Sunday, October 08, 2006

Should women wear veils?

The recent debate about muslim women and veils in the UK has left me in a state of indecision. On the one hand, as an innate libertarian, I believe that people should be able to dress as they wish to. Obviously there is the issue of causing offence to other people by your choice of dress code, but it seems to me that we should all be adult enough to accept other peoples choices, whether it be a niqab or a thong.

On the other hand, the niqab represents pretty much everything that I'm opposed to - subservience to outdated religious practices, a desire for separatism, and in particular a publicly expressed loyalty to Islam, possibly the most regressive of the worlds religions.

As the wearers of the niqab are aware, they are making a statement above and beyond that demanded by their religion, and niqab wearing seems to be on the increase as a result of increased tensions between Britains muslim minority, and the rest of the christian/atheist majority.

On the surface of it, it would seem to be an irrational response to increased hostility to wear clothing likely to inflame that hostility. Terror Management Theory posits that when an individual is threatened, they respond by adhering more closely to their world-view. This seems to be a good example.

A quandary, in microcosm, of the western worlds view of Islam.

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Anonymous Tora said...

Some women choose to wear the Niqab due to modesty. I dont think it's a desire to be separate, it's just they believe it's right to wear, and hence they do. Ofcourse Muslims have a loyalty to Islam, it's our religion.

But we also have loyalty to the society we live in, but that doesn't mean we are going to compromise on our religion.

5:06 pm  
Blogger Sacerdote said...

A fair point, but the question is why do they feel it's right to wear, when it is not actually a religious requirement.

My understanding is that it's either cultural, as for newly arrived Somalis, or increasingly as an expression of piety. The first is uncontroversial, but the second case is worthy of an explanation.

10:47 am  
Blogger Etzel Pangloss said...

It's the religious equivalent of the punk safety pin.

It states that society's values are wrong.

11:33 am  
Blogger Nick Ryan said...

This is one of those vexacious issues in which everyone can be "right". It simply boils down to Belief, whether truly transcribed in the Qu'ran or passed down from some culturally-illiterate imam from a Pakistani village.

Ironically, on the streets of the East End of London, where I have been researching a book, some young women wear only a modest hijab together with makeup and fashion gear; whilst others have gone the way of the Middle East, adopting niqab and other coverings.

Whichever or whatever one chooses to wear, this is but a taster of the battles to come over integration, separate identities, the lack of a strong joint/over-arching identity, British values of tolerance and moderation towards others, the colonial heritage, the victim mentality and many, many other themes... (oh what a joy to be a liberal in these pressing times of change!).

As I discovered travelling in the Middle East back in 1990; also in the former Yugoslavia during war in 1993; you can (in the eyes of believers, whether political, national, ideological, religious) never truly "understand" unless you are a part of that system: unless you are living it. And if you live it, you don't need any explanation.

Belief. We all have it, buried somewhere amidst our assumptions on life. Even the most erudite and intelligent secular modernists can twist fact and argument to long-held opinions, set deep within subconscious...

Of course, I know I'm right. *wink*

10:09 am  

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