An anonymous message on a jihadist website calls on Islam’s true believers to attack American schoolteachers in the Muslim world. The United States embassy in the United Arab Emirates issues a warning to U.S. citizens, especially teachers at international schools, telling them to be careful. Weeks pass. An American woman, a divorced mother who reportedly is a kindergarten teacher, is stabbed to death after a gruesome struggle in the women’s room at a glitzy upscale shopping mall in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi.
Seems like once again jihadists are on a rampage. But, in fact, the only conclusion that can be drawn clearly from the incident on Monday, on the basis of what’s known publicly so far, is that—because the killer was wearing a full-face veil called a niqab, sometimes called a burqa—we don’t really know much at all.
The uniform, adopted by some women out of devotion to a fundamentalist reading of Islam, and by others out of convention or coercion in conservative Muslim countries and communities, simply does not allow you to identify who is underneath. Abu Dhabi police have said they are not certain of the killer’s age, physical description, or even gender, despite some claims by eyewitnesses that the killer’s voice sounded like a woman’s.
The niqab obscures everything. The vaguely ninja-like outfit drapes the body in loose-fitting cloth, gloves the hands, and obscures the entire face, sometimes allowing the eyes to be seen, sometimes not. (One occasionally spies women wearing the niqab with designer sunglasses over their eyes, especially in the blingy Emirates.)
This problem of anonymity is one of the prime reasons the niqab was banned in France and some other European countries…