The Muslim Veil in Western Society

 Posted by on August 7, 2010  Add comments
Aug 072010
 

For a Muslim woman, the niqab is not a tool to lock herself out of the world and cut people off. Rather it empowers her to invite whom she wishes into her world.

What an interesting idea, quoted from an article in today’s Irish Times.  And yet, what a puzzle.  Since it’s so empowering, how is it that Muslim men aren’t walking around all day in a tent that covers them from head to toe, peering at the world through a slit in a face-mask?

I haven’t noticed Mr Ahmedinejad asserting his power by appearing on the podium with a coal-bag over his head.  Have you?

As a matter of fact, and now that I mention it, I haven’t noticed a single Muslim man, or any man at all for that matter, wearing an outfit like that, apart from those hardy fellows who fought with Lawrence of Arabia and had to keep the sand out of their eyes.

Maybe it’s just women that Islam holds in such high esteem.  Maybe Islam honours women above men to such an extent that they and they alone have the right to be empowered by wearing a tent everywhere they go.

If I happened to appear in a bank wearing a motorcycle helmet or a balaclava, I’d be arrested on the spot, but perhaps that’s due to cultural intolerance, and maybe if I explained to the security guards that it was part of my religion they might take their knees out of my spine and let me get up.

I wonder what they’d do if I turned up in a full-length burqa?  How would they know I wasn’t a rather ungainly, loud, foul-mouthed woman?  Would they jump on me or would they respect my rights as the world’s first Muslim-woman-imitating cross-dressing atheist?  That would make an interesting case for an equality tribunal.

One of the women interviewed for the article explained that she takes her driving lessons while wearing a niqab, and that’s fine as long as you don’t mind sharing the road with a learner driver who has no peripheral vision, but what does her driver’s licence look like?  Is it a picture of a scarf?

Is that where this is all going?

Will you and I have to submit ourselves to biometric categorisation while Muslim women can all look like an unmade bed and still get through airport security?

And all because some invented , religious belief dictates that it should be so.

I don’t think so.

There’s no reason why anyone should be allowed to go around wearing a disguise, especially not when the only basis for it is religious.  I don’t accept what one woman said in the article, that a society has to respect other traditions.

No it doesn’t.  It’s the other way round.  If your traditions don’t respect society, keep them to yourself.

The author of the article, Mary Fitzgerald, is living proof that not all Muslim societies regard women as chattels to be hidden from public view.  Last October, during negotiations to free kidnapped aid workers Sharon Commins and Hilda Kawuki, she managed to secure a lengthy interview with Musa Hilal, the Sudanese minister for federal affairs, widely regarded as the man who controls the notorious janjaweed militias.  It was an exclusive scoop for the Irish Times and a personal coup for the journalist.

If Mary had been wearing a burqa, she wouldn’t have been able to grin triumphantly at the discomfited Irish diplomatic officials as she swept past them into Musa’s office.

  29 Responses to “The Muslim Veil in Western Society”

Comments (29)
  1.  

    When any ‘tradition’ imposes on another person’s rights then that tradition is open to challenge – I’m with Bock on this

  2.  

    The Iranian women’s rugby team, played in Italy recently.

    I reckon the boys in the Shannon front row would look good in Burkas – in fact, given the heads on them, I’d recommend it.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/7921185/Iran-ladies-rugby-team-makes-European-debut-playing-in-veils-and-tracksuits.html

  3.  

    Brilliant. That has to be included in the post.

  4.  

    Does anyone think that the veil nonsense is an insult to men? The idea is that men cannot leer at Muslim women therefore men are unworthy!! I’ve met many women in my day that thought I was unworthy but they never walked around in a two man tent!! Is it also the case that more women support this nonsense than men I mean most of the people you hear protesting are indeed men!
    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010%5C04%5C05%5Cstory_5-4-2010_pg2_11

    Here is one thing FIFA have right
    Law 4 states that “basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements.

    “The team of a player whose basic compulsory equipment has political, religious or personal slogans or statements will be sanctioned by the competition organiser or by FIFA.”

  5.  

    I don’t care what someone wears as long as they can see where they’re driving and they look like their passport. I do, however, dislike the idea in a free society, that people should have to hide their face because of their gender. That’s something from a backward, ignorant, medieval, sheep-herding society that has nothing to do with our culture today.

    Much like Christianity and Judaism, in fact.

  6.  

    A few questions I don’t know the answers to
    Can a Woman in a full veil Drive a car legally?
    Can a Woman in a full veil vote ( you have to show your face for proof of identity)?
    Can a Woman in a full veil enter a bank with those automatic double doors?
    Can a Woman in a full veil testify against someone who has the right to face their accuser?

  7.  

    Don’t know. How about a man in a full veil?

  8.  

    In certain parts of rural Ireland the wearing of a veil would greatly improve the aesthetic beauty of the local women folk.

  9.  

