...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Day 2103: Veiled Insults


Mr Jack Man O' Straw started the day off by politely asking that lady Muslims please remove their veils when they are in his constituency surgery so that he can better communicate with them.

This being politics, the story has of course spiralled out of control, but if we just stick to that polite request then I think I can say that Mr Jack OUGHT to be able to say that. After all, the Muslim lady can always say "No thank you" can't she.

We live in a society where it is IMPORTANT that we are able to discuss ideas with each other.

For people who are used to a culture where discussion is often very VISUAL (we have "face-to-face" meetings where we "see" each other's points, we read each other's "body language" and sometime try to "mask" our feelings) it should not be TABOO to say that to other people, even if those people come from a different cultural background where covering of the face has different meaning.

Some people can see a face covering as a DISGUISE or a CONCEALMENT and others can see it as MODESTY. Neither side is necessarily right so we shouldn’t say that they cannot express those feelings to the other side.

I think that it is actually a GOOD THING that Mr Jack has said this – you will not hear THAT very often! – so long as it helps to break a little ICE. When people feel that they cannot talk about something – something like a veil maybe making them a little uncomfortable – then they will bottle that feeling up and maybe start to feel RESENTFUL. Maybe they will start to feel that they are being FORCED to accept something that seems alien to them.

Fear is a path to the DARK SIDE. Yoda says so, so it must be true.

(Mind you, for a wise old gooseberry guru he should maybe have spotted what was going on with young Master Anakin with all the "I keep dreaming that my girlfriend is going to die, should I learn about the Sith in order to save her, Master?" questions… but that's not important right now.)

A Muslim lady from Radio Ramadan was on the Today Programme this morning and she said that if she were to ask another lady in the street to put MORE clothes on then that would be WRONG; so Mr Jack is just as WRONG to ask that Muslim ladies take off their veils.

I do not think that this is quite right, though.

If a lady of either gender went into Mr Jack's surgery with no top on at all then Mr Jack would certainly ask her or him to please put on a CARDIGAN or other apparel, because otherwise it might be INAPPROPRIATE or at the very least DISTRACTING for him trying to take down their details.

Asking not to be able to see someone's top is as much to do with our culture as asking to be able to see someone's face. (It is funny how cultures say we must see some bits and not see other bits.) It is just that we do not get complaints from people whose culture involves NOT wearing things on their tops.

And at least people do not get arrested for wearing veils, headscarves or full length tents. My Daddy has told me about a man who is OFTEN getting arrested for not wearing ENOUGH clothes.

(This worries me as I usually only wear my special badges and Lord Blairimort already has enough ways to arrest me! Sometime I put my HOODIE on, though, so that must be all right, mustn't it.)

Mr Jack has gone on to say that he feels that the veil is a sign of SEPARATION. This is a step too far for me.

Wearing a veil is a sign of being DIFFERENT, but so is wearing a pink tutu and platforms or a spiky Mohican haircut or nothing at all. If it is what people CHOOSE to wear then we have no business putting them off wearing it. Because Liberals stand for freedom from CONFORMITY and that means freedom from conforming to what WE think it is right to wear as well.

(CHOICE is of course the important thing: it should be the lady's choice always whether to wear traditional or outrageous. And to be fair to Mr Jack he was at some pains to suggest that he was only making a request and not a command.)

It would just be better to be more RELAXED about the whole discussion. We should try to think well of people. British lady Muslims who are wearing a veil are probably wearing a veil because they WANT to wear a veil and not because the husband is an inaccurate STEREOTYPE who is on Osama's birthday card list; and Mr Jack is politely asking to see their faces when he communicates with them because he probably wants to communicate with them and not because he is sending a coded message to the British Nasty Party.

Anyway, my big fluffy nose is too big and too fluffy to wear a veil.

So it is a good thing no one here is too shy to show their face, isn’t it!

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