The Development of Mythical Conflict – The Niqab
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.