There is at the moment another debate going on in the UK about the wearing of the niqab, it seems that freedom only goes so far when its against ancient oppression.
The niqab has nothing whatsoever to do with freedom or choice. The drive for its acceptance comes from male hardliners who have no concept of liberty and who use women as a means of extending their power.
Cleverly, they exploit the fashionable western language of ‘anti-discrimination’ to achieve this end. Anyone who calls for a ban on the burka or the niqab can often find themselves conveniently branded culturally ‘insensitive’ or ‘racist’.
Of course the more we allow the niqab to be accepted by our society the more pressure young women will be under to wear it.
This is not an easy problem to solve particularly in secular societies. We need first to understand that we all have dress codes and we need to understand that our freedom does not extend beyond our dress codes. Both women and men don't go into a public place topless and shoeless. The rules need to be defined for all. We must show our face to be ID'ed. If a police officer pulls someone over, he needs to see that the person behind the mask is the correct person. There was a recent case where a women who was accusing 2 family members of raping here when she was a child didn't want to reveal her face in court. The jury and the lawyers need to see her facial expressions to judge the truth of what she is saying.
To make matters further complicated as a secular society we need to appear secular in public offices. Quebec is now going through the process of setting laws that prohibit any visible religious or political symbols. As I walk into a ministry of transportation building I don't want or need to know the religious or political views of the person whom I'm conversing with.
In any first-world country, the only pressure to wear the niqab will be from the woman wearing it. If she wants to be faithful to God and wear her giant cotton robe (I think that's what a niqab is...?), then that's her prerogative. She chooses to follow her holy text by donning her symbolic vestments. That's her right.
Is it her right? While I agree in principle, there are nuances that may be just as important as her right to freedom of religion.
In most countries, facial recognition is an important aspect of society, as is openness in allowing that recognition. In many important legal matters such openness is a legal requirement, predating any common usage of such garments. You cannot, for instance, get a driver's license while wearing a ski mask, nor count you enter most businesses.
Does the person bringing a new form of worship to a country have the right to require a change to that culture? To the legal system? Specifically, hiding the face is very uncomfortable to a great many people; does a Muslim have the right to make all those people uncomfortable simply because her god tells her to?
While I'm a strong supporter of religious freedom, it is not nor has ever been unlimited. Completely covering one's face and body in public skirts those limits very closely and arguments could be (and are being) made both ways. Arguments that are valid on both sides.
So you empower women by telling them what to wear?
Seems counter-intuitive to me.
Yep, I would say banning women to wear whatever they want to wear is not only racist (interestingly only applied to "scary brown Muslim people"), it's also freaking SEXIST. Women should have the right to wear (or not wear) whatever the heck they want. Especially considering certain garments are spiritually important to them, let them do what they want.
Of course, on the other hand, no woman should be forced to wear it if she doesn't want to. And I don't think it's practical to allow anyone to cover their faces on IDs and in perhaps government buildings. That being said, I'm sure compromises can be made about, for example, only women security officers checking Muslim women who choose to cover up, etc.
Otherwise, I'm seriously disappointed in so-called "progressive" countries repressing women's rights. Just more Islamophobia, I guess. No one seems to have a problem with nuns covering up.
Can't imagine where you get racism out of the question; it is clearly a religious issue, not one of race. It's not even sexist as it's about covering the face and preventing identification; something applicable to both males and females.
In any case, people (and women) have always been limited in what can be worn in particular circumstances. A restaurant, for instance, requires shirt and shoes. A beach requires that female (and here is some sexism for you) breasts be covered.
Weather permitting, should we require that faces be visible or is the inevitable discomfort to the large majority of the population an acceptable price to pay for religious freedom? If so, why would you not permit it in government buildings like a post office or Motor Vehicle office?
I might add that there have been a handful of women raising a stink because they don't want their face on an ID or will refuse to show the ID if it is on there. Should that be permitted as religious freedom?
Nuns don't cover their face, at least in my experience.
