With efforts to outlaw face-covering attire now gathering speed across the West, some Muslims have begun grasping at straws. Their desperation is reflected in the cynical attempt to turn Mary, the mother of Jesus, into a poster girl for the pro-burqa crowd.
When Amel Marmouri was fined for refusing to reveal her face to policemen in the northern Italian town of Novara, Izzedin Elzir, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, mused that Muslim women covered to the max are not only following the lead of the Virgin Mary, but also fortifying Western culture:
If we go and see the beautiful artistic representations of the Madonna, we see her with the veil. We don't see her semi-naked, I think.
For that reason, I believe it is the Muslims who are protecting the traditions of our country.
No word on whether Elzir asserts that Marmouri's husband upholds the "traditions of our country" by pledging to keep Amel indoors.
However, Elzir is not alone in comparing face-concealing Muslims to the most revered woman in Christianity. Interviewed by the BBC earlier this year, French burqa-wearer Chrystelle Khedrouche struck a similar chord while discussing proposed bans:
When God ordered that women be veiled, we know that they were already veiled. Look at the mother of Jesus, Mary. She wore a veil and I have never seen an image of her where she is not veiled. So we know that women were veiled at that time and if God ordered that women be veiled, it was to add something more to what there was already.
Likewise, a recent news article on Belgian lawmakers approving a prohibition on face veils features one forlorn Muslim arguing that "the Virgin Mary also wore a veil. No one says anything about this."
Behold yet another Islamist smokescreen to muddle the issue and confuse the ignorant. Nobody can state with certainty what Mary did or did not wear two millennia ago. But give or take a few controversial works of art, she is universally depicted with a veil over her hair, not her face. This is how we know that Mary is the one portrayed, right? A completely covered figure might be Simon Peter in disguise, for all we could tell.
And that is the whole point of the laws now being introduced and implemented. Face veils dehumanize and inhibit identification; headscarves do not — which is why burqas and niqabs, as opposed to hair coverings reminiscent of Mary, are getting the heave-ho.
This debate is all about the face. Mary sets a good example by showing hers.