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Thursday, 28 May 2009

Losing face

How far should we tolerate women who hide their faces and say it’s their religious duty?

Matthew Parris writes in The Times today under the headline, “Please uncover your face. It’s our custom”. That says it all, really.

He talks of how he would not knowingly offend someone. He took off his shoes when visiting Middle Eastern mosques. Fair enough. There’s a Chinese custom of spitting in public, but we in the UK (most of the West, I suspect) consider that unacceptable behaviour (although you see yobs doing it often).

He says further that he wouldn’t knock back booze in the streets of a Muslim country or walk about skimpily dressed.

So why is it that he sees “more women with their faces covered in Tower Hamlets than I did in Damascus”?

He goes on:

Would it be wrong to try to convey to communities in Britain who adopt the full hijab that, though it is a woman’s legal right to dress as she chooses, she should recognise that she’s in a country where many people will find a masked face disturbing, and that (without meaning to) she is acting in a culturally inappropriate manner, which may offend? Do the masked women I see in the street in Whitechapel actually know this? I cannot say, because I’ve never spoken to them; or, rather, when I do, they look away and walk away.

This too, in Britain, is rude. Do they know? Shouldn’t they?

In a word, “Yes”. Of course they should know. And, yes, the thought of having to try to communicate with someone whose face is hidden behind cloth is rather disturbing, and I for one, if wanting to ask directions, say, would shun that woman in favour of the one whose face is not covered.

But, then, that’s the point, I guess. The former woman would not wish to have any conversation with me (or would feel religiously or culturally prevented from doing so).

The point is, however, that, in our culture, we should not be made to walk streets where a large percentage, in some areas, have their faces hidden. If I wore a mask I might be stopped by the next cop who happened along.

We even get Muslims demanding the “right” to hide their faces in court – and misguided civil-libertarians supporting that demand.

1 comment:

Baal's Bum said...

It seems totally ridiculous to me on many levels.
It stems from a single line in the koran that say's something like "a woman should conceal her beauty" , this from a time and place where woman were near naked most of the time. I don't think it originally meant the extremes of covering now adopted.
Oddly, at a time where the muslim population is considered a potential terrorist, under Britain's surveillance society they are the only people allowed to go about their daily business anonymously.
Not to mention it's just plain fucking bizarre to see these herds of Daleks wandering around our city streets.
On a more cynical note I also realize as well as beauty they can also hide bruises.
As an Englishman it goes against the grain to say this....We should adopt France's policy on religious symbolism and outlaw face covering.