Oh, please, pretending there is no racism in Islamophobia is absurd. I guarantee if the image of an average Muslim person was white, blonde-hair, blue-eyed English speaking American, Muslim hate would hardly exist. Look at our new Miss America - an Indian-American woman, yet because of her dark skin, there are accusations of her being a Muslim and a terrorist. There is fear of Muslim women even so much as wearing a hijab, when no one ever questions a nun for wearing a habit. Disregarding the race issue is pure ignorance.
Plus, considering it's not actually illegal for non-Muslims to cover their face. Ski masks can actually be worn so can hoodies and high collar shirts. I can wear a fashion scarf up to my nose and a hat so only my eyes are shown, and no one will yell at me. Both men and women are allowed and do sometimes essentially cover the face. Yet, it's the usually non-white Muslim women that are having their freedoms attacked.
And yes, it IS sexist to tell women what to wear. If you read my comment, you'll see that I too agree it's impractical for people to have their faces covered on IDs. But refusing to allow a woman to wear whatever she wants to wear in public is indeed sexist. And you know, not even all government buildings need a woman to expose her face, seriously, it's not a big deal to wear a niqab to the post office.
And I frankly agree it is sexist to require women to cover their chests but not men. That also needs to change. On the other hand, concerning restaurants, I don't think in either our culture nor Asian/Middle-eastern culture is it unreasonable to ask customers to wear shirts and shoes. Is it a purely cultural norm? Yes, but that's not really the question since we aren't dealing with a group that is against wearing shirts. But it isn't AGAINST our culture to cover one's face, where as to a devout Muslim lady it might be against her beliefs to SHOW her face. It's not a big deal in most cases, so there's no point policing whatever a woman wants to wear. Not even if it makes you "uncomfortable".
We'll have to agree to disagree on the racism thing - I just don't see race being an issue at all. Only the Muslim religion and that only because of the radicals in the group.
But yes, it most certainly IS a cultural thing to leave the face uncovered without good reason to cover it. Reason such as very bad weather, not gods word. I know very well a Muslim woman doesn't want to show her face; that is a part of the culture she grew up in. It just isn't in western culture.
Back to the original question, then; is it reasonable for a new immigrant to the country to request/require that all others take up or accept the culture she came from? To change their own culture in response to her coming to live here? Or should the immigrant take on the culture they have chosen to immerse themselves in?
And if the answer is "both" (and it is) then where is the dividing line in this specific matter of hiding your ID? On the side of the existing culture that finds it very uncomfortable and threatening or on the side of the personal religious beliefs of a new immigrant?
Come visit Bradford or Birmingham and see how many white or Black Muslim converts wear the niqab and maybe you will be surprised.
There is absolutely no mention in the Koran of women having to cover their face and don't forget the women have to cover their face in the presence of men because other men have told them to do so.
As a 27 year serving security officer who works at a politically correct college in Birmingham I can ask a male or female student to take off their hood, crash helmet or baseball cap to identify themselves but I cant ask a Muslim wearing the niqab because it may offend her religion, which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it.
You may have forgotten but some women in the countries that support their oppression have been thrown in prison or worse for not wearing the niqab, so where is the freedom for women in their religion?
And who do you think dictates what western women wear? It wouldn't be men would it?
Its Women John.
Nobody forces them to wear anything John unless that is you are a Muslim woman.
Thus ably demonstrating your lack of understanding!
My lack of understanding?
Well john I think you need to look in the mirror sometime.
Are you saying that men are forcing women to wear the clothes they do? How come? Surely designers create their clothes so women will buy them!
When was the last time you told a woman she should wear something? When was the last time you told a woman she will wear something? And when was the last time the man in this country passed a law to make women dress in a certain way?
Ironically the topic at hand IS about men passing a law about women's clothing: the niqab. and you'd best bet most of the lawmakers who consider this are men.
Why would anyone "best bet" that mostly men want that law?
Have you taken a poll? Or just letting your own sexism show through (all men are evil creatures out to control women)?
