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Ban the Niqab?

Abso-bloody-lutely!

Why do I hear so many lily-livered skeptic men wittering on about ‘free choice’ as if the vast majority of women in the damned hot, blinding, uncomfortable things have actually made a free choice.

What’s it really like? Here’s a glimpse.

I’m sure most of us would ‘choose’ to wear ‘appropriate’ dress, as many western women do in Saudi for example; the alternative isn’t much fun. We can come home and breathe again and though most women have no such freedom, but there’s a limit to what we can do.

In England however we have British citizens subjugated from childhood.

Shame on you cowards who advocate your cultural relativism. In any deeply unequal culture, to ‘respect’ certain aspects of that culture is to side with the bully boys in charge.

For shame my fellow skeptics.

I now challenge any man saying that women should be ‘free to choose’ the niqab (maybe even burka) should wear it at all times for a year on pain of losing his children, his job or even his life. Then we’ll talk about ‘freedom to choose’.

46 comments to Ban the Niqab?

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marina de Joslin, Clio Bellenis. Clio Bellenis said: Freeing women from oppression should not be controversial http://www.hampshireskeptics.org/?p=1343 Ban the niqab [...]

  • You don’t improve civil rights by banning things.

  • William

    Surprised to see one as liberal as Clio advocating banning anything.

    If I were to take a Western centric view I might well be in favour of banning the niqab or the Burka. It is a mark of separation, of cultural isolation. The reason I am not is the number of Moslem women I have heard valuing the option to remain covered. I am not saying they should, but I could not deny them that option in general. There are some exceptions to that, where identity is important, for example in court, a bank, a benefits office. A good case could be made for banning it in schools. But for the most part it does not matter to me.

    I realise that for some women it may be a choice, but not their own. Isn’t it better to promote choice for women, whether to wear or not to wear, rather than take away the choice “for their own good”?

    And what about the hejab? Shouldn’t you bundle in the humble headscarf? Some of us remember it being widely worn by women of British descent in our childhood. I think it was their choice too.

    Does being libertarian mean making people free whether they bloody well like it or not?

    In islamic countries, it is often the older women who are most concerned to keep their faces covered in public, their anxiety when it slips does not look like fear of being found out.

    In Iran the hejab is a requirement for all women, but how it is worn varies widely. Iran has no shortage of outgoing confident women, who seem quite unlike their Arab counterparts.

    And yet making the hejab compulsory may have been a critical step in undermining the revolution. When it was banned under the Shah, many families would not allow uncovered daughters to leave the house for school. Now levels of education and literacy are very high. A growing young educated thinking population presents the biggest challenge to the conservative regime. There seems to be no desire to cast off Islam, but a desire not to have somebody else impose its definition by force.

  • Clio

    I doubt you really mean that Richard – we have many things banned which improve civil rights, including murder and rape. A bottom-up approach doesn’t always work when the bottom rung is beneath the heel.
    There are other reasons – no-one objected to the bans on the wearing of hoodies or motor-bike helmets in certain public places: Why is this different? Who would we offend? the ‘community’. And who is the community? the elders…the ones who write the fatwas, and strangely enough they’re not wearing the burkhas, and they are allowed to leave their houses with good enough reason.
    Freedom from having to bow to oppression in even a small way is freedom worth having. Face-covering robs identity. Identity is worth having. Live a day without it and you’ll see.

  • Clio

    Will. “in Islamic countries it’s usually the older women who are most concerned…”
    The oppressed commonly participate in their own oppression; it is the older women who also insist on their grand-daughters’ circumcision…should we allow that too?
    Many slaves from the Souther States did not leap joyfully at their freedom…maybe that shouldn’t have been banned either?

  • Heh, OK. Let’s put it this way: you don’t get around the problem of religious extremism/oppression in communities by banning some of their activities/practices.

    I object to bans on any items of clothing in public places, just as I object to bans on nudity in public places.

