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Discussion point: Belgian vs Burka

‘Drunk’ Belgium diplomat specialising in protocol is arrested for tearing full-face veil off a Qatari princess

A senior Belgium [sic] diplomat specialising in protocol [!] has been arrested for tearing off the full-face veil of a Qatari princess after she asked him for directions.

In the latest example of the difficulties involved in imposing a so-called ‘burka ban’, Jean-Marie Pire did not know the identity of the massively wealthy VIP before attacking her.

She approached him with two other women in broad daylight in central Brussels last week, asking for directions to the famous Grand Place.

The kind of full face veils favoured by some Muslim women are banned in Belgium, just as they are in neighbouring countries including France.

‘I said I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face,’ said Mr Pire. ‘With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium.

‘Because the person asking me a question didn’t seem to hear me, I lifted her veil. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but what she did wasn’t legal either!’

The woman, who has not been named, said she suffered cuts and bruises after her earrings were violently dislodged, along with her veil.

I assume that any woman wearing the full Islamic garb is either a slave or a fanatic, but it was the diplomat “specialising in protocol” in the tradition of Kira Yoshinaka who first used force. She just asked him for directions. Admittedly, she was breaking the Belgian law against full face veils, but it is an unjust law of which she may not even have been aware. And somehow I don’t think all the British people cheering his vigilante enforcement of that law would be quite so keen on a random Belgian taking it upon themselves to impound some unfortunate British tourist’s car if he were to break, through ignorance or indifference, the Belgian law requiring a red warning triangle and a reflective waistcoat to be carried in a vehicle at all times.

24 comments to Discussion point: Belgian vs Burka

  • Mr Ed

    He presumably perceived a veiled threat in her question.

  • “Discussion point”? What is there to discuss? A woman was assaulted.

  • Indeed, this is a simple matter of assault.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    A compromise: leave the woman alone and charge the male person responsible for her when she goes veiled in public in Belgium. Comports much better with Islamic law and bites the responsible party. ;^)

  • Gareth

    From the quote:

    ‘I said I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face,’ said Mr Pire. ‘With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium.

    If he wanted to make it clear the veil is banned in Belgium he would have been better off saying ‘The veil is banned in Belgium’.

    Rocco said:

    What is there to discuss?

    Is the law only for the police to uphold?

  • Mr Ed

    The article also gives a textbook example of how to make an unhelpful denial (in this case, of drunkenness):

    Some onlookers have claimed that Mr Pire was drunk at the time of the incident, although he denies this, saying it was ‘three o’clock in the afternoon’, adding: ‘Besides, I don’t drink much.’

    When he might usefully have said “I was not drunk“, unless of course, he did not wish to lie outright.

  • Gareth, ridiculous laws, yes, god willing.

  • Laird

    Well, technically it’s a “battery”, not an “assault”, but your heart’s in the right place. But more than being a simple battery, it’s just rude, which (at least in this instance) is the greater offense.

    The proper action would have been to say “I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face, and by the way full-face veils are illegal in Belgium” and then walk away. And then find a policeman to complain to if you feel that strongly about it. Because yes, Gareth, misdemeanors of this nature are only for the police to enforce. A citizen’s arrest is lawful only in specified circumstances, of which this was not one, and moreover this was not an “arrest” but merely a summary enforcement. I am aware of no rule of Anglo-Saxon law which permits that.

  • veryretired

    When he cuts her head off for being the wrong religion, let me know.

    Until then, this is a duck fart in a hurricane.

  • Ljh

    May I point out the impropriety of her conduct to the religious police back home: if she is so observant as to require full veil fancy dress she should also have been out under the supervision of a responsibleMALE relative. She spoke herself to a strange man, I am sure relatives have been killed for damaging the family honour in this way!

  • Rich Rostrom

    Pire’s action was wrong. PFP had the right idea.

    However, the analogy drawn by NS doesn’t work.

    Wearing a burka or abaya is a public act, a conscious defiance of a standard set by Belgium for its communal spaces. Moslems frequently engage in such behavior to signal their dominance of such spaces.

    If British motorists routinely cruised the streets of other countries in distinctively British cars that openly violated local noise and safety standards, that might be similar. Say if chavs made a point of riding Triumph motorcycles with extremely loud exhausts.