If I had to guess, there would be more women than men wanting to deny the right to wear the garment, out of sympathy for the "oppressed" woman.
Oh lol. Because most lawmakers are men. That's why the ones in charge of those laws, such as in France, are going to be male-dominated.
Nice you could through out a little anti-feminist barb, though. Poor men and their struggle against angry women, etc etc etc.
True enough, most politicians are men. Not by a huge margin, but by enough to easily make the statement. I just question what the reason for denying the garment to women would be, to a man more than a woman.
Anti-feminist ONLY if you assume that feminists in general are sexist, assigning stereotypes based on gender.
Why should the law be considered on religious grounds only? What about the people who wish to wear no clothes at all?
Aren't those laws religious based as well? Forbidding it rather than requiring it, but still based on religious tenets?
Absolutely, so why allow one and not the other?
Actually, I'd be for people having the choice of nudity. At very least, women should be allowed to be topless as men are. Hating the naked body is definitely a religiously-derived concept. But if we're going to say genitals should be covered, I'm not going to argue, but don't tell women they have to wear tops if men don't.
Every time I shave I look in the mirror.
Yes indeed, men dictate how women dress, they also dictate how women want to dress.
A lot of women either dress to please their man or dress to attract a man.
I've never told a woman how to dress (undressing is a different matter) but many men do tell their wives/girlfriends how to dress.
I don't know about the last time a law was passed on dress in this country but I do know that many employers, legally, impose a dress code. Though this is supposed to apply equally to men and women, more often the women's work dress code is much more stringent than the males.
"A lot of women either dress to please their man or dress to attract a man."
Now that is a very sexist statement John.
In my work I have met a lot of young Muslim women who come to the colleges and as soon as they are dropped of by their fathers change into western clothes and then change back before the men come to pick them up. Its easy to relate personal experiences isn't it John.
It doesn't matter whether they wear them willingly or not because they have been conditioned to wear them.
How do you make out that is a sexist statement?
Changing into western clothes proves nothing except they are in conflict with who they wish to please.
Read a woman's magazine John maybe you will realise why its a sexist statement.
It shows John that they are obligated to wear it.
And who are the women's magazines owned and published by?
How can showing up sexism be described as sexist?
Ever seen whole herds of western school girls rushing to change out of their school uniforms and come out looking as if they are on the game?
Well, to a woman who chooses to wear the niqab, it represents a heck of a lot more than a man wearing a baseball hat. You're right that the niqab is not in the Koran - but that doesn't mean it's not religious to some Muslim women. It's culture plus religion, and it's not for you to decide that they are being oppressed and are just secretly hoping that some white Westerner outlaws their freedom of religious expression. Nor is it for you to decide what a woman wears.
I proudly support the right of women to wear whatever the hell they want. As I support their right to religion and right to follow whatever culture they are a part of, as long as it doesn't endanger others.
I don't believe there is anything in the bible requiring nuns to wear their habit and veil!
So you would support the thugee then, they have a right to their religious and cultural freedoms too.
It has nothing to do with either culture or religion, its to do with the oppression of women by men and if you cant see that like they cant then men have won.
Everyone has rights to religious and cultural freedoms as long as they don't hurt anyone.
Forcing women to wear a niqab is oppression.
But forcing women NOT to wear the niqab is also oppression.
Seriously, how hard is it to let a woman choose, and have the right to her own body and clothing? It's none of your business. And many if not most of these women proudly wear niqab freely, because they truly believe it shows God the strength of their faith. Don't speak for them and tell them what it's about, when it's their culture, not yours.
They wear it freely because its been indoctrinated into them by men.
I have no problem with them wearing it, I have a problem with them refusing to take it off for identification, I have a problem with professionals wearing them in their work area's and I have a problem with the fact that it was a rule brought in by men for the subjugation of women.
Well, if you read my original comment that you replied to, you'd see I agree I don't think faces should be covered for IDs.