  • Clio

    I wouldn’t class it as an item of clothing. It’s a cover-up job to avoid women being seen in public and to protect their modesty. It’s an instrument of oppression and would be banned as such.
    Will’s right about the older women in Iran, I was there during the Shah’s reign when they banned the full-faced chador and the older women held the fabric in their teeth. The younger had freedom. Now the younger ones have no choice, they have become ‘tents with eyes’.
    Faith schools are a big offender on this score and if they weren’t allowed to enforce it, the girls would have more freedom.
    We banned schools from assaulting children, although I am aware it still happens in faith schools, but at least it’s an attempt at protection.

  • Where choice is absent a ban could provide freedom.
    Where choice is ubiquitous a ban would facilitate opression.

  • William

    Clio, you are implying that those women who do choose to cover don’t know their own minds, however educated or intelligent they may be. Or at least, that you know better.

    What are your credentials for knowing the mind, specifically of Moslem women on such matters?

    If women have no right to cover their faces in public to protect their modesty, why do they have the right to cover their breasts?

    I don’t doubt that there are women who are forced to cover against their wishes, but that was my whole point about nurturing choice for women, not choosing for them.

    I smell the sulphurous odour of the Devil’s Advocate here.

  • Clio

    Not at all Will. We cannot nurture choice for someone whose choice wit between doing as they are told or being hit with a big stick.
    Banning it wouldn’t impede most women’s choice – they have none. It#’s about taking power from the ‘elders’ and giving it to the individual.
    Moslem women should have the same rights as all others in our society; at the moment many don’t – I haven’t heard of many male ‘honour killings’.
    Have a look at the panorama link in the post. We live in a liberal democracy – and it’s the individual whose rights we respect.
    Otherwise we’d be like Germany where a man was found not guilty for inflicting appalling injuries on his wife as ‘It’s OK in your culture’. That’s what I meant by ‘siding with the bully boys’.

  • Clio

    Got that German case a bit wrong – http://www.jihadwatch.org/2007/03/german-judge-cites-quran-in-divorce-case—-to-justify-wife-beating.html

    “He beat her and threatened her with murder. But because husband and wife were both from Morocco, a German divorce court judge saw no cause for alarm. It’s a religion thing, she argued.”

  • William

    Clio, you are still failing to qualify yourself to speak on behalf of Moslem women.

    You are espousing your own point of view; the choice you demand is your own. You deny choice to those women who do not agree with you.

    It appears that we do not know here how many women in the UK wear the niqab (or burka) and how many do so from choice. Without some perspective this debate quickly becomes sterile.

  • Johnny B

    France has the right idea – this is involuntary subjugation of women, cruel and degrading. It is one point on the same line that includes female circumcision and honor killing – yes, they are rightly banned too in civilized countries.

    To see Muslim boys at play, while the girls stand sweltering, nervously tucking their hair away lest they get in trouble, is to watch oppression that will last a lifetime.

    There is no choice, just conditioning. All the intellectual BS in the world, from pontificating men, I notice, who will never have to suffer this indignity, cannot change the fact that we need to evolve beyond this level of religious cruelty and our laws are the best place to start.

  • Clio

    1. The only people who choose to wear these are people who do so within a context of being lesser human beings. the Koran is clear on this as is Sharia law.
    2. The covering is cultural and not specified in the Koran.
    3. To silence a person, first make them invisible
    4. There is no such thing as a Moslem/Christian/Buddhist child, only a child of such parents
    These girls are taught things about themselves that not only I consider abhorrent, but that is in conflict with our societies view of the individual. My opposition to the covering is what Dave said really.
    We will never know how may do so from choice – Stockholm syndrome

  • Clio

    Thank you Johnny B!

  • There is no requirement for qualification to espouse one’s views.

    I suggest some clarification with regards to the direction of remarks. i.e.
    It is a mistake to assume that a ban in a free country would result in the same effects as a ban in another place.

