The flames of controversy over religious and individual rights continue to burn, the darkened embers of our Ummah providing the fuel for those whishing to stoke the fire.
The latest furor comes from England where certain politicians have taken a stand against the Muslimah’s right to wear niqab. Recent comments by Jack Straw, the MP for Blacburn, caused controversy and conflict when he called on Muslim women to stop wearing veils. Furthermore he said the coverings made “better, positive relations” between communities “more difficult”. He said the practice of concealing features was “a visible statement of separation and of difference”.
A statement of this nature is misinformed, illogical and selectively discriminatory based on ones religious beliefs. Considering that 30% of his constituency is Muslim, one would think Mr. Straw would be more responsible; Straw should realize that his job is to represent the interests of the constituency not to alienate one third of it.
But Jack Straw is not alone, indeed more British politicians feel the need to defend Mr. Straw and his decision to ask women to remove their niqab when the come to him as part of his constituency. Another MP, Harriet Harman recently said “Wearing a full face veil harms women's participation in society and effectively bars them from becoming an MP” and thus women should not wear the niqab. Trevor Phillips, who heads the Commission for Racial Equality was also asked about whether full-face veils should be allowed in the classroom, and went so far as to say "If I were the head teacher in that school, I would probably say that veils should not be worn in the classroom."
I do not know what I should feel more, anger at the arrogance of these people or sadness at the ignorance and misunderstanding that they possess. They defend and justify their positions base on the idea “If you can’t read their face that does provide some separation.” However this statement has no credibility under any scrutiny. Jewish men wear the yamikahs, Catholic nuns where a habbitt, Ethiopian and Indian woman wear forms of head coverings, Hindu men where turbans, all of which are meant to offer a form of separation based on ones own cultural or religious beliefs. Each individual uses their clothing or looks as a means to identify their beliefs it is our ability to see this and understand which allows us to deal appropriately with each person base on our understanding of their customs.
The inability to adapt combined with ineffective communication will set cultural reform back decades if it is not corrected. Let them stop talking about the intolerance of others and take a closer look at their own intolerances. A society which decry’s women for dressing modestly, celebrates women for dressing scantily, and judges people base on their looks rather then their actions is one small step away from the oppression and persecution indicative of the medieval dark ages.