In a recent editorial, the New York Times roundly condemned the German chancellor’s support for a ban on the burqa, accusing her of “bigotry” and of abandoning her position as the “bulwark” of liberalism; the paper also accused those who applauded the proposal of “Islamophobia.” Benjamin Haddad begs to differ:
[Merkel] continues to show openness to migrants and refugees, but is merely asking them to embrace and live by the basic liberal principles upheld by Germany. She is not responding to the rise of populism [as the Times asserts], but to the rise of a form of militant Islamism that is not necessarily violent but that advocates segregation from European societies. Indeed, Merkel is consistent; the New York Times isn’t—she stands against far-right populism and against extremist forms of religious practices. . . .
[Furthermore, the] “Islamophobia” argument is absurd; in truth, the charge should be directed at opponents of the ban, not at its supporters. As the Times rightly notes, only a small minority of Muslim women wear the burqa. By claiming that the ban is an assault on Islam, the editorial board thus reduces Islam to its most rigorous, extreme, and marginal interpretation. The liberal tolerance on display here plays directly into the hands of extremists who are trying to turn any questioning of their patriarchal and reactionary worldview into “racism.” . . .
There is a legitimate debate to be had over the extent to which such measures are an infringement upon free speech [and religion]. Many European countries are more comfortable banning hate speech, Holocaust revisionism, and degrading behaviors than is the United States, where the First Amendment generally prevents such prohibitions. . . .
But the Times editorial page doesn’t have a word to say about the worldview the burqa represents. Besides, the paper’s commitment to free speech did not extend to reproducing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons out of solidarity with the victims of the terror attacks, “because it had to consider foremost the sensibilities of Times readers, especially its Muslim readers.”