    As I said above the same action can have diametrically opposite results depending upon where it is applied and the direction from which it is applied.

  • William

    Most likely effect of a ban in a free country is that those who are not allowed out without cover will be made to stay in the home.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again.

    @Dave fair comment about needing no qualifications to speak one’s own views. Surely if claiming to speak on behalf of others, one should have some relevant understanding and exposure to their views?

  • If there was a ban on any identity-concealing headgear in certain public places then perhaps it would spark some Muslim women to rebel against the enforcement of veils elsewhere. But I utterly resent the government legislating to control my life “for my own good” rather than “for the good of others”. The case needs to be made on the latter grounds.

  • James

    I can only speak from my own experience here but in the countries where women feel they actually have a choice about how they can dress (Syria, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco), the Niqāb is a very rare sight indeed and headscarves themselves are not ubiquitous.

  • Johnny B

    James, this is my own experience also – having spent extended periods of time in Egypt, Iran (pre and post ousting of Raza Shah), Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco. Women do not enjoy being “lesser” – having limited professional, educational, social and recreational opportunities. That is not their “choice” although after a lifetime of conditioning it may be their familiar comfort zone (as prison becomes a comfort zone for lifers).

    Bleating, pseudo intellectually, about “unintended consequences” is blinkered and provincial, you clearly have no understanding what the INTENDED consequences are and how they affect women every day. This is one facet of a cruel, dehumanizing subjugation of women that is a cornerstone of Islamic gender identity.

    Deciding that the best way to approach this is to claim some sort of neutrality in the name of “freedom” is as laughable as Switzerland claiming neutrality in the face of Nazism. By deciding that inaction is your answer, you condone and allow the continuation of what is clearly evil.

    We get to make laws in our own country that reflect the standards and morals of our people. There are plenty of Islamic nations living under Sharia law where we have no control over Niqabs or anything else. Let’s at least make the first steps towards reversing centuries of abuse by outlawing it in the small corner of the world that we actually control.

  • Pamela

    @Johnny B
    Oh well Johnny, Im glad to know that when you state your opinion it is a genuine intellectual opinion but when someone states a different opinion it is ‘Bleating, pseudo intellectually’. Aren’t we all supposed to be rationalists here? Aren’t those kinds of petty jabbing arguments beneath us?

    IMO we should not ban kinds of clothing. I think that it would lead the most repressed of women to be even more separated from our society. I think it is attacking a symptom and not helping with a cure. I think it is taking away some of our freedoms – if I want to put a sheet over myself for halloween how exactly are we going to distinguish that? Who do you punish – the women found to be wearing the clothing or the person who forced her to wear it if she were forced, how would you get her to admit who forced her and if she wouldnt admit it do you fine her or jail her and how does that help?

  • Pamela

    @Clio, that German case looks like the one that was brought up on ‘Dogma Free America’ if it was then the judge got into trouble and the ruling was overturned I believe. There was an outcry over it I think. I dont think it is at all standard practice of the German legal system.

  • Johnny B

    @ Pamela – I as being rational, that’s why I said it!

  • Johnny B

    Talking about Halloween costumes is a straw man argument, we don’t need to go there.

    As to the implementation of laws, that is something to be fine tuned for sure – we have no problem with outlawing female circumcision which, as mentioned, is just another point on the same line. France is enacting a ban and four other European countries have pending legislation. I’m not sure that having to overcome difficulties in enforcement and consequences is a reason to stand back and allow what is clearly cruel and evil treatment. We need to evolve away from subjugation of women and like any sea change in freedom and attitudes (South Africa?) it will not be without teething pains.

  • Pamela

    @Johnny – ? I don’t get it. I think that message went over my head…

  • Pamela

    I don’t think it is a straw man Johnny. What exactly is the difference between my putting a sheet over my head that has a couple of eyeholes cut in it and a different item of clothing that covers the body and only allows the eyes to be seen? If you think it is a straw man then it follows that you believe that one is ridiculous and the other is not, so it follows that you know a way to legally distinguish between them, yes?