    As you probably already know, it’s been banned in France. There are an almost limitless list of reasons why the niqab is wrong but…
    The debate in France focused primarily on the rights of the women, the security issue being a secondary arguement. Nicolas Sarkozy and his appointed lackies (mostly men) spoke at length about the insult the niqab is to a womans freedom (poor little women need big [sic], strong men like Sarkozy to come and protect them didn’t you know). They described it as a prison. As you say in your article, why should woman be obliged to wear a tent everywhere? And they shouldn’t.
    However, some women do choose to wear it. No doubt for the same reason that some people continue to defend the RCC in Ireland.
    So, if we make it illegal in the interest of a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants, aren’t we simultaniously denying women the right to wear what they want should the choose to wear the naqib?

    My personal feeling is that the correct legislative approach should be the security issue, in the bank, airport, drinving etc. I don’t know if there is already a law in existance to prevent people forcing somebody to wear something ahgainst their will. Again, in my opinion, that would be the correct legislative approach to the problem of womens rights.

    It should also be remembered that the veil and the niqab are but symptoms of the problem. Faith driven mysogny is what needs to be tackled.

  10.  

    There are certain circumstances, in my opinion, where the niqab should not be permitted, and they are related to security, safety and where normal human non-verbal communication is required.

    Apart from banks, airports and the like, I wouldn’t want my children to be taught by someone with a bag over their head and I wouldn’t like to be dealing with a doctor or a lawyer if I can’t read their facial expression

    If people want to wear the niqab where it doesn’t affect anyone else, that’s their own business.

  11.  

    Saudi Arabia to lift ban on women drivers
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1576182/Saudi-Arabia-to-lift-ban-on-women-drivers.html

    Shared via AddThis.com

    Bock it seems even the Saudis agree.

  12.  

    To C’est le Craic I think you will find that also in France there are laws forbidding the wearing of Bikinis on the street and also against men walking around shirtless! Where does your argument fit it taking this into account? Al this before Sarkozy ( bloddy lefty)!

  13.  

    it’s a minefield….there are women who do choose to wear it….spoke to a student on the train in Kuala Lumpur who said that she felt it forced people, like her lecturers and fellow students, to take what she had to say at its merit as opposed to people only listening to her / ignoring her because she was beautiful / ugly. at the same time there are definitely cases where women are forced into wearing the full facial covering by overbearing men who deem it a religious necessity. the problem is that in places like france where the niqab and bhurka etc are banned now is that those women who are forced into wearing it by the controlling men in their lives will still be forced into it anyways, but just not allowed out into the public eye which will cause further problems by ghettoising (is it a word? fuck it it is now…) a whole (albeit fairly small) section of the society. it’s a tightrope of a situation….no one wants to infringe on the free choices made by free people in a free society, but at the same time, (speaking as someone who has worked in the bank, restaurants, pubs and shops all around the country), there are certain social situations and places where the ability to see and recognise the person you are dealing with is almost essential. no easy answers as far as i’m concerned. i believe ned flanders would call this a dilly of a pickle…

  14.  

    Like rape, the niqab/burka is a symbol of power/control. Some of these ladies seem to think they have the power/control and or choice, far from it. Religious brainwashing is not the sole preserve of the catholic church. As so clearly pointed out where are the men who wear such things for their religion?

  15.  

    @Sodacake13.

    Hm… counterexamples, where men are constrained (to put in mildly, in the case of circumcision) by their religion / culture.

    Sikh men must wear their hair long, wrap it in a turban and carry a dagger. Jewish, Muslim and the majority of the US boys have a piece of their penis removed when very young.

    I can’t get worked up about the Hijab thing. It’s very often a stalking horse for anti-Muslim culture wars. The French are being consistent in banning it in schools, in that they (having, unlike us, benefited from a number of social revolutions) have an constitutionally secular state and also have (unlike us, again) explicitly secular schooling.

    There are really more important things to get worked up about than stirring the pot among the Muslim minorities in Europe.

    The housekeeper likes me to dress up in full Mexican wrestlers gear including facemask before I chase her around the garden, and I don’t intend to stop just because the neighbours can’t see my facial expressions. I’m not sure they would really want to.

  16.  

    Rob – “To C’est le Craic I think you will find that also in France there are laws forbidding the wearing of Bikinis on the street and also against men walking around shirtless! Where does your argument fit it taking this into account? Al this before Sarkozy ( bloddy lefty)!”

    Can you link to those laws or give me the articles.

    I think you’ll find that any such laws are under public decency not Human rights or security, and so, like public nudity, have nothing to do with my comment. I think you’ll also find that those laws are not enforced.
    I am currently in the south of France and can tell yo for a fact that there are plenty of women in bikinis and shirtless men. No one has so far been arrested.

    So what, if anything, was your point? Or was it just a little to close to NOT anti-muslum for your liking (though I’m actually right handed!)

  17.  

