Veils And Ills

Posted: 06.10.06 in Blogging

Jack Straw has come under attack over the last couple of days for his views on veils worn by some Muslim women. He would rather they were removed while they attended his surgery, and he has since remarked he would rather they were not worn at all. It raises an interesting argument.

Some Muslim groups have condemned the threat of being forbidden to wear veils as an infringement of human rights. Is it?

My first point is that in the UK, it is not illegal for an employer or educational establishment to enforce a “maximum length” for hair. If this is not adhered to, the employer or school can force the employee or student to have it cut, or face suspension.

My second point is that the UK would not be the only country to make rulings on what is acceptable clothing. For example, in Saudi Arabia, all women, including visitors, are expected to wear local dress, including a veil, often a burqa. I would expect that few challenge this law, and citing human rights as a reason not to adhere to this law would have little effect.

So should we consider the right to dress as we wish a human right? We already consider wearing too little undesired, so should we consider those wearing too much undesired?

With regard to covering faces, there are other considerations. Facial expression is an important part of communication. We can draw much from a facial expression when assessing the subject’s mood, for example. Indeed, when it is not clear the point that the subject is making, this is especially important. This is particularly true for those with hearing problems, as lip-reading for some is a vital part of understanding the message from the subject.

Despite all this, I can’t say I’m against women covering their faces, but it makes it difficult for me to communicate with people wearing a veil. I lip-read to supplement my understanding, and seeing a smile reassures me that my subject understands and is happy with what I have said. So I fully understand why Jack Straw requests that any veil is removed.

Certainly I, but I believe also Jack Straw, would only want veils removed to prevent any lack of understanding and to help with communication, not to infringe upon a person’s human rights.

  1. helen says:

    when in Roman, comes to mind

  2. helen says:

    I meant Rome not in a roman

  3. Diane says:

    Being partially deaf like yourself, I like to consentrate on people’s lips when they are speaking. I sometimes find it difficult to understand people if they turn their head away from me when they are speaking, or putting a hand up to their mouth, so a veil would be a complete barrier.

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