Burkas, Burkinis, and the Culture War


This post is different than my usual posts about our travels and life as sojourners; it is on the topic of the current furor about the ‘burkini incident’ in Nice. Usually I do not comment on current affairs or politics, the single exception being last year’s post on Paris and the terrorist attacks of last November. That post led to a number of people unsubscribing to my newsletter. This post will possibly have a similar effect. I realize that what I’m about to say will cause cognitive dissonance for some, and that I risk attack and condemnation by stating what I’m about to say. This information is, however, important, and so I risk your wrath.

Read what I have written, and read the material to which I have given links. Then, if you want, we can discuss further. If you do not at least do the reading, please do not try to engage me in rancorous debate. I will not participate. Nor will I further respond to silly comments such as, ‘Nuns can wear habits, why can’t Muslim women wear burkas.’ Nuns are not known to be suicide bombers. Wearers of the burka and hijab are so known. That’s all I have to say about that comment.

A brief note regarding my qualification to comment on this topic: During the past 40 years I have lived for some years in two Muslim countries, and traveled and worked for extended periods in many others. I have read much of the Koran. I have had close relations, some adversarial, with Iranians, Palestinians, Saudis, Turks, Indonesians, Thai and Malaysian Muslims, Philippine Moros (Muslims) and others. Many of the people I engaged with supported jihad against the west, some were actively involved in jihad. Others were not and did not.

Most of the people I’ve known, and know, in Muslim countries have been like people everywhere: some very friendly, some not; some religious, some not. Some became friends, some close friends, a few dear friends. In addition, I trained intensively in unconventional warfare, including psychological warfare, which gives me a unique perspective.

Islam divides the world into two divisions: Dar al-Islam: the world of Islam, which is ruled by sharia law; and Dar al-Harb: the world of war, which is the world of the west. Under this concept each Muslim has the obligation to wage jihad – war – on the west until the west comes under Muslim control and sharia law. Not all Muslims embrace this concept. Many do. In some countries most do.

The current conflict has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, the writings of Sayyid Qutb, and the worldwide export of Wahhabism by the Saudis. It began decades before 911 and the invasion of Iraq. These versions of Islam are extreme and require jihad by their followers. Their adherents have sworn to continue the war, giving their lives if needed, until Dar al-Harb becomes part of Dar al-Islam. So far this year (August 2016) there have been over 14,000 people, many of them Muslims, killed by jihadis worldwide, from Western China and South East Asia to Europe. In some countries it is a hot war, with jihadis killing other Muslims as well as non-believers.

During recent years, France has become a low intensity war zone with Muslim jihadis engaging in classic asymmetrical war, including psychological warfare. Over the past few years France has endured a major attack by Muslim extremists resulting in mass loss of life every 84 days. Minor attacks that do not lead to loss of life occur daily. Many of these attacks are harassment of women, including physical assault. Whether readers realize it or not, France, and the west, is at war.

These attacks could not take place without support for the attackers in the Muslim communities in France and Europe. Jihadis simply cannot function without support from the people they live with. (The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea. Mao Zedong) Therefore, France, and other western countries must deal with the entire Muslim community, not only the active combatants. So far France ( and Germany and other European countries) has not been especially successful in doing so.

Contra to the press spin, the current manufactured event in France is not about women’s bodies, about how much skin should or should not be exposed and women’s freedom to make those decisions. This event is part of the ongoing psychological warfare by jihadis to confuse their campaign with women’s rights and freedom of religion. As an aside, the Saudis have bought controlling interests in at least one major television network and an international wire service. Other media outlets are influenced by advertisers, many of which are Saudi controlled.

The much published event on the beach in Nice has the hallmarks of a classic psychological warfare action, with a paparazzi agency photographer ready to capture the provocation, and to sell the images to media outlets worldwide. The burka, hijab, and related forms of dress have been banned in France because they are symbols of Islamic intolerance, misogyny, genital mutilation, and jihad. The ban of these garments is about the symbol, and has nothing to do with prurient interest or controlling women’s freedom. It’s a safe bet to say that virtually all Muslim women in France know this. The woman in question chose to break the current law, almost certainly under direction, and did so five steps from the place where 86 people were murdered by a Muslim extremist only five weeks ago, and within sight of a police station. My information is that she was not ordered to disrobe by the police, and that the clothing she removed was of her own volition. The police simply issued a citation, as required by the current law.

Is France correct in banning this form of dress and other religious symbols? Perhaps. It is within their legal right. They are trying to stop civil violence and disorder, some of which is directed against Muslims; and to halt a process that works like this: extremist Muslim groups first gain acceptance for this form of dress, then they start harassing other women who do not conform to their notion of ‘modest dress,’ including the aggressive public groping of women’s bodies by Muslim men.

This process has been taking place for some time, not only in France, also in many other European countries. This process has escalated during the past three years, and has led to pitched street battles between Muslim men and European men seeking to protect or avenge European women. Will this ban be effective in combatting jihadism? Only time will tell. My guess is, probably not. As of today it appears that this jihadi provocation has been successful in framing the incident as an assault on women’s freedoms. It’s ironic that the very people who deny basic human rights to women are using the press response to this incident to further their misogyny and intolerance. The ban may well be repealed due to misdirected public outcry.

France is flailing about, trying to find a way to combat jihadism within their own country while trying to adhere to their liberal traditions. Recently the French government approved the construction of sixteen ‘reeducation camps’ for Muslim men who might be radicalised. This sounds ominous. Will it achieve the desired result? Based on history, probably not. What is France to do? What is the west to do?

I do not provide citations for all my comments. Much of what I write is based on personal experience. Also, I have been reading widely and deeply on this and related topics for many years. Providing citations would require a document longer than this brief article. If you are interested in this topic the links below will provide an introduction. If you would like to know more, Google might not be your friend but it is a good research tool



Ayaan Hirsi is a courageous and brilliant woman who has suffered much and knows first hand about which she writes. I recommend her books to anyone who wants to learn about the war in which we are engaged.


This wiki article tries to present a balanced view about a person who doesn’t deserve it.


Another wiki article that attempts to be balanced about a belief system that is anything but balanced.

I include the wiki articles only because they are an easy read and might help to provide perspective and a basic vocabulary that will assist those who wish to be informed to dig deeper.

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