And believe it or not, I too have a problem with religious based sexism. So if a religion says women need to cover up (which is not exactly accurate in the Koran, but let's pretend), yes, I'm not exactly thrilled. Both the Bible and the Koran don't give women equal status. HOWEVER. It's not my religion and not my business. The law should always be secular and fair, and it's not my call to tell other women that they must have their rights stripped away from them... to "protect" them. What we should do is encourage women as equal members of society, and take a clear stance against forcing women to wear the niqab while praising their right to do so if they choose.
So how is it that Muslim women are so weak willed that they are easily indoctrinated but western women are so strong willed that they will never be indoctrinated!
In my work I met quite a few Muslim couples and believe me, the women show no sign whatsoever of being under their husbands thumb, in fact it's more the opposite.
If a western woman travels to saudi arabia and wants to wear a skirt or shorts she may be stoned to death,so maybe if the muslim countries learned to respect the free will of foreigners in their countries they could expect reciprocity.
Wait, are you actually suggesting that you think America should have laws like Saudi Arabia? You think we should oppress women on threat of stoning to death? If not, what exactly is the point you're trying to make?
Plus, you do know that Saudi Arabia is only one of the many, many, MANY Muslim-majority countries. You'd be surprised to know that the country with the most Muslims is Indonesia in Asia, not the middle-east. And not all Muslim-majority countries are crazy conservative, by the way.
come on aliasis, you are better than that, don't be that girl.you know perfectly well what my point is,in no way would I suggest we should have less freedom but more,nor do I think we should impose a dress code on people ,although an exception should be made for everybody's safety and well being and you should not be able to go to motor vehicle and have the picture taken of a dark piece of cloth.
Then we agree on that. My point was simply that America has different laws, and a different philosophy of human rights than Saudi Arabia. Just because the government persecutes women there doesn't mean we should treat them in the same light. If Saudi Arabia would treat a female immigrant poorly and force her to assimilate to their cultural norms, that's Saudi Arabia's problem. America isn't, or shouldn't be, like that. We should be happy to welcome women (and men) into our country wearing how much or how little they like. We were a country founded on immigrants, and we should remember that some social values are relative and focus on connecting, rather than dividing.
I certainly agree that faces should not be covered for IDs, too. That's a valid security concern. But out in public, who cares - or rather, why should we care - what a woman chooses to wear?
see,we agree more than disagree,but even if we didn't ,I appreciate the fact that you didn't get angry like some other people here do.
That's a very good point.
It brings up questions. If indeed, the cultural norms of a particular country can be shown to cause problems within that country, perhaps even to the extent of violating human rights, should those same cultural norms be allowed to be practiced if those folks decide to immigrate to America? Should immigrants have full freedom to bring the same problems to America that may be causing the downfall of their originating countries?
Here in the UK the problem of defining freedom is getting worse when faced with the problems of immigration and religion.
A school in Derby the Al Madinah a free school has decided that all the girls should sit at the back of classes, that all female staff Muslim or not should cover their heads and that some lessons will be replaced with prayer sessions. Freedom indeed.
A Muslim faith school.
But still it demonstrates the danger of public funded schools where the public have no control over the school.
The public has no control over any school John.
I have not really thought about how I feel in regards to the free schools or what there purpose is.
Of course they do have control!
They are only free in that there is no control over them by the local education authority.
The public have no control and they certainly have no control of the local education authority even if they like to think they do.
The point I was trying to make was by allowing other cultures control them you undo all the good work on equality that has been done so far.
Your elected councillors make up the majority of the board of management in LEAs - you can become a councillor and get yourself on the board of management - no way you can do that with a free school.
By allowing any other groups to control schools you undo all the good work that has been done. Imagine UKIP deciding to set up schools!
When was the last time you tried to get voted on to one of the councils then john? And when was the last time any members of the public changed anything in schools? We can't even get our school to change its uniform policy. So much for power to the people.
What would be so bad about UKIP deciding to set up schools? Sorry I forgot for a moment that you are a socialist and as such don't think the beloved socialists or pseudo socialists have done any harm to the education system. Oh well that's a personal point of view I suppose.
