The target of the new law is the burqa and niqab but, already the Danish People’s Party have turned their attention to the head scarf, launching a new poster campaign that tells women to “throw of the headscarf and become part of Denmark.” Given the rise in religious apathy and intolerance towards religion generally, who knows what will come next; tomorrow the cross or the yarmulke could be the next target. This is why it is important now, more than ever, for all freedom-loving people to come together, to stand together and oppose this unnecessary, counterproductive and hypocritical law.
Securitization is not simply state prevention of foreign political violence. It is also increasingly aimed at Islamic religious practices like the burqa which are interpreted as signs of political radicalism. One of the unexpected consequences of such a situation has been to grant governments greater means to control religions in general. As such, it is a very serious threat to religious freedom and democracy across Europe.
Theatrics aside, Ahmari missed a critical opportunity to engage in a constructive debate about the niqab and the limits of religious liberty and pluralism in the public square. Instead he turned to seemingly more pressing issues: the bullying and silencing of free and honest debate in Europe by progressive liberals. “Does liberal opinion permit Europeans to discuss the burka openly, honestly, and fearlessly?” he asks. “The answer is almost certainly ‘no,’ judging by the furious reaction that greeted Boris Johnson’s recent remarks,” he answers. The Johnson controversy, Ahmari would have us believe, has little if anything to do with “Islamophobia,” anti-Muslim bigotry, or the right to manifest one’s religious beliefs. It has everything to do with “a prohibition against expressing any discomfort, enforced on pain of social ostracism and joblessness” by “illiberal liberalism.” A prohibition that is “a recipe for populist backlash.”
How would religious freedom decrease transnational terrorism, thereby decreasing the need for counterterrorism coordination? The answer, I believe, lies in a nation’s level of authoritarianism. Put another way, with more democracy will come more open theological debates on sensitive public policy issues and less resort to violence to address grievances. In turn, terrorist groups will find it more difficult to manipulate religious doctrine to persuade recruits their cause is just and sanctioned by God.
A free marketplace of religious ideology will provide the political space needed for religious scholars to openly challenge on the merits Al Qaeda, ISIS, or their progeny’s twisted interpretations of Islam.
Governments pursue counterterrorism policies that restrict religious rights in the misguided belief that effectively combatting terrorism requires the limiting or suspending of freedoms like religious liberty.
History teaches, and many studies confirm, that religiously restrictive counterterrorism policies which discriminate against entire religious groups work at cross purposes with the desired goal of effectively combatting terrorism.