Slip away the modesty cloth of faux-feminist posturing over the veil and you'll find an ugly skin of nationalism, male intolerance and misogyny.
In his article Thinly Veiled Threat, Mehdi Hasan impressively fails to assume that the debate over the niqab and burqa - recently outlawed in Belgium, with similar laws tabled across Europe - is all about him. This sets him apart from nearly every man writing, legislating and proclaiming about this most symbolically loaded piece of clothing.
Hasan's piece is learned and thorough, but it misses perhaps the most fundamental question about the veil debate. The question is not to what extent the veil can be considered oppressive, but whether it is ever justifiable for men to mandate how women should look, dress and behave in the name of cultural preservation.
Male culture has always chosen to define itself by how it permits its women to dress and behave. Footage recorded in 2008 shows a young member of the British National Party expounding upon the right of the average working man in Leeds to "look at women wearing low-cut tops in the street". The speaker declares the practice is "part of British history - and more important than human rights", and laments that "they" - variously, Muslims, foreigners and feminists - want to "take it away from us".
Never mind the right of the women in question to wear what they want or, for that matter, to walk down that Leeds street without fear of the entitled harassment made extremely explicit in this speech. This is not about women. This is about men, and how men define themselves against other men. [read the rest at New Statesman]