Anyway the point is that men of this particular religion ( and I am sure other religions have done the same in the past) have used the liberal laws and humanitarian posturing of western nations to change the cultures of the countries they migrate to, I am also sure it is their intention to convert everyone to Islam just like the early Christian missionaries did in the 19th century in Africa and India.
Last time I tried to get elected? About 2003 - oh- and I was successful too.
Sorry, forgot you are a UKIP fan, how about the BNP then setting up schools?
And sorry, the socialists did more for mass education than any right wing party ever has.
Or 11th century Christians trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, by the sword if all else failed.
Well done John, what did you change then?
I don't think any religion or political party should be setting up schools but I do think they should be involved in creating an equal environment for schools to flourish in. segregation is not the way to go either on religious or political grounds. And yes I don't believe in schools for just girls or boys even if my own girls did go to an all girls school.
As you say we have never had a socialist government so I doubt it was all about socialism that there have been some educational improvements, mind you I must admit the socialist unions have elevated the teachers to middle class middle income earners.
And that John is precisely why we should be against forced indoctrination. And I seem to remember from my history lessons that the Muslims converted by the sword also John.
Anyway isn't forced indoctrination what Hitler used?
On what basis should the face be uncovered? IMHO, I don't care if people walk around under a sheet, in sun glasses, behind extreme goth haircuts, with full facial tattoos, or veils etc etc. It's nothing to me. Just because it is what I am used to doesn't mean I get to impose it on people.
Back in the day they probably would have considered a well-bred woman not wearing a veil and gloves shocking. But I don't think the cultural demand to uncover and more sensible than the ones to cover up.
Are you a store clerk? A bank teller? A cop or other security person?
While I feel as you do - a covered face means nothing - I can also recognize that others have good reasons to be a little nervous about it. Or a lot nervous in some cases.
We depend on a positive ID where ever we look, we just don't recognize how much. Is that person, covered from head to foot and headed for an elementary classroom, the teacher that was here yesterday or someone else?
Some of the same people who are arguing against telling people what kind of guns they cannot own are fine with telling women what kind of clothes they cannot wear. In the name of security, even.
People should be allowed to wear whatever they want in public. As long as they understand that they must consent to remove certain items before entering private property. I can make sunglasses, hoodies, and anything covering the face unacceptable in my place of business. I can also require a person to remove a firearm before entering. They do not have to comply, just do not enter!
I agree that if a woman chooses to wear the niqab, she should be allowed to do so. It's not that much of a hardship to have a woman check their ID if that makes them more comfortable. Airports, certainly, have to have security offers of both sexes available.
Now, I do believe in respecting the customs of a country you are visiting. If I ended up in the Middle East then I would wear a headscarf - the common compromise used by western women visiting those societies. I even own some nice ones. They were my grandmother's. She would never have gone out in public without her head covered.
NOT covering the head, for females, is a relatively recent thing. It's not that long ago that in most of western society married women wore headscarfs so men knew they were "off the market." Some churches still require women to wear scarfs or hats. (Some require *everyone* to wear a hat). On the other side of the equation, many synagogues require head coverings for *men* specifically.
The truth is that what we're dealing with is a complex interaction of religion and culture. Banning head scarves, as has been done in France...not even niqabs but the much less covering hijab is also banned there...is simply ridiculous. On the other hand, visitors should show respect - and therein enters the conflict.
As for women wearing what they want - it wasn't that long ago (and probably still happens) that a woman who dared to walk into a job interview without at least 3" heels (FAR more damaging than a niqab) would have no chance of being hired.
Great comment, and very well put! I actually went to the middle east - at least, to Turkey and Egypt, and there, Christian women also covered their heads in reverence to God. But covering the head has also traditionally been a European value, too.
Now a campaign to eliminate expectation that professional women should wear heels, that I would get behind.
Dress is a form of communication, a way of letting others know who we are, whether we are a policeman, a clergyman, a Muslim, a banker, a hooker, a biker or an inner city gang member.
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