    No, I don’t have a problem with Female Circumcision being outlawed, I would like to see Male Circumcision go the same way tbh, what does that have to do with clothing?

    If it were ‘clearly cruel and evil treatment’ we wouldnt be having this debate Johnny. Genital mutilation has aspects that you can point to that are ‘clearly cruel and evil treatment’. Clothing is in a totally different ballpark.

  • Pamela

    Oh, and as an aside, if you want to change your argument to the banning of forcing someone to wear a particular item of clothing, rather than banning the clothing itself then I think you’ll probably find everyone in agreement on that, even if it isnt much easier to enforce.

  • Johnny B

    Sorry, I might have been unclear. I was trying to respond to your valid point that enforcement would be hard (who to punish, etc). My point was that just because the mechanisms and implementation of laws may be hard and messy at first, it doesn’t mean that the law is unnecessary.

    Any movement away from established forms of discrimination will be messy, controversial and not without problems (I mentioned South Africa re. apartheid, but I could have mentioned the emancipation in America, suffragettes, or any number of examples) but that doesn’t mean that freedom and equality are not worth fighting for and the benefits in the long run are more than worth it.

    I am speaking from extensive personal experience in the Middle East and Northern Africa and ANYTHING that can set in motion a reversal of fortunes for millions of repressed, downtrodden Islamic girls who are forced to live half lives, is a step in the right direction.

    Sorry that my original message failed to make my point.

  • Johnny B

    Good points… I think we can distinguish between a Halloween costume and a Niqab as easily as we can distinguish the difference between lovemaking and rape.

    If you doubt that it is “clearly cruel and evil treatment” then I suggest you spend an extended time in the Middle East. If this is all takes to not need to have this discussion, then the debate would be swiftly over.

    Start with the schoolyards – not in fundamentalist areas of course, there are no girls allowed there anyway. Elsewhere, the boys act and play like boys the world over. Wearing shorts, T shirts, running, playing tag, laughing and enjoying a childhood. The girls stand secluded – they wear sweltering robes, hair and faces covered. The spend a lot of their time frantically checking that all their hair is tucked in, lest punishment be swift and painful – and it is.

    Their clothing limits a host of activities that you take for granted – swimming (please don’t mention the burkeeni), climbing, running, sports and having a sense of personal identity. As adults, just look at them following their husbands – 3 paces behind, sweltering in black, sweating with their hair and faces covered as he wears shorts and a polo shirt.

    How can this be anything other than cruel and evil? its not just the clothing it’s the limits imposed by the clothing and the understanding that this is imposed on them because they are subservient and beneath men.

  • Pamela

    And I assume you are aware of how difficult it is to get a rape conviction? Yes I know that, that does not make the law unnecessary, in that case it clearly is. But to use your own example if a woman is forced to have sex that is rape, if a willing woman has sex with a willing man it is not. It is not the sex that makes it rape, but the forcing of it, just as it is not the Niqab which is the problem, but the forcing of women to wear it. Just as we are not going to ban sex because women are raped, I dont think we should ban the Naqib because some are forced to wear it. I have known and seen many muslim women in this country and I have only once or twice seen a woman wearing the full Niqab. I would not like those women to feel forced to not wear a specific item of clothing because of the pressure of British law anymore than I would want them to be forced to wear it because of other pressures.

    I still think that the only real difference between a niqab and a ninja or ghost costume in relation to this discussion is that some people are forced to wear one, whilst it’s rare that anyone’s forced to wear the other.

    It is the symbolism of the niqab that you seem to have issue with in this country. I know you have seen children suffering wearing the things, and I agree they should not be forced to wear them, or if it is not suitable clothing in their situation perhaps they should not be allowed to wear it. But I think there is a big difference between women and girls in a patriarchal society being forced to wear something and adult women in a democratic society having the choice to do something if they wish.

