What's new on the niqab and burka front? To remind, both garments are designed for the modesty of Muslim females; the niqab covers all but the eyes and the burka covers the entire face. In "Ban the burka - and the niqab too," two years ago, I documented how these two items pose criminal and terrorist dangers.
Is that still the case?
Criminality: Jordan offers a glimpse into the potential for niqabs and burkas as illegal accessories. One news report indicates that 50 people committed 170 crimes using Islamic garments during the past two years, or roughly one incident every four days - a crime wave that has prompted some Jordanians to call for restricting or even banning these Islamic head coverings.
No other country reports nearly so many head-garment-related crimes, but Philadelphia, Pennsylvania boasts multiple robberies (three banks and one real estate leasing office) in a 16-month period in 2007-08, including the murder of a police officer.
The United Kingdom has the West's second-worst record. Jewelry stores - some owned by Muslims - have been targeted in the West Midlands, Glasgow and Oxfordshire. Two travel agencies were attacked in the adjoining towns of Dunstable and Luton, while an armored truck driver was assaulted in Birmingham. Robbery is not the only motive; teenagers in London used niqab-style face coverings when stabbing a younger boy.
OTHER CRIMINAL incidents in the West include East European pickpockets wearing Islamic headgear in Rotterdam, and a burgundy burka'ed armed robbery at the People's Bank in Hiddenite, North Carolina (population: 6,000). The man who abducted Elizabeth Smart, 14, of Salt Lake City, forced her to wear a niqab-like garment that hid her in plain sight for nine months.
In response, banks, credit unions, jewelry stores and schools are limiting access to persons who are covered. For example, the Carolina Federal Credit Union of Cherryville, North Carolina, not far from Hiddenite, steers anyone wearing hats, sunglasses, or hoods to an isolated teller where special security measures obtain.
Terrorism: Taliban reliance on burka'ed terrorism, often of the suicide variety, makes Afghanistan the current world epicenter of this tactic. On two occasions, authorities foiled would-be suicide bombers before they could act - one a Russian male convert to Islam with 500 kilograms of explosives in an automobile in Paktia Province, the other an Afghan woman hiding a bomb in Jalalabad.
Usually, though, violent intentions are hidden by the burka, becoming apparent only after an attack begins:
â€¢ A Taliban commander, Haji Yakub, was killed wearing a burka as he tried to escape a house in Ghazni Province while attacking US forces.
â€¢ A Taliban operative, Mullah Khalid, attacked a police patrol in a crowded market in Farah Province, killing at least 12 people (seven police, five civilians).
â€¢ A suicide bomber in Helmand Province killed a Pashtu-speaking British soldier before being shot in the forehead.
â€¢ About 15 suicide bombers in burkas armed with suicide vests, Kalashnikovs and grenade-launchers drove to government buildings in Paktia Province and killed 12 people.
Iraq suffered three such incidents (a male insurgent disguised as a pregnant woman, an attempted assassination of a governor and two suicide bombers killing 22 Shi'ite pilgrims), while Pakistan suffered two (one, operating from a rickshaw, killed 15 people). The attack in Mumbai last year that left nearly 200 dead included a mysterious burka'ed woman. Elsewhere, incidents involved an attack on French tourists picnicking in Mauritania and a Molotov cocktail attack in Bahrain.
AS A SIDE problem, new studies in both England and Ireland have found that covered women (and their breast-fed children) tend to get rickets due to an insufficiency of vitamin D, which the skin absorbs from sunlight.
Oh, and on the bright side, Herve Jaubert, a Frenchman falsely accused of embezzling $3.8 million, managed to escape Dubai by donning a niqab.
I have previously called for a ban on "these hideous, unhealthy, socially divisive, terrorist-enabling and criminal-friendly garments" from public places. Now joining with fed-up Jordanians, I reiterate that call. Islam requires that women wear neither niqab nor burka, while public welfare emphatically requires their public prohibition. How many more cases of robbery and terrorism must occur for this common-sense stricture to be applied from Afghanistan and Jordan to the United Kingdom and Philadelphia?
The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. www.DanielPipes.org