A case which is supported not just by one argument but by several must be good, right? Wrong. It might be good, but it also might not. If each of the several arguments on its own were overwhelmingly persuasive, the case would be good. Or if each of them were somewhat persuasive, then they might between them add up to a good case. But if none of the arguments is persuasive, the case could be weak despite all of them.
This, I'm sorry to say, is how it strikes me as being with Christopher Hitchens's piece in Slate supporting the French move to outlaw the burqa. He has plenty of arguments, but not one of them is compelling. Christopher tries, first, to present the agents of the prospective legislation as not seeking to impose a ban.
To the contrary, they are attempting to lift a ban: a ban on the right of women to choose their own dress, a ban on the right of women to disagree with male and clerical authority...
This is sophistical. For any woman wanting and choosing to wear the burqa or the veil, a law against doing so imposes a ban. Christopher is consequently obliged to suggest that there are no such women: 'we have no assurance', he says, 'that Muslim women put on the burqa or don the veil as a matter of their own choice. A huge amount of evidence goes the other way'. He says, again, that 'the right of women to show their faces... easily trumps the right of their male relatives or their male imams to decide otherwise'. Well, I don't know what the proportions are as between Muslim women covering their faces out of choice and those doing so because they are compelled to, but I'll give Christopher good odds that the number in the former category is not insignificant, and for all of them the law would constitute a ban. As for 'the right of women to show their faces', in democratic societies this is already protected by law, and if there are men breaching that law to force women to cover their faces against their will, then it can and should be activated accordingly.
Christopher writes, second, about the state of affairs in banks: 'A person barging through those doors with any sort of mask would incur the right and proper presumption of guilt.' OK, so that's banks. The burqa can be banned from banks.
Third, he writes that he 'would indignantly refuse to have any dealings with a nurse or doctor or teacher who hid his or her face, let alone a tax inspector or customs official'. He's free to refuse to have dealings with whomever he wants to. That might or might not create a legal difficulty for him, but mostly, I suspect, it wouldn't. However, our freedoms not to deal with certain others in life, according to principle or inclination, don't necessarily establish a right to dictate to them how they may dress as they go about the world.
Fourth, '[w]hat about the Ku Klux Klan?' Christopher asks. What about them? Why are they relevant? OK, they also cover their faces. But, leaving aside the issue of how that should be dealt with in terms of the permissibility or otherwise of public displays, why aren't the differences between the Ku Klux Klan's reasons for covering their faces and the reasons of Muslim women more important than the similarities? In one case, we're talking about a type of political uniform and its use in the spreading of hatred, and in the other case... we aren't.
The covered face, fifth, 'is incompatible - because of its effect on peripheral vision - with activities such as driving a car or negotiating traffic'. Fine. If this is unavoidably so, there can be legislation to outlaw driving while wearing a burqa or face veil.
Sixth, Christopher speaks of his having a 'right to see your face' as you have a right to see his. But this is question-begging in the full, the traditional, sense. It is precisely what is at issue.
Seventh, he speaks of those taking 'a soft line on the veil and the burqa' as 'pseudoliberals'. It isn't really an argument at all. Anyway, from a liberal point of view, it might be said that the hard line here is that people should be able to wear what they like.
As it happens, there's a column in the latest number of the Economist on this question, and its concluding paragraphs say succinctly much of what needs to be said.