Monday, 9 July 2012

Niqab /rant

Do you have a moral standing to criticise securely from?
There seems to be a fundamental cultural problem at the heart of the niqab debate. Why did France decide to 'ban the burqa'? Why has a mother has been turned away from a parents evening for concealing her face? Let's discuss this, and feel free to disagree.

Yes, this is an old piece of news, but a very relevant issue and something that hasn't really been cropping up lately. It's something that needs greater discussion in my opinion.

It is not necessarily the refusal or the bans that have prompted me to write this article. It is more the failure to understand the culture involved with the face veil. Labels such as 'Muslim veil' place the blame on the entirety of Muslim culture. One may as well say Christians are homophobic. Furthermore, the constant referral to a burqa or burka is incorrect. The comedian Omid Dajili pointed this out on the BBC's One Show. The hosts named the veil a burqa, but it's a niqab; a face covering. The burqa is a complete covering of the body, including the eyes.

If you can't beat pun intended.
I admit, it's a subtle difference, but it's the same kind of attitude that assumes Iraq is the same as Afghanistan or that Vietnam, China and Japan are all roughly similar. Sometimes we are not well informed, but we may as well be aware that we're not. The wisest man knows nothing and so on. There's a sense of ignorance, a gap in the average UK citizen's knowledge to allow them to create their own opinion.

As for the comments on that Daily Mail piece; admittedly I'm unsurprised that they're there, considering it's the Daily Mail after all. I'm not going to use them as a barometer for British opinion for obvious reasons, but there is the inevitable fact that some show the aforementioned lack of knowledge of the average citizen.

Can you accept penalisation of those who are already
supposedly suppressed?
Consider that the perfectly logical comment "she is no threat to society , an everyday women dressed according to her beliefs and the world has a problem to that! [sic]" has 12 downvotes. The less informed "She could have removed the face veil, as it's not required by her religion to wear the niquab [sic]" is incorrect, but has 8 upvotes. 

'Her religion' encompasses a vast array of interpretations, just like Christianity, Judaism or Hinduism. In her interpretation, it may not be possible to remove her veil. I'm not foolish enough to say upvotes on the comments section of a newspaper's website are a valid indication of widespread British opinion, but it makes you think.

While there is a possibility that it may be her husband's or society's requirement that some Muslim women, perhaps the one in question, wear the niqab, that's a whole other argument that I'm not going to discuss in this post. Let's try to stay focused on cultural clash and ignorance.

For every ignorant or hateful comment on something as simple as religious clothing though, there is one pointing out the everyday-ness of such dress, the hugely tolerant nature of the UK, the acceptability of such dress sense (minus the connotations of control) and so on. I hope that the UK can provide an example to the rest of the world that while some of us as citizens may not like something, we are a culture that is used to change, to flexing around influxes of new peoples.

"(Potentially) suppressed women are suppressed by a society that fears and pities them, asking questions about why they wear the niqab while vilifying them for doing so."

Equally one cannot skip around the argument forever. Can I be absolutely sure that in 100% of cases the burqa is used voluntarily? No. But why should something like this jeopardise a person's right to find out how their child is doing at school? Think about that; the UK media bombards those who wear the veil with questions about anonymity and suppression, in turn doing nothing more than amplifying those two demons. (Potentially) suppressed women are thus suppressed by a society that fears and pities them, asking questions about why they wear the niqab while vilifying them for doing so.

Indeed, we as a Western culture have very little moral standing to criticise the possible oppression of women in such a manner. In a society that hates imperfection, and constantly assails us with impossible high standards that we are visually expected to meet, where every visual medium - even the most recent - has a grim history of objectified and stereotyped women, can we comfortably criticise? Sharia Muslims may use the niqab, but Californians have Photoshop.

NB; I do not condone forcing any human being into any action. I understand there are hardline Muslims, as with any religion, but the focus of this blog post is on cultural clash.

I was at Silverstone this weekend, apologies for the late post.


  1. It's described in the article that she should remove it for security reasons. You wouldn't wear a full face balaclava in a shop on a summers day unless you were trying to hide your face (however knowing you, you probably would do such a thing :p)

    a friend of mine worked in Dubai for a time and was told under no circumstances must she be seen out in public with exposed shoulders, she obeyed this rule and understood this to be the right thing to do in another country RESPECTING their culture. why should this woman not remove her 'peep scarf?' what has she got to hide, she could have gone to the school and murdered everyone and you wouldn't be able to ID her through CCTV would you?

    Try visiting a country where Muslim religion is rife wearing a cross, better yet waving an England flag, see how well that goes down!

    1. Hello there, Anon. Likely you will not see my reply, but I will post it anyway.

      You are correct in regards to your first point - in fact there are laws against wearing motorcycle helmets inside public buildings, and wearing a balaclava inside a shop is clearly suspicious.

      However, have you considered one of the suggestions in the comments? Why not allow the woman to be security checked quietly and out of the way by a female member of staff? Why not allow a meeting in private? Why not accommodate? Solutions should and could have been sought instead of taking the easy option.

      Regarding cultural respect; you consider many countries' approaches to cultural and social issues to be oppressive, yet your line of logic says that because we have a hard time abroad, we should give those who come here a hard time. Is that acceptable? What if it affects you? Is that fair?

      As to what she has to hide, very little I expect. There are no statistics of crimes committed in face veils I admit, but I believe these are ungrounded accusations, and I think that DNA evidence would play a larger part in any such case.

      Regarding your final point, if you want to take an eye for an eye, then all that will happen is that we will all become blind.

      Thank you for your comment.

    2. Privacy and accommodation are not a prerequisite of compliance! sure the woman may have nothing to hide! This is England, you enter this country you abide by our rules, are laws are bound by ethics, our truth and ethics bound by swearing on the bible, not the Koran! The fact that something as trivial as this even made the papers is a sign of society gone mad! people look for trouble, incite racial hatred, a white man calls a black man a 'nigger' and chaos ensues, a black man calls a white man a cracker/honky etc.. the world still turns, and nothing of value is lost. when I see a person I don't see ethnicity, I see a person, I don't discriminate on appearance, If they were a cunt however, I wouldn't let that stand.
      The whole Mail article, and subsequently your 'Rambling' are born of 2 fundamental problems in this world: Racism and Religion. How better the world would be if everybody embraced Darwinism. Maroon Rafique had a simple choice, remove her head covering and attend her child's parents evening, or fuck off and cause a stir..... what does that say about causing trouble between races?

      I would keep going and going and going on this but I've said my piece and things haven't changed.

      "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. "
      Desiderius Erasmus: Dutch author, philosopher, & scholar (1466 - 1536)

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