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The Development of Mythical Conflict – The Niqab

September 29, 2013

We started from a ruling regarding a single defendant and whether she had to remove her face veil while giving evidence, behind a screen. What everyone seemed to ignore at the time was that the judge didn’t simply wake up one morning and decide to make a general pronouncement in a vacuum. Instead, he was asked to balance competing interests. This is critical. One side raised the point that allowing it would prejudice their case. The other side, that it was the defendant’s right. The judge heard argument from both, including relevant precedent, and came to a view.

Two days later everyone was arguing a mutated general point. Nothing to do with defendants. Every single news outlet was asking whether one would be happy to be treated by doctors wearing Niqabs. Nobody asked how many such doctors there are or, indeed, if there are any. An entire country embroiled in a potentially entirely theoretical debate.

A few weeks have passed and now the question is about the face veil worn in any institutional situations – from schools to banks. By divorcing debate from specificity, we have opened out the discussion to accommodate a portion of the population’s fixation and irrational fear of all things Islam. Theoretical solutions to perceived, but not necessarily existing, problems. Meanwhile, Royal Mail and Lloyds Bank are being sold, George Osborne is using state money to protect Bankers’ bonuses and the NHS is being increasingly picked on like a carcass.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2013 9:40 am

    Spot on. How easily we are distracted from the real issues…
    Anna :o]

  2. iamamro permalink
    September 29, 2013 1:20 pm

    Quite agree. A distraction, as so many things seem to be when addressing this subject.

  3. Ruralpatient permalink
    September 29, 2013 1:26 pm

    While there is always a risk that various media/”commentators” may try to hijack such a discussion for their own political ends, one must also consider that there may be extensions to areas of valid concern.

    One such occurred to me a few days ago – photographic ID cards. My bus pass and driving licence both include photographic representations of my face as the person to whom a certain level of security permission relates, as do a multitude of other ID cards, mostly operated by corporate bodies and with varying security implications.

    The question that occurs to me is in two forms – a) is a photo of the subject wearing a niqab (at best displaying merely a slit with two eyes visible) acceptable confirmation of identity for security purposes and b) if the ID card carries a photo of the bearers face without a niqab , must a niqab be removed (even transiently) for comparison with the photo (so that the normal function/purpose of an ID card can be completed )?

    Using one of the range of biological identifiers might avoid potentially serious reactions – finger or palm prints , iris scans or ultimately, I suppose a DNA check . However, each of these may raise its own complications – prints could be forged, scanning equipment maybe costly or awkward to operate, or obtaining samples and their processing are likely to be time consuming and expensive until technology catches up.

    I do, never-the-less, see some validity in the maxim “When in Rome….”

    • September 29, 2013 5:01 pm

      As I understand it “identity sensitive” situations are settled already and Muslim women will uncover their face to be identified. The more interesting question, for me, is why would someone whose life is not impacted by this in any way be sitting there wondering about theoretical scenarios in which this is an issue… I don’t sit there and worry about people wearing scarves or big sunglasses. Do you?

  4. September 29, 2013 4:53 pm

    If they ban face covering, will they be obliged to ban people wearing low brimmed hats and scarves over their mouths in the winter, or hoodies, or ladies who go to church in hats complete with veils, or indeed brides.

    I see the idiot Cameron has latched on to it as a means of buying some bigot votes.

  5. September 29, 2013 7:07 pm

    It appauls me how easily taken in otherwise sensible people are by these diversions and distractions.If I point out the smokescreen to OSP, they regard me with pity, so it makes me a looney.
    I dread the good news feature on the evening news because I know my husband will start shouting at the telly and ask what slimy action is being ushered in by the back door.
    I personally struggle with covered faces, be it covered by hands or anything else- I am deaf, but I hope I respect the rights of people and their choices

  6. September 30, 2013 2:21 pm

    Niqabs will always be a difficult area to debate because however great the risk is that the issue will be hijacked by people with a dubious agenda, the fact remains that many people (including, dare I say, myself) view them to some extent as a symbol of oppression (at least in certain countries) and find them challenging in the sense that wearers apparently have to be ‘protected’ from my gaze and that of other men. Personally, I feel the rationale for wearing them could be equally applied to men, but of course men would never tolerate the inconvenience.

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