The veil is not welcome here

Increasing numbers of Muslim women in the UK are wearing the niqab

Increasing numbers of Muslim women in the UK are wearing the niqab

Last week, Birmingham Metropolitan College reversed its decision to ban the face veil following student protests led by one Sabiha Mahmood, 27. That same day, Judge Peter Murphy at Blackfriars Crown Court compromised with a 22-year-old woman accused of witness intimidation by allowing to keep her face covering except when giving evidence. This unwelcome news demonstrates how my country is being held to ransom by a clique of extremists.

The veil to which I am referring is known either as a niqab (which covers only the face) or the burqa (which covers the whole body), garments sported by some Muslim women. They are commonly worn in the Middle East, but prior to the 21st century were never seen in Britain. Though the number of women dressed in this ridiculous manner is small, the outlandishness of their attire makes them stand out like a sore thumb. I am convinced that that is exactly what they desire: a sense of separateness, aloofness, elevation above the kuffar around them.

I believe the veil has no place in Britain or, indeed, Europe. Many of those who share my belief maintain that the niqab and burqa are symbols of oppression, but I do not agree. The women who wear them do so of their own free will; indeed, I suspect they rather enjoy the controversy they have courted, for this is a contentious issue that has wider implications than simply a question of adherance to a dress code. These are the most common arguments I hear from the niqabis:

“It’s an expression of our religion”

BZZZZT! Wrong! The Qur’an instructs women to dress modestly, to “cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad)” (33:59). This does not mean they must completely cover the face. If it did, what implications would that have for those Muslim women who prefer not to conceal themselves? Are they unfaithful, impious, heretical, even? In Turkey, Tunisia and Azerbaijan, where the majority of the population is Muslim, face veils are outlawed.

“We should be free to wear what we want”

We are free to wear what we want here in Britain, but we draw the line at face coverings. Motorcyclists wear crash helmets for protection but they must remove them when entering a public building or a bank, for obvious security reasons. Why should a niqab be any different? If I am forbidden from wearing a hood in a shopping centre so that I may be identified on CCTV, why should a niqabi be given preferential treatment? It is not just an issue of security, however. There is a reason why human beings have so many facial muscles: we read the face in our communication with each other. When you remove 55% of your means of communication, you are in effect creating a psychological barrier, an impediment to social interaction. I will not even attempt to befriend a woman who wears a face veil, because tacitly she is saying that she does not want my friendship. So what if I can read laughter in the eyes? I cannot see the smile, can I? When it comes to dress codes, we enjoy many freedoms, but a face covering is a step too far. The high street is not a fancy-dress party.

“A ban would be a slippery slope”

Outlawing the veil would, according to the Muslim Council’s Talat Ahmed, “involve embarking on a slippery slope where the freedom to wear religious attire of all faiths would be at risk.” This is absolute nonsense. Very few Britons complain about the yarmulke, Buddhist robes, nun’s habits or turbans. This is a tolerant and pluralistic society where a variety of clothing is accepted, but there are limits – very reasonable limits at that. The face veil is a security risk and an impediment to social cohesion; how are we to understand and accept other faiths when we cannot even recognise those who practise them?

Peek-a-boo! This woman thinks she is better than you

Peek-a-boo! This woman thinks she is better than you

I note with interest that it is mostly women in their teens and twenties who are adopting the niqab. What do young women love doing more than anything else these days? That’s right: they love to show the world how strong and independent they are (personally, I blame the Spice Girls). For these young Muslim women, there is no better way to push the boundaries than by wearing clothing that offends many people. They maintain that they are ’empowered’ by the veil. Well, of course they are! With this visual assertion of their difference, they are attempting to elevate themselves above others, especially non-Muslims, and demonstrate their superiority. This is not about freedom of worship, at all. Judge Murphy, when he compromised with that obstreperous young woman, let down his country and made a mockery of the legal system. There must be no compromise when it comes to the law, otherwise we in effect create a privileged élite who are subject to different rules. Is that what we want in a democratic Western society?

I am prepared to befriend a man or woman whether they be a vision of beauty or ugly as sin. What is important is that I can see their faces and recognise them so that I may greet them. The niqab is a two-fingered gesture aimed at at the West, at liberalism and at the very concept of social inclusion. The authorities must not let these insolent madams win. I sincerely hope that the United Kingdom one day follows the example of her European neighbours and bans the veil from public places.


2 thoughts on “The veil is not welcome here

  1. your arguments are weak

    1) You are trying to justify your prejudice by making a presumption—which you then identify as wrong—then proceed to attack. (that they are veiling because of a “superiority complex”.)

    2) Security issue is an excuse to justify your prejudice—there are reasonable ways to identify a person whose behavior may be suspicious—to presume ALL people who cover their face are automatically suspicious is prejudicial.

    3) Being uncomfortable because someone’s traditions or customs are strange is no reason to make laws against said customs and traditions—instead practicing tolerance, compassion and mercy is better for society.

    4) Some things will fade with time —simply because human beings change and thus, so do societies—have patience and the small minority of a minority will be gone from the scene. Persecution, on the other hand, tends to increase the behavior rather than decrease it.

  2. 1. It is not a presumption and I am not prejudiced. If they wished to integrate with the rest of society, they would have no need of the veil. We enjoy religious and cultural tolerance, but the niqabis are determined to assert a sense of separeteness. That has ‘superiority complex’ written all over it.

    2. So I can turn up in court wearing a balaclava, can I? How about if I’m having a bad hair day and don’t feel like showing myself? The argument that the veil is a religious requirement holds about as much water. You’re wrong if you think security is not an issue – it is. I am not presuming a niqabi is going to commit a crime,l but in a court of law it is important to show one’s face. This rule must be applied evenly, regardless of cultural background.

    3. As I stated previously, we tolerate many customs here in Britain. I consider myself more tolerant and relativist than most. However, we must draw a line somewhere and the majority of Britons consider the face covering too alien and an impediment to social cohesion. If we are to gel as a society, there must be compromises. When I travel abroad, I make myself aware of the cultural norms and respect them. The same must apply here, whether people live here or are visiting.

    4. I hope that this is indeed a passing fad, but I am not convinced. The niqabis must learn here and now that our liberal society has certain ground rules and that they cannot wail and stamp their feet just because they are denied special privileges. The face covering is a psychological barrier and has no place here. To call a ban ‘persecution’ is an insult to all those people who have genuinely suffered on account of their culture and beliefs over the centuries.

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