...at a much simpler level, surely it is also true that the full-faced veil -- the niqab, burqa or chador -- causes such deep reactions in the West not so much because of its political or religious symbolism but because it is extremely impolite. Just as it is considered rude to enter a Balinese temple wearing shorts, so, too, is it considered rude, in a Western country, to hide one's face. We wear masks when we want to frighten, when we are in mourning or when we want to conceal our identities. To a Western child -- or even an adult -- a woman clad from head to toe in black looks like a ghost. Thieves and actors hide their faces in the West; honest people look you straight in the eye.
Given that polite behavior is required in other facets of their jobs, it doesn't seem to me in the least offensive to require schoolteachers or civil servants to show their faces when dealing with children or the public. If Western tourists can wear sarongs in Balinese temples to show respect for the locals, so too can religious Muslim women show respect for the children they teach and the customers they serve by leaving their head scarves on, but removing their full-faced veils.
In other words, it is incredibly rude for anyone to insist that their right to practice religion is more important than anyone else's right. As Applebaum notes, Orthodox Jews do not demand the "right" to work in a restaurant only open on Saturdays; nor does a Quaker have the right to join the military and then refuse to fight. Those who feel it necessary to practice their religion to such an extent have no absolute right whatsoever to make the rest of the world adapt to their practices. They are free to stay home and wear whatever they choose; they are not free to demand the "right" to jobs that put their religion at odds with the job requirements.
I would submit that the behavior and attitude we witness today from the practitioners of Islam--in Britain, France and most of Europe; as well as in the Middle East--has gone way beyond "rude" or "impolite", however; and more clearly belongs in the realm of "borderline" and "narcissistic" psychopathology.
I wonder if you can describe a religion as completely narcissistic? Well, if the shoe fits....
The supposed "Religion of Peace" (RoP) would definitely meet diagnostic criteria for a "Religion of Malignant Narcissism" (RoMN). Some of the more radical practitioners of this religion seem to think that it is their divine right (also called having a "sense of entitlement")to demand the world accede to their wishes at all times:
Patients with this type of attitude always want more. Whatever you do is never good enough for them, and they also generally show no gratitute or express any thanks--even when someone goes out of their way for them. Like the most spoiled of royalty, they merely expect that they should be the center of your world at all times.
This attitude is normally seen in toddlers, who want what they want and they want it now. Every parent has had to deal with this kind of whining. When you see this attitude repeatedly in an adult, then you know you are dealing with psychopathology. Many adults whimper at the slightest inconvenience, delay, or restriction. Why? Because, like toddlers, they are convinced they deserve what they want when they want it. They are "entitled" to it.
The examples of this attitude of Islamic narcissistic entitlement are all around us these days. They demand "respect" for their religion, even as their religion dismisses and denigrates others; they demand that you draw only cartoons they they approve of (even as their own "humor" in cartoons passes the bounds of civilized behavior in terms of sadism and offense). They immigrate to countries that are polite enough to let them in and allow them to practice their religion in peace; and they threaten violence unless those countries are willing to alter their own traditions and subvert their own values in adopting the Islamic perspective.
Let's face it. These Islamic narcissists don't want to be tolerated by the society they live in and free to practice their religion even in the most multiculturally sensitive nations; they want the society or nation they live in to completely submit to their values and religious practices and to acknowledge their obvious superiority--or else.
Like most borderline personalities, is it any wonder that Islam's relationships with other cultures are unstable and characterized by intense mood reactivity such as dysphoria, irritability, anxiety, anger and rage? Or that they have a markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self that expresses narcissistic rage at the slightest hint of an insult? Or that they constantly express intense anger or difficulty controlling anger, characterized by frequent displays of temper, constant recurrent physical aggression and fighting?
Not to mention the recurrent suicidal and homicidal impulses that are nurtured and given religious sanction.
This is all descriptive of a very sick religion. I am not talking here only about the "extremists", since many of these attitudes are apparently shared by even the so-called "moderates" of the religion; who, while they might eschew the more violent acting out, still arrogantly express the sense of entitlement and display not the slightest insight into their own intolerance and phobias regarding other cultures.
There is no appeasing borderlines. Giving into their sense of entitlement only leads to more and more demands for attention and acknowledgement of their narcissistic superiority. They will never express gratitude or thanks, and always view you as mere extensions of their own damaged self.
The only way to deal with such borderline behavior is to clearly set limits and expectations-- and then stick to them. Tolerating the unceasingly intolerable behavior and demands that modern Islam exhibits will only reinforce the underlying psychopathology and accentuate the bottomless narcissistic entitlement.