Daniel Pipes—profiled in these pages a few years back as “the country’s most controversial Middle East scholar“—is stirring debate again, taking to The Jewish Press to advocate a ban on wearing the niqab and burqa—clothing traditionally worn by Muslim women—in public spots. He says too many Philly crimes (including the recent kidnapping of a girl from her school) are taking place under, literally, the cover of Muslim garb.
As the Middle East Forum’s David J. Rusin points out in his detailed survey of Philadelphia burqa crimes, Muslim garb holds two great advantages over other forms of disguise: First, many full-body covered women walk the streets without criminal intent, thereby inadvertently providing cover for thieves; the more full-body coverings abound, the more likely that these will facilitate criminal activity. Second, the very strangeness and aloofness of these garments affords their wearers, including criminals, an extraordinary degree of protection. As in other cases (three purchases of alcohol in Toronto state liquor stores by a 14-year-old boy in a burqa; Muslim women not checked at Canadian airports), clerks so fear being accused of racism or “Islamophobia” that they skip state-mandated procedures, such as requiring niqabis to show their faces and establish their identities.
First, almost any Western city at any time could have Philadelphia’s problems. Second, this is deadly serious issue, involving violent robberies, rapes, and murders. Third, as full-body Islamic covers spread, criminals increasingly depend on them. Fourth, government workers need to surmount their timidity and apply normal procedures even to those wearing full-body covers, even in liquor shops, airports, and elementary schools. Finally, this problem has an obvious solution: ban the niqab and burqa in public places, as the national governments in France and Belgium have recently done.
It’s important to understand, though, that Pipes’ “crisis” looks a little less disturbing when looked at closely. He justifies a ban because, by his count, at least 14 robberies have been committed in Philadelphia using Muslim garb … since 2007. That’s less than three a year. If you need more perspective, consider this: The 14 robberies that Pipes counts adds up to maybe one really busy shift for the police department. In the 28-day period ending Feb. 17, there were 507 robbery reports to city police—if 14 of those robberies had been committed by burqa-wearing assailants, that wouldn’t even be 3 percent of the total. Trying to calculate what those 14 cases look like compared to six or more years of robberies? You couldn’t even see a number that small with the naked eye.
So one doesn’t have to be politically correct to respond to Pipes by saying we don’t have a “burqa crisis.” All one needs, really, is math.