Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Muslim veil

I am becoming increasingly alarmed at the somewhat rash approach of some European countries (especially France and Belgium) to the issue of the Muslim burqa and niqab. The argument that these infringe the dignity of women seems very contrived, since most are wearing the veils through choice and would consider them both dignified and proper, particularly in the context of their religion. No more harm is done by wearing veils in public than women wearing trousers or, for that matter, bikinis which would be considered extremely provocative by Muslim women.

It is quite a different argument to suggest that the wearing of a veil whilst teaching or serving a customer is undesirable or even discourteous, since the face is hidden in a situation where eye/facial contact would normally be considered necessarily polite for proper communication.

I'm afraid that the total ban on the veil seems more like a kneejerk reaction to Islamaphobia, rather than attempting to dealing with the latter issue in a more considered way. You can't solve terrorism or Islamaphobia by stopping Muslims from dressing in a particular way, any more than you can stop racism by painting black people white! Muslims exist, they have a dress code (which is not in any way connected to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism) and they are here to stay. The more we accommodate them into our secular society, the less the likelihood of the more disaffected turning to violence. This ill-considered ban is more likely to increase tension and nurture tendencies to violence. I await with interest the inevitable challenge in the European Court of Human Rights.