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(photo credit: AP)
The notion that Orthodox Jewish women, diligent in covering their bodies in accordance with laws of modesty, will appear nude on the screens of full body scanners in airports across the globe has a group of European rabbis up in arms.
"Full body scanners compromise women's modesty," announced the Rabbinical Centre of Europe in a press release Wednesday. "Their implementation leaves us concerned."
Nevertheless, the rabbis, who lead congregations in Milan, London, Paris and Antwerp, recognize the need to beef up security after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, tried to ignite an explosive called PETN as Northwest Flight 253 approached Detroit on Christmas morning.
The rabbis, therefore, suggest a solution that would respect the religious sensibilities of Orthodox Jews, while at the same time maintaining optimal security standards.
"We would recommend that men are scanned by men, and women by women, like body frisks," they wrote.
One of the European rabbis agreed to weigh in on the halachic aspects of using the scanner.
"I do not intend to give a halachic opinion and I do not know what actually is shown on the screen, but if it shows the female body then it could be against the laws of modesty," said Rabbi Ya'akov Schmahl, a member of Antwerp's rabbinical court.
The rabbi explained that according to Jewish law it is permitted for a male doctor to treat female patients even if he touches them and sees parts of their body that are normally covered because presumably a doctor is focused on his work and is not inclined to prurience.
"But if women are not happy - and there are religious women who prefer not to go to male doctors - they should be allowed to be monitored by women. And men might also might not want to show themselves before women."
The European spiritual leaders behind the initiative include Rabbi G.M. Garelik, head of the Milan rabbinical court; Rabbi Y.Y. Lichtenstein, head of the rabbinical court run by the Federation of Synagogues in London; Rabbi J.M. Kohen, head of the Paris rabbinical court; and Rabbi D.M. Liberman, chief rabbi of Antwerp.
According to a spokesman for the RCE, European rabbis turned their attention to the issue after London's Heathrow Airport announced it would begin implementing the full body scans.
"There is a very large Jewish population in England and rabbis were concerned," said the spokesman.
Canada and some cities in American have also said they would implement full body scans.
Italy aims to install full-body scanners at the main airports of Rome and Milan for flights considered at high risk of terrorist attack, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told newspaper Corriere della Sera on Saturday.
In Germany, Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan told Bild am Sonntag Germany could introduce body scanners later this year. The government has made clear it is not against the scanners in principle, but is trying to guarantee privacy rights.
Some legal experts have questioned whether the use of the full body scanners would violate Britain's child pornography laws, which prohibit taking nude photos of minors.