  • Pamela

    For reasons I think are probably clear from my post above I don’t think my seeing women mistreated in middle eastern countries would change my opinion about this specific issue in this country. Maybe it makes me more dispassionate about it, I don’t know. If it comes across as if I don’t care about those women, I really do. I just don’t think we should allow it to influence our policy making in this country in regards to this specific issue in the way that is being discussed.

  • Clio

    @Pamela. James’ and Johnny’s points about the fact that where there is choice, women don’t choose to cover themselves uncomfortably is pertinent. Most women cover themselves that way do so because not to doing would mean ostracization. I have had stones thrown at me (In Iran) despite only my head, hands and toes being visible – imagine if it was your husband, who has the legal right to beat you, banish you and remove your children who had sway.
    Burkha’s aren’t clothing, they are coverings, a very important difference.
    If they were banned in public places then women would be accorded the freedom their male elders disallow to them. If some were further restricted they probably wouldn’t have been allowed out anyway – but seeing their sisters’ freedom may alter their views
    Covering is not dress, it is not modesty it is hiding away. WE have evidence that free choice leads to no coverings (for the most part) We have British citizens denied choice. why do we allow one part of a community to make ‘their’ women lesser British citizens?
    Please watch the panorama, my second link, to see how women ‘should’ live – and then say that it’s not demeaning.
    would we would free the slave happy in captivity? yes. So how is this different?

  • Johnny B

    I think we are basically agreeing on the most important element here. We both agree that forcing women to wear clothing that severely and deliberately restricts their opportunities, activities and sense of self, and massively diminishes their quality of life, is wrong.

    I think we disagree on the “freedom of choice” element regarding women wearing them in England. This is essentially the situation as it stands – we cannot determine free will or tell who is voluntarily wearing something. This means you are arguing for the status quo. My point is that retaining the status quo is abhorrent and condones and perpetuates the discrimination.

    No answer is perfect – abolishing slavery, apartheid, US civil rights, etc. were all imperfect processes but the end results were worth the vastly flawed and often violent transitions. However the abolition of these garments, especially in countries not governed by Sharia law, seems like a step in the right direction.

  • Clio

    The women who dress in this way are part of a patriarchal society – subsumed by their elders who make the fatwas. They are not allowed to be part of our democracy, and certainly not allowed to have the rights of adults in Britain.
    Banning coverings in public places would make a statement that all our citizens are equal and that Moslem women are not a sub-class we conveniently overlook because we can’t believe anyone is treated like that.

  • Johnny B

    Just as an aside, I believe that if we remove the fear, conditioning and lack of self esteem, the incidents of women CHOOSING to wear Niqabs would be ZERO. Exactly the same figure as men who would choose to wear them. This is relevant if you are really worried about those adult women who would be denied free will in a democratic society.

  • Clio

    http://www.secularism.org.uk/burka-wearingpromptsthereturnofi.html
    Burkha leading to Victorian-level health problems, specifically rickets, adults and children alike suffer.
    How do we feel about seatbelt legislation?

  • Pamela

    @Clio “If some were further restricted they probably wouldn’t have been allowed out anyway”

    I don’t think that is a safe assumption to make at all.

    “where there is choice, women don’t choose to cover themselves uncomfortably”

    I think that is fair, though I also think if they came into fashion some women would wear them. Stillettos are ususally uncomfortable. I dont wear what is basically a big sheet because I like to look reasonably attractive.

    I still think the important issue here is that we need to empower the women, and work on the root issues. I still don’t think this would help.

  • Pamela

    The way I see it, I cannot see anyone here presenting any real evidence that banning the Niqab would help women at all. It seems some places are going ahead and banning them anyway, and I am presuming that there will be studies of some kind done to monitor the effects of such a ban. If when the evidence is in it looks like banning the Niqab in westernised societies empowers women and promotes their freedom and choice I will happily come over to your side, I will vote it in, I will march in the streets for it, BUT until then I must go by all I can go by, my own moral compass. My moral compass says that in the democratic society that I live in, where I have a responsibility to stick up for freedom, that banning things without any evidence that a ban is a good thing is wrong.

