bus until she removed her veil.
Five months after she was denied a ride on a public bus because her face was covered by a traditional Islamic veil, Tasha Douglas still is unable to talk about the incident without becoming upset.
Douglas said she only now reluctantly is speaking out because her experience was made public last week when officials from The Rapid bus system cited it as the reason they rescinded a policy that barred people with face coverings from boarding.
The 30-year-old Grand Rapids resident hopes by coming forward she will raise awareness that public agencies and private businesses should be sensitive to religious dress.
"Religious dress" doesn't bother me a bit. I grew up around the Amish and I learned early on that Free Methodist girls always wore dresses and weren't likely to take them off when I'd have liked. But if I can't tell who you are, sweetheart, when there's a murderer on the loose, my tolerance ends quickly. Religion and politics, despite what the ACLU and the media might tell you, have actually established a pretty happy co-existence in the United States. But the introduction of fundamental Islam into the culture stands to upset that rough balance.
Catch the words of the distraught mother of said veiled young woman.
"I cannot express enough how this has devastated me. I was hurt. I was humiliated. I wanted to cry. I didn't tell my family members. I didn't tell anyone at first. But I have a daughter and I don't want her to be ashamed to cover her face."
Don't believe for a minute that we're not in a "war of cultures." When covering your face becomes a point of pride instead of an act of shame, we're in for a bumpy ride and we'd be wise to settle the matter now.