    Moslems also commit vigilante action against people who don’t submit to the standards they seek to impose on communal spaces.

    Thus the applause for Pire. Every day thousands of women are cursed at, insulted, spit on, or jostled by Moslem enforcers. It happens in Brussels, Paris, London, Sydney, and many other places.

    Pushback is rare – and thus welcomed, even when done wrong.

  • Fraser Orr

    I don’t think it is entirely fair to trivialize the battery against this woman. Notwithstanding the ridiculously oppressive law that bans the veil, it is certainly a part of culture and modesty in this woman’s culture. If the guy had ripped off some woman’s blouse would we trivialize it? The bra clad lady may well be humiliated, since that is the cultural mores under which she grew up, even if that selfsame woman was perfectly comfortable wearing a bikini at the beach. The revelation of the face in the princess’ culture is similarly humiliating.

    Don’t get me wrong, the whole veil and burqa thing is ridiculous, oppressive and dreadful. And I would add that the whole “princess” thing is equally nonsense, to prod all you British monarchists.

    But people have a right to dress however they want, and they have a right to define modesty however they want. And to abuse that is not nothing, is not trivial.

  • Nick (natural genius) Gray

    And, of course, there is another way to interpret this- what if this was her equivalent of a dropped handkerchief? What if she just wanted to meet him in a not-too-forward way, and see how things developed from there? Presumably she was wearing jewelry for some reason!
    In which case, this is the most unsuccessful attempt at flirting ever!

  • Mr Black

    The veil is not just a piece of clothing though is it? It’s a relatively new marker for an Islamic fanatic, they just didn’t exist 50 years ago, as photos from that era will attest. It’s much more like wearing a swastika arm band in public. The intent is to display a radical political affiliation. And only a fool would suggest islam is a benign political force, it is at least as bad as the worst of nazism and communism. I don’t really care about the rights of people that want to kill me and destroy my culture and society. Yes, it infringes on some rights of free expression but I’ve lost sympathy for these butchers. Nothing that happens to them, least of all something this trivial is going to make me care about their fate. Let them go back to durka-durkastan if it’s a problem.

  • William Newman

    “Say if chavs made a point of riding Triumph motorcycles with extremely loud exhausts.”

    More like waving forbidden flags, or having forbidden logos/decals/whatever on their vehicles or clothes. Loud noise is a nuisance all by itself, like strong smells, or annoyingly bright strobe lights, not just for its symbolic meaning.

  • The veil is a political symbol. When I see one being worn, I interpret it much the way I do a person walking down the street with a Nazi armband (or in a sense, a yellow star, as it is more often a mark of someone being oppressed).

    I do not think they should be illegal however (veils or Nazi armbands)

  • Paul Marks

    I take a private property rights view of the matter.

    It should be up to the owner – and (yes) there should be private owners of shopping streets and so on , to decide whether or not the full face veil is allowed or not.

    As a security guard (which I was for some 20 years) I did not allow people to approach me with tinted visors on their motorcycle helmets (indeed I demanded that they take their helmets off before getting anywhere close to me – I have never been noted for great courage).

    I see no reason why I would behave differently with someone coming towards me with their face covered in some sort of cloth.

    Although violent assault is clearly unacceptable.

    As for this man being a “diplomat”.

    I suggest he takes up a new profession – especially if he is a drunk.

    The art of diplomatic receptions consists (in part) in looking like you are drinking – whilst actually being stone cold sober.

  • Moslems also commit vigilante action against people who don’t submit to the standards they seek to impose on communal spaces.

    Thus the applause for Pire. Every day thousands of women are cursed at, insulted, spit on, or jostled by Moslem enforcers. It happens in Brussels, Paris, London, Sydney, and many other places.

    Is there any evidence that this particular woman has done any of these things?

  • Achillea

    Sounds like ‘diplomat’ needs a [sic], too.

