Were I a Muslim living in the West, I'd be mad as hell. Not to mention terrified.

Were I a Muslim living in the West, I'd begin to believe that a new Inquisition had begun. An inquisition aimed at no one but Muslims.

Were I a Muslim living in the West, my wife, or my sister, or my daughter, might well decide to wear a headscarf or veil when she went out in public.

Perhaps it would be because she was tired of men and boys ogling her, objectifying her. Perhaps it would be because she felt she was entitled to her dignity. Perhaps she simply might prefer modesty and privacy to fashion slavery.

Perhaps she just thought it was a free country.

And perhaps, on that last point, she would have been mistaken.For years, law-abiding Muslims have been verbally and physically attacked across North America and Europe. They are scorned for their faith, shunned for their piety, falsely condemned for dual loyalty, blamed for the crimes of terrorists they abhor.

In recent weeks, there has been a disturbing new trend, particularly in Europe, where key officials have made it their mission to combat, of all things, the head scarf and veil worn by growing numbers of Muslim women and girls.

In Germany, Baden-Wurttemberg and Bavaria introduced legislation to outlaw head scarves in schools. In Spain, Social Affairs Minister Juan Carlos Aparicio called the Muslim veil "not a religious sign but a form of discrimination against women," and compared it to genital mutilation.

In Britain, the government minister for race and faith relations, Phil Woolas, said a Muslim teaching assistant should be sacked for refusing to remove her veil at work. His comments followed those of Jack Straw, who took issue with constituents wearing the niqab, a full-face veil, in meetings with him. Backing Straw, senior Conservative official David Davis suggested that allowing the veil constituted "inadvertently encouraging a kind of voluntary apartheid."