    I presume if such a study were to be done and show that it actually segregates these women more that you would change your mind?

    I realised overnight that these kinds of heated ‘debates’ are the kind that happen when people are arguing over opinion and emotion rather than evidence. I will check back on your response but that’s it for me now.

    I will watch the Panorama Clio if you reply saying it has some relavance other than just an emotional one.

  • Clio

    I would change my mind if it made it worse. the panorama programme gives a context which I think you may be unaware of, and which is why I feel so strongly.

    Below is a reply I made to you elsewhere:

    It’s an interesting debate with some important points on both sides and to me it hinges on whether we intervene to protect one side in a seriously unbalanced power relationship.
    I do a lot of child protection work, the concept of ‘vulnerable adults’ is now also important and we intervene in the same way. This might help explain where I am coming from. Also I worked with immigrant women when I did obstetrics and I think for some the terms slave and wife were interchangeable.
    This is why I don’t accept many of your points; marital rape, and genital mutilation are both, in their different ways, analogies of the same control concept taken further. I suspect I ‘d rather be raped once than be subjugated by the coverings for my whole life.
    This is what drives the emotional side of my response.

    I see banning as making a small statement that our society does not tolerate this kind of control and sexual apartheid.

  • This has been a very interesting discussion to read – I feel my position is faltering a little… I’ll watch that Panorama Clio. I’m not convinced but I’m certainly considering your position more seriously now.

  • Johnny B

    Interesting stuff and I appreciate the opinions. For me this centers around the words CHOICE and FREEDOM. I believe that in the name of freedom we must let everyone choose to do whatever they want – as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else obviously, then laws are enacted as protections.

    In this case I think there are two misunderstandings.

    The first is that anyone – absent fear, conditioning and external control – would actually choose this. I believe – with a certain amount of experience and evidence – that they absolutely would not. The incidents of women totally voluntarily subjecting themselves to a life of anonymity, exclusion, discomfort and subjugation would be ZERO. The number of men who would put up with this is also ZERO. The idea that somehow this could be a fashion statement is as reasonable as saying that genital mutilation could be akin to a nice tattoo.

    The second is that no-one is being hurt – the point at we enact laws to protect. By allowing this we are allowing women to be physically hurt – evidence the medical issues (rickets, etc) and also to be subjected to extreme and unyielding discomfort. We are also buying into, and allowing, the concept that these woman should have limited half lives – no sports, no activities, essentially a life that is secondary with the constant threat of dire punishment if they do not toe the line and accept their fate of quasi-slavery.

    Not in a free nation.

    We would intervene in a heartbeat to protect women and children being abused in a cult or sect – and no-one here would object to that intervention in the name of freedom. There is no difference here apart from numbers, this is cruel and wrong and if we don’t take a stand we are guilty by association.

  • Issiah

    I have read the posts and as a muslim women would like to say – please do not mix the culture in some countries with Islam the religion. For example, people are talking about women circumcision and associating this with Islam – there is no such practice in Islam and I challenge anyone who can prove that the Quran supports such a practice …this is a barbaric tribal practice common in the middle east and north africa.
    Now, should we ban the veil? I believe in the freedom of choice and we should not take that away from anyone. I currently have a choice of how to dress and my choice is not to wear the veil. However, if in the future I feel like I would like to wear the veil, I would like to have this choice.
    I don’t think that by banning the veil we will be giving freedom to muslim women as it is not the veil that oppresses them but it’s the preachers/ head of state / cultural practices. In countries where the cultural practices support the freedom of women, muslim women are quite happy wearing the veil by their own choice and lead a happy and free life… There are several members of my family who have opted to wear the veil and all of them are educated, have a career, equal rights with their husbands and enjoy great freedom – by no means does the veil stop them from leading a normal and free life.
    Finally, I do agree that women can be asked to remove their veil or show their identity for security reasons…

  • Chris

    A really useful contribution to the debate, Issiah.