  • bloke in spain

    I’d say RR’s headed in the right direction.
    The analogy is some of our holidaymakers, headed off for furren parts & dress codes. Bikinis in the shopping streets. Topless off the sunlounger & off the beach.
    Something I’ve learned & follow. Learn the laws. Observe the customs. You’ve no excuse. This ain’t your country.
    Customs? Look around. If you don’t see any of the locals doing it, odds on they won’t appreciate you doing it.
    Yes we can all be law abiding citizens, respect personal choice & individual rights. All the way to having to step off the pavement to let our masters pass.
    If the impression the veil wearer gets of Belgium is Belgians are throughly unpleasant people to ostentatious Muslims, the Belgians come out ahead. Any luck she’ll tell her friends & they’ll stay away.
    Slinging rotten fruit could help.

  • K.S. McPhail

    Patience all spent, all I want to know is if there is somewhere I can donate to his legal costs. I assume there is no Klu Klux Klan Act in Brussels?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Bloke in Spain,

    “If the impression the veil wearer gets of Belgium is Belgians are throughly unpleasant people to ostentatious Muslims”

    I don’t wish to be “thoroughly unpleasant” to the level of invading their personal space to anyone who has not aggressed against me, not to even people who wear their wrong ideology on their sleeves.

    The insane thing is that state rules excise the middle ground of proportionate demonstrations of disapproval. I don’t know the history of Belgian law on such matters, but I assume that in common with other EU countries it was for years forbidden to discriminate against veil-wearers in buying, selling and hiring; matters that ought to be for mutual agreement. In a free society the practical need to gain the approval and trust of people you may not agree with but still want to deal with is one of the best motives in existence to moderate behaviour.

    Then, wham! Suddenly there’s a law against what clothes you wear.

    And because of that law people are cheering on a person who, in a small but definite way, physically pushed another person around. A man violating by force a woman’s taboos of modesty too – while I’m a strong believer in equal treatment of the genders before the law, there is no denying that human history and biology being what it is, that is nastier than the mere physical facts.

  • bloke in spain

    ” I assume that in common with other EU countries it was for years forbidden to discriminate against veil-wearers in buying, selling and hiring; matters that ought to be for mutual agreement.”
    You’re no doubt correct, Natalie.
    This’ll be because the lawmakers of Belgium share your opinion, people should be obliged to be tolerant, respectful of diversity, non violent etc etc. That this is some sort of stable utopia everyone will gravitate towards if just given the chance. It’s what a lot of libertarian philosophy seems to be based on.

    Sorry, but this just isn’t how humanity works. We’re a competitive species. Our default setting is a tribal hell-hole of might is right. What generally happens when order breaks down. The tolerant society is an incredibly fragile construction, always teetering on the point of collapse. We keep it going by being voluntarily willing to curtail our personal desires to the greater good. But it requires constant work by everyone to keep the edifice up.
    Regrettably, our Islamic newcomers are from the sort of lower rise construction we were living in a few centuries back. It relies on authority rather than consent. It doesn’t tolerate diversity. And it’s inherently more stable. Why it’s endured, largely unchanged, for more than a millennium. When the two collide, there’s little doubt which’ll fall over. It’ll accept & welcome our tolerance as weakness, give little back & topple us.
    If we wish to preserve our way of life we do need to fight. That’s on an individual basis because it’s at that level cultures collide. If we pay a price in our own freedoms, so be it. The alternative’s to lose them all.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Various
    I entirely understand that Islam is an oppressive system, and there is a certain irony when such a tyrannical system demands fair treatment in a pluralistic, liberal society.

    Nonetheless, it isn’t about them, it is about us. Irrespective of the private choices others might have made to accept oppression, we have no right to oppress others, and the specific form of oppression I am talking about here is battery, and the enforcement of OUR moral code — that modesty does not demand a covered face.

    I wonder if this lady were walking through town wearing a Che Guvera T shirt, if you would be ok with someone walking up and ripping that off her person? Che was a monster too.

    And in the context of a veil,I don’t even agree with the comparison with, for example, a Nazi armband. It is certainly correlated with an oppressive religious system, but the veil is really about modesty above all. In a sense, the Che Guvera T Shirt is much more aggressively symbolic of an oppressive symbol.

    What constitutes modest is deeply linked with cultural preferences, and our own western principles of modesty are really no more arbitrary than the Islamic ones, though obviously ours are rather less restrictive.

    @BIS, I don’t think people should be tolerant, or respectful of diversity. I think people should be whatever they want. But there is a line when violence is involved. Then you are moving out of the public space into the private.

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