    I have to agree with Pope Epopt’s comment, and his housekeeper sounds so powerful !
    The Veil predates Islam and has no mention in the Qur’an as such, What is mentioned is the wearing of a ” Khemar ” which is a headscarf.
    It is also mentioned in the Qur’an that women should ” wrap themselves ” as a form of protection against maurading invaders as Arab women were highly prized slaves to be captured by same, The total covering of women was meant to confuse the invaders as to age and beauty.
    The veil has a long history, during the Byzantine Empire it was worn by Christian women to denote wealth and status, It was generally not worn by rural and nomadic women.
    The veil, which is now associated totally with Islam is thought to be more a cultural custom of people who became Muslims.
    Its origins can be traced back to 200 AD where it was a protective covering for ” desert people ” from their environment combined with tactics of protection against invaders.

    In Israel some ultra orthodox Jewish women have taken to wearing the ” Burqa ” Strangly the Rabbis were very critical of this claiming it to be an ” item of sexual deviancy “.

    The recent banning in France might prove counter productive, Will there be a ban on Priests collars or Nuns habits ? Both can be ” misleading ” but maybe not the same ” security risk ” a bit debateable all the same.
    Also Jewish women wear headscarves and wigs to cover their real hair, not as obvious as a Burqa perhaps but these practices are mainly a choice on which infringment may well prove unacceptable.

    In London it’s so easy to spot the more “affluent ” Niqab’s, They are tailored and made from very high quality silks always with the Guccis and Louboutin’s peeping out underneath, As opposed to the more basic Gaberdine and Cotton ones worn by their less affluent counterparts.

    I agree on many levels with Bock @11 and C’est @ 10, But it’s a consequence of the times we live in.

  18.  

    C’est. Don’t even answer this ! But if you are anywhere near Antibes, St Paul or Gourdon then i’m beyond jealous ! I would wear a veil for the next 10 yrs to be in that tree house below St Paul for just 1 day right now !
    Dammit, Enjoy !

  19.  

    Public decency, human rights, hard hats on a building site niquabs in the Sahara. A time and place mon ami a time and place!

  20.  

    Rob – the why is just as important as the how. When you ban someone from doing something you are also banning yourself.
    If the question is women’s rights, then it is not a question of dress, it is much larger. In principal you are banning an item of clothing. An item of clothing does no harm. As someone else stated the niqab is a symbol of control and that is the problem, not the niqab in and of it’s self. But if you can ban the niqab because it is a symbol of female submission then why not ban bikinis as a symbol of female exploitation?
    If it’s a question of security then perhaps beards should be banned too. And wearing a hat and pulling your scarf over your nose in winter should also be illegal when you walk in the street.

    I don’t want to defend the niqab as there is little if anything to defend about it, but ill thought out constraints imposed on one group are imposed on all of society.

    You should also remember that Sarkozy is notoriously anti-muslum and xenophobic in general. Ironic considering he’s descended form Hungarian immigrants himself. I do not believe for one moment that his motivations include insuring women are respected.

    Sorry about the spam Bock.

  21.  

    Listen to the podcast on Ferrara. Just over two minutes, it touches very briefly on the sixteenth century catholic version of control over women.
    http://www.sarahdunant.com/Sarah-Dunant-Podcasts/podcasts-author-sarah-dunant.htm

  22.  

    Unstranger good link. However given that this is the year 1431 AH by the Islamic calendar it might go to explain a lot.

  23.  

    Genital mutilation… four wives… “temporary” wives…testimony of four women to equal that of one man.. Women are you fields; go and plough them…. sure they respect women ! Any fool can see that !

  24.  

    Just thought I would share this with you is this the future?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/fast_track/8901976.stm

  25.  

    the photo at the top of the article is cool! they look just like the ringwraithes from lord of the rings!

  26.  

    The Holy Qu’ran only says Muhammed (pbuh)’s wives must wear the veil and that as a mark of their especial status. The whole business of suppressing women in Islam comes from the earlier Okiumene and takes its cue from the harems of Christian Byzantium. It was long after the Prophet departed that greedy venal men hijacked the Qu’ran and obfuscated It with vague and suspicious hadiths and sunnahs so as to oppress women. Let’s get real here. Whatever you want to wear, wear, including your birthday suit. If anyone tells you different tell em fuck off they’re only looking out for their own personal interests.

  27.  

    Just a slight, though related, diversion. Some readers might find this link interesting!

    http://truecath.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/skirting-the-difference-whats-wrong-with-women-wearing-trousers/

    The extract below gives a flavour of the piece.

    “The women’s trouser culture is one of the most insidious by-products of modern liberalism, and it is therefore not surprising that all it has promoted is moral frivolity and exhibitionism, confusion, the debasement of women, a coarsening of attitudes among women themselves and a lowering of moral tone in society.”

  28.  

    The women’s trouser culture? ha?
    Yeah, interesting.
    Couldn’t be arsed reading that rubbish.

Leave a Reply