Veils again

Missed a day yesterday going to London for a meeting.  I’ve become part of the ‘have laptop will travel’ brigade but I got some quite difficult stuff dealt with just by being away.

Interesting to see how the veils issue moves on.  The teacher, of course, lost her case yesterday.  As so often in clashes of identity and culture, there is not a direct opposition between the view expressed.  The western secular mind says, ‘I – and the children you teach – need to see your face, your eyes, your mouth because so much of what is communicated is subliminal …’  The Moslem response is, if I understand it right, ‘I cannot appear in front of other men unveiled’   Meanwhile, it was interesting to hear the thrust of the speech last night from Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice.  He warns against erosion of human rights – I suspect what he may mean is selective reductions in human rights legislation as applied to particular racial, religious or cultural groups.  I’ll allow myself one ‘back reference’ to Ireland – the security-driven response to IRA terrorism had the effect of alienating the mainstream Catholic population.  It doesn’t mean that they became active supporters of terrorism – far from it.  But they became ever more separated from the mainstream of the community and young people in particular moved towards Sinn Fein in large numbers.  I believe that these security-led responses were counter-productive then and they will be counter-productive in Britain.


  1. I think what is troubling me more and more is the insistence that this is a requirement of the Koran – when I understand that it is not. Seems to me that this tells you more about how members of this community are feeling about their identity and their place in wider society than it does about their need for specific religious observances

  2. I had a friend who had a close friend who converted to Islam when she married. My friend’s friend didn’t wear the hajib (I think that’s the spelling for the right type of head scarf) because she said that the Quran didn’t say that women had to cover their heads. She said the veil was a cultural thing, but not a required thing. (Oddly enough our own St. Paul did write about women covering their heads in one of his letters.)

    my 0.02Pounds of opinion

  3. I hear on the news that this lady attended the job interview without a veil. Maybe she thought she would not get the job otherwise. However, as with any new cultural meme, it needs time to become accepted – laptops on aeroplanes included(!). Dialogue and not agressive gestures seem a more effective way ahead. As with any necessary mutuality though, both sides need to acknowledge there needs to be an accomodation period intially, and one womders whether disparate Islam can do this in quite the way other faiths do. No wonder Anglicans and their love of theological ‘accomodation’ are at the forefront of this in schools!

  4. I think the veil issue, particularly for Jack Straw, is partly a reflection electoral concerns. England First won two of the wards in the Blackburn Unitary Authority in May – beating Labour into second place in one and the Conservatives in the other. There is a nationalist surge that needs to be addressed.

  5. “The Moslem response is, if I understand it right, ‘I cannot appear in front of other men unveiled’”

    I think Muslims have a variety of possible stances depending on whether the male is a wee kiddie or not and how “liberal” they are; if so, I would not be surprised that the teacher taking the hardest line would be seen as not blending in with society here.

    Slight tangent for purposes of analogy: doctors in the NHS have rights (eg not to prescribe certain medications if they have scruples of their own), as well as patients. On those grounds, while I’m no fan of Jack Straw, he *does* have a right to *ask* muslim women if they’d remove the veil.

    I’d agree that basing the response around security and terror threats is unhelpful. Inclusiveness and promoting give&take would be far more profitable (except to the writers of tabloids).

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