Are any of the media reports on the Middle East visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi going to tell us why America's highest-ranking woman political leader is wearing a scarf and a black abaya robe? The scarf and abaya are of course mandatory in some Muslim countries, and Pelosi was photographed wearing the abaya while entering the Ommayad Mosque during her tour of downtown Damascus on Tuesday. AFP has reported that Pelosi has not been allowed to shake hands with certain men:
Wearing a flowered head scarf and a black abaya robe, Pelosi visited the 8th-century Omayyad Mosque, shaking hands with Syrian women inside and watching men in a religion class sitting cross-legged on the floor.
She stopped at an elaborate tomb, said to contain the head of John the Baptist, and made the sign of the cross. About 10 percent of Syria's 18 million people are Christian.
At the nearby outdoor Bazouriyeh market, Syrians crowded around, offering her dried figs and nuts and chatting with her. She strolled past shops selling olive oil soaps, spices and herbs, and at one point bought some coconut sweets and eyed jewelry and carpets.
The religion ghost in all of this is that the abaya robe and head scarf are mandatory garments for women in some Islamic cultures and some governments mandate the tradition as law. Are they mandatory in Pelosi's situation? I'm not sure, but I'd like to know. I'd also like to know why Pelosi agreed to wear them and how this reflects on American liberalism in areas of Syria that are struggling to get out from under strict Islamic law that puts special restraints on women, whether they like it or not. Is she doing it out of simple cultural respect or is it because she has to?
Then there is the deeper issue of the difference between moderates and radicals within Islam. As Tawfik Hamid, a former member of the Islamic terrorist group Jemaah Islamiya, writes in The Wall Street Journal, Western appeasement of radical Muslims has made the efforts of Muslim reformers more difficult:
When Westerners make politically-correct excuses for Islamism, it actually endangers the lives of reformers and in many cases has the effect of suppressing their voices.
Tolerance does not mean toleration of atrocities under the umbrella of relativism. It is time for all of us in the free world to face the reality of Salafi Islam or the reality of radical Islam will continue to face us.
Do mandatory scarves and abaya robes represent radical Islamic society? Yes, it is part of Islamic tradition, but as pointed out at The Corner, does anyone know the last time Pelosi, a Catholic, last wore a veil to Mass?
Editor's note: This post previously, mistakenly and ironically had an image of First Lady Laura Bush wearing a headscarf. The image has been replaced with one of Pelosi.