This week the press went crazy over a statement made by John Straw (Leader of the House of Commons (UK)):
I was not tempted at all to call this article, ‘behind the veil’ as I considered that it would be inapproriate.
Over the last week the national press have become very close to the issue of the veil and muslim women.
The issues that came to mind were:
1. What is the history of the veil?
2. Do we really know enough about what muslim women that adhere to it actually feel/experience?
3. Does the whole issue not skim or link to feminist arguements about self expression ?
4. There appears to be little mention of the element of modesty deployed by other religions, for example items worm by Nuns or Monks?
5. Although there are different types of veils, do we really understand its adoption or applicability, especially in the context of Islam being followed in different cultures and regions?
6. What did Jack Straw actually mean by requesting? What about when he worked with the blind minister David Blunkett ?
7. Why has this come to ahead as an issue right now? Especially as there appears to be a press frenzy on yet another topic concerning muslims?
8. What is the impact on a multicultural society?
9. Is religious education extensive enough in todays schools?
10. Is there a risk of complicating this issue and potentially confusing it with other religions, i.e:
It appears that the veil is not essential whereas in other religions items are be spirtually essential, for example Turbans for Sikhs is a completely different issue.
With regard to the latter point I was disturbed by the attempted link to Turbans in simply the title / sub-headline of a Sunday Times (UK) article. This link is incorrect.
As a society we now collectively enter this debate with further confusion added by the implication by some of the potential impact that this issue can have on possibly contributing to the separation of society.
Suddenly we all seem to have forgotten diversity.
Disturbance continues to haunt me as I read over the weekend from a passing tabloid headline that ‘97% of those polled wish to ban the veil’. Who are these 97% ? What do they really think? Does it not make you wonder that if someone smiles at you, is the smile geniuine? If they (?) have issues with the veil what else do they have issues with?
Another justication point made has been the expression by some about the need of an open debate with the need to consider what is ‘acceptable’. Again, I’m confused.
Take the British occupation of India. If we consider that in the early days of occupation, many British settlers, ‘went native’ – until it was deemed during the latter part of the Victorian era to be unacceptable.
Interestingly, India still suffers from some complexes..
* Childeren from rich households speak English as they deem it to be ‘advanced’
* Some of the best schools are considered to be Catholic based
Regardless of the issue of ‘to veil or not to veil’, there is a danger that a lack of understanding about people and their cultures can lead to mischief by some to instigate agitation.
This lack of education is ripe. Take for example, the ignorant attack on a Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) just after the 7/7 attacks in London. Let us make it clear, any attack on any religious place of worship is a crime.
We certainly do not want the media to establish an environment of civil war!
This whole issue raises the point that due consideration should be given to the sensitivities of others. A private discussion or request is often better than complicating and concerning people with confusing statements. This is not to say that there is not a place to debate such issues. In the case of the veil, it appears to relate to personal choice rather than religious essentials. Those that represent muslims from a policy / religious guidance perspective should be consulted – instead of sensationalism there needs to be sensible dialogue.
The current situation reveals a possible hidden sentiment which could potentially create a dangerous aura of paranoia.