Recently,there has been a lot on television and in the newspapers about the wearing of the 'niqab' or Muslim veil. This is the type of veil that covers most of the face -- sometimes the eyes and the forehead are not covered, though most of the women I have seen wearing the niqab show only their eyes.
Some countries, including France, have banned the wearing of this veil in public places. This has lead to certain groups of making threats of violence against those countries. In Britain I have been surprised at the number of people -- at least those shown on television -- both members of the debate forums and those in the audience -- who believe that if women want to wear the veil they should be allowed to wear it. The people I am talking about are what some would call 'real British people' meaning 'white' and Anglo-Saxon.
Personally, my instinct when I see women attired in black Muslim dress and completely covered from head to toe is to recoil. But then I am pretty much a feminist and for me it goes against too much of what I believe women have had to fight against, have had to endure to gain their rightful place -- at least in western culture. And I wonder why those who would wear such a garment would choose to live in our world. Of course, many times the answer is that these are British women, born and bred who have fallen in love with a Muslim man and converted to his faith and so chosen this path. And so they are participating in their democratic right as a British citizen. The point being that it isn't always foreigners who make this choice. I do not have a problem with head scarves, or with the burqa -- if women choose that form of attire, far be it for me to object to that.
The authorities are now in a quandary about how to handle the questions that arise from this 'right'. A woman has been told that when she testifies before a jury she must uncover her face so that the jurors can see her when she testifies. Another woman was told that she could not teach her children with a veil covering her face -- she lost her job.
One woman wrote about wearing the full Muslim dress, that is the burqa and the full veil, to work and abandoned the idea because co-workers avoided her. This, is the crux of the matter for me. For me it represents a wish to 'separate' oneself from our culture -- more than anything else we judge others by how we see their faces. For all you know, as I am sitting here, I could be wearing a burqa and veil but because my 'veil' is the Internet, it is perfectly acceptable -- but 'face-to-face', in our culture, we want to see for ourselves -- the voice is not enough.
The judge decided that the jury had a right to see a woman's face because it was necessary in order to make a fair judgement. But it has occurred to me that if this woman had worn a veil all her life would taking it off place her at a disadvantage because she did not have the experience of being so exposed to people. But then if you live in a foreign culture, sometimes you just have to go with the flow...
There could also be arguments that this form of dress holds security risks -- how do you really know it's a woman hidden beneath that garb and not some wicked man!