Entering the room
With just a hint of perfume.
And the rest?
She is familiar with the headscarf.
And the rest
Is a hint of scent
Entering the room
With just a hint of perfume.
And the rest?
She is familiar with the headscarf.
And the rest
Is a hint of scent
Yesterday evening, I got into a vigorous debate with an acquaintance regarding the wearing of the full Islamic face veil and the Burka. The discussion reminded me of this post, https://newauthoronline.com/2018/06/03/leave-women-free-to-dress-as-they-please/, in which I defend the right of women to wear the clothing of their choosing.
My acquaintance argued that while many Muslim women may not be “forced” to don the full face veil or the Burka, that they are “indoctrinated” into wearing these garments. Consequently, he maintained that the solution was to prohibit the wearing of either the full face veil or the Burka in public in the United Kingdom.
The argument of my acquaintance reminded me of that notion so beloved of Marxists (namely “false consciousness”, where a person genuinely believes that a thing which is, obviously against their best interests is, in point of fact very much to their advantage). Marxists use such arguments to denounce the “false consciousness” of workers who vote for non-Marxist parties and who (to varying degrees) support the free market economy. The Marxist notion of “false consciousness” denies individual agency. In effect (according to the Marxist) large sections of the “proletariat” are blind to their own interests and must be brought to a full understanding of the “class struggle” by the enlightened Communist/Marxist party.
Likewise my acquaintance believes that those Muslim women who wear either the full Islamic veil or the Burka are suffering from “false consciousness” (although he uses the word “indoctrination”) and must be compelled, by law to live as free non-wearers of either garb. If they refuse to do so then they should be fined or imprisoned.
My acquaintance contends that from early girlhood those who use the full face veil or the Burka have been “indoctrinated” by their families/the Muslim community to believe that by so doing they are complying with the teachings of the Prophet/Islam, and that to do otherwise than don these coverings would be unislamic.
It is certainly true that upbringing exerts a powerful influence on individuals. For example people who live in households where their parents vote for a particular political party are, on average more likely to support that party at the ballot box when they reach voting age. However many people disagree with the politics of their parents and espouse different opinions/vote differently on reaching the age of majority. Again, through education people are exposed to divergent political views to those espoused by their families. The UK is a free society where information is freely available (no one is exposed to only one point of view).
As with the above example, so also with the matter of Muslim dress. Young women may be strongly encouraged to wear the full face veil or the Burka. They will, however be exposed to girls, the overwhelming majority of whom, will not wear such garments and through such exposure decide that the Burka or the full face veil (or, indeed any kind of veil) is not right for them. To deny that this happens is to deny that we, as humans possess individual autonomy which (quite patently) we do.
Individual autonomy cuts both ways. I know of a number of Muslim women who have (against the wishes of their parents) chosen to adopt the full face veil. Just who is “indoctrinating” these ladies? The answer provided by my acquaintance is that young, impressionable girls read material online which encourages them to adopt a view of Islam in which the full face veil or the Burka is seen as being obligatory. This can (and does) happen. This is not (in my view) sufficient reason for going down the road of France, Denmark and some other European countries and banning the full face veil or Burka. The answer lies in educating both girls (and boys) from a young age in the importance of self-respect and the rights of the individual. If after having gained an understanding of such matters a young woman freely chooses to don the Burka or the full face veil that is a matter for her and her alone.
My acquaintance falls into the trap of many liberals in believing that because he can not (as a reasonable person) understand why an individual would adopt a particular course of action/dress in a particular manner, anyone who goes against his conception of “the good” must, of necessity be “indoctrinated” suffering from “false consciousness” (the latter term was not used by my acquaintence but, nonetheless I feel that “indoctrination” does, in this instance equate to the Marxist notion of “false consciousness”).
To maintain that all (or the majority) of Muslim women (in the UK) who wear either the full face veil or the Burka, are “indoctrinated” strikes me as the height of arrogance. How can one possibly look into the mind of another and judge their motivation in such matters? The answer is that one can not. We should (as liberals in the true sense of the word) take at face value statements by women who say “we freely choose to dress in such and such a manner” unless there exists evidence that they are being forced so to do.
Apart from the compelling arguments in favour of individual freedom there is the little matter of police resources. Is it really a productive use of police manpower to go around arresting women who choose to wear the full face veil or Burka? I for one would rather the police concentrated on preventing crime against person and property than in persecuting people who dress in a manner not approved of by the state/society.
Ultimately if one defends the right of a lady to wear a revealing dress (which I most emphatically do) then one must, in all logic defend with equal vigour the right of ladies to cover their faces and other parts of their bodies (unless they are security reasons or another good cause for them to show their face, for example at an airport security desk).
Her head scarf expresses
That there will
Be no short dresses.
She is a young woman still
And a woman may regret.
Modesty is all
But the West’s call
That there are other ways
And you may find
That what happens behind
Closed doors, there stays
The Danish parliament has voted to ban the wearing in public of the Niqab and Burqa (the Islamic veil which covers a Muslim woman’s face), while the wearing of a head scarf remains legal. Denmark joins a growing list of European countries, including France and Belgium to have introduced such a ban. The Danish Director of Amnesty International is quoted in The Independent as follows:
“All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs,” she said. “This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa.
“Whilst some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion …”. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/denmark-burqa-ban-europe-muslim-women-face-veil-niqab-islam-a8377586.html.
As a believer in individual liberty, I share the concerns voiced by Amnesty International. Imagine the furore which would be generated where it to be suggested that the wearing of short dresses and skirts be prohibited. Defenders of individual liberty would (quite rightly) be up in arms at this proposed affront to personal freedom. Yet it is considered acceptable by many who would term themselves “liberals” to ban the wearing of the full face Islamic veil. I have, personally been in the company of people who proclaim themselves to be “liberal” (with a small l) who do, nonetheless support such a ban on the (to me) illogical grounds that the wearing of a covering which hides the face is incompatible with a liberal, western society. John Stuart Mill would be turning in his grave at the misconstrual of liberal values by those who term themselves “liberals”, yet support the banning of the Islamic face covering.
There are, of course circumstances in which it is legitimate to insist that the veil be removed, for example in a court of law or in other circumstances where genuine security concerns/the need to verify a person’s identity exist. This is, however not a reason to criminalise law abiding individuals for choosing to cover their faces.
Leaving aside the issue of personal liberty for a moment, the matter of police resources raises it’s head. Surely the police have better things to do than arrest women who freely choose to wear the Islamic veil? The little matter of catching muggers, fraudsters and rapists springs to mind! Yet resources are being wasted in persecuting individuals who choose to cover their faces. The world is going mad and I thank heavens that there is (currently) no proposal here in the UK to ban the Burqa or the Niqab. Liberals (in all the main parties) are, thankfully, on the whole opposed to such legislation.
A colleague chooses to wear the head scarf (which will not be banned) while other Muslims of my acquaintance choose to cover neither their faces nor their heads. Both Muslims who choose to cover (and those who do not) have a right to make that choice, likewise the lady who chooses to wear a revealing dress and stillettos has an equal right to dress as she pleases. I really don’t understand this desire to interfere with the liberty of the individual (unless their actions directly threaten the wellbeing of others) which (in the case of the Islamic veil) they do not).
The Guardian reports that a militant group has published a “