    Unfortunately the debate is taking place both on this site and on facebook. Below an extract from my post on facebook:

    The problem with issues like this is that when there appears to be little evidence we tend to speak from personal experience. I experienced great kindness and generosity in Iran from groups of men, groups of women and mixed groups. I remember particularly the family who drew me into their picnic, at which the father introduced me proudly to his daughter, who was normally away at Uni studying engineering.

    How many English girls study engineering? Certainly when I taught (management to) engineering students, a female student was a great rarity and they normally left after a few weeks ?due to group pressures. Of the thousands of merchant navy officers I taught not one was a woman. How equal are opportunities in our society?

    To what extent do we have free will anyway, and to what extent are we shaped by our upbringing and culture? My grandmother would never have left the house without a hat on, and few of my female relatives before this generation have had significant career aspirations. No culture is perfect, whatever that is, and in my experience of living and working in moslem countries there’s a lot to be said for cultures influenced by Islam.

  • Clio

    @Issia, you are right that we should not be conflating wearing full body coverings with Islam – so although Chris may comment on the positive things done in the name of the religion it has little bearing on whether women, and young girls, would be better of if such full body and face coverings were banned in public places.

    A second spurious argument is the one about fancy dress. Such ephemera are instantly removable by choice, whether because you are too hot/can’t see or requested by a bank clerk.

    A third irrelevant argument, closely related, to the second, is that some women choose it, so it must be OK. People choose all sorts of things which would be actionable if they were forced on others. (BDSM is liberating for the sub I am told) I’m reminded of Pulp’s common people. I don’t mean that offensively, but in the song he comments that she can give up being poor when ever she chooses.
    Choice necessary entails the possibility of choosing not to.

    Finally, no-one conflated female genital mutilation with Islam, nor marital rape. They were commented on as being at different points on the spectrum of female subordination by self-appointed male hierarchies.

    And this for me is where we cannot avoid religion. Widdi, dreadful woman of the Strictly fame, left the Anglican Church because it said women could be priests; women in church agree to ‘obey’ their husband. Find me any organisation where men claim divine evidence that women are ‘different’ and that difference somehow means that they must be controlled by men and I feel uncomfortable. Women are not second class men, yet many act as if they accept that they are.

    How does this bear on the Niqab argument? The full coverings, when worn because not to would be immodest, are a sign that there is something wrong with women. Women who are forced to wear them are excluded (If you can’t see someone’s face, with the best will in the world they get left out a bit!) This different from the Jewish practice of head shaving and wig wearing in that, although the rational is just as bad, the effect on the woman donning the wig in society is minimal

    The Niquab or Burkha are outward symbols of more severe subjugation going on elsewhere. We may not be able to release all subjugated women, nor all slaves of any sex, but I think symbols are important. And so, therefore, are symbolic acts.

  • Pamela

    I dont think the fancy dress argument is erroneous presuming you are still talking particularly about the idea of banning the niqab. My point there was only to illustrate the legal difficulties of distinction. There is no point banning the Niqab in name only as people could easily just call it something else. There has to be a descriptive element to the ban which must be able to distinguish it from other things that people put on which are similar. I do not know if you misunderstood me on this point or just read more scope into it that I intended, or if I myself somehow suggested more to it than that but that was that as for the fancy dress issue.

    “People choose all sorts of things which would be actionable if they were forced on other” PRECISELY! So what is different about the Niqab?

  • Pamela

    Oh, and I understand that you think it is different. What I mean by that is what makes the Niqab worse when forced on someone than it would be to force a tattoo, piercing, hat, political affiliation or whatever on someone to the point where we ban the Niqab but not anything of the other things which can be forced on people, and that’s pretty much everything.

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