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A Hijab Tax in Holland?

It is not often that I disagree with Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders. His analysis of Islam is astute, and his appreciation of its dangers for the West is unrivaled among politicians. His courage and self-sacrifice are an example to us all: Wilders remains steadfast against threats from Muslim assassins and, despicably, from the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. His banning from Britain, under the then-home secretary and always preposterous Jacqui Smith, was an act of witless, gutless appeasement. In the face of such moral idiocy, his patience is astonishing. If he tires of being branded “far right” and “racist,” the mantra that shuts down all debate, he never shows it — he persistently and calmly states his case. His quarrel is not with individual Muslims, but with the ideology of Islam. His struggle is truly heroic, and I long for an English Geert Wilders.

Just recently, however, and just this once, I think he got it wrong. In an otherwise fine speech to the Dutch parliament, he rather lost his head:

Many Dutch are irritated by the pollution of public space by Islam. In other words, our streets in some places are increasingly looking like Mecca and Tehran. Scarves, hate-beards, burqas, men in long weird white frocks. Let us do something about that. Let us start to reconquer our streets and ensure that the Netherlands will look like the Netherlands again.

Those headscarves are a true sign of oppression of women, of subjugation, of conquest. It is a symbol of an ideology that is out there to colonize us. Therefore: it is time for a big spring-cleaning of our streets. If our new Dutch citizens want so badly to show their love for that seventh-century desert ideology, then they should rather comfortably do that in a Muslim country, but not here, not in our country.

Madam Chairman, this country has an excise tax on petrol and diesel, it has parking permits and a dog tax, it has an airline ticket tax and has a packaging tax, so why not tax the headscarf? A Head Rag Tax. Just pick up a license once a year and immediately pay for it in cash. €1000 a year [$1500] seems like a tidy sum to me. Then we will finally get some money back out of what has cost us so much. I would say: the polluter has to pay. My question: is the government prepared to introduce a headscarf tax?

“Hear, hear,” I thought as I read this. As Hugh Fitzgerald has said many times:

The large-scale presence of Muslims in the countries of Western Europe has led to a situation for the native non-Muslims, and for other, but non-Muslim, immigrants, that is much more unpleasant, expensive, and physically dangerous than would be the case without such a large-scale Muslim presence.

Islam is indeed a territorial religion, and clothes — like mosques, halal food in schools, and footbaths at airports — are a form of colonization. What it cannot seize by force of arms, Islam conquers by exploiting the foolhardy tolerance of its enemies. If enough women in Muslim quarters of Rotterdam or Amsterdam wear the hijab, non-Muslim women will not go there, and the territory will have been claimed for Islam.

Superficially, then, the hijab tax is attractive. But is it sensible?

First, any tax levied on Muslims will be less than effective because Muslims generally do not earn enough to pay tax in the Netherlands. Unemployment among Muslims is higher than among other groups, and Muslim women in particular are less likely than other women to work outside the home.

Second, what exactly is a headscarf? The niqab, which covers all but the eyes, the jilbab and abaya, which constrict and imprison, and the barbaric, all-enveloping burqa have no place in the West. Free women do not wear masks, let alone prisons. But is the headscarf cut from the same cloth? The queen, as played by Helen Mirren, wore one around the Balmoral Estate. My grandmother wore one if it was cold enough. Orthodox Christians and Jews wear them, as do nuns. I’m with Phyllis Chesler on this: headscarves are not specific to Islam and are not incompatible with Western values. Amy Winehouse wears one and very silly it looks, but if she’s a Muslim, I’m a Dutchman.

And how would you impose such a tax? Would police be given powers to stop headscarf-wearers in the street? And would they be required to prove Islamic intent (mens Islamica?) rather than just tradition, or indeed fashion? The manpower and administrative costs of enforcing a tax on Islamically motivated headscarves would far outweigh any revenues raised, and would interfere with the liberty of women going about their lawful, un-Islamic business. If Muslim clothing is to be targeted it would be better to tax — or indeed ban — the obviously Islamic, and obviously offensive, burkha, abaya, jilbab, or niqab.

No, Mr. Wilders, a headscarf tax is a non-starter.

Perhaps his “head rag” tax proposal was meant rhetorically, to provoke or to stimulate thought, in which case it has served its purpose. But it does not bear close scrutiny; there are more effective ways to de-Islamify the public space. Still, this is a minor glitch in an otherwise exemplary career, and Geert Wilders deserves our full support in the trials — legal and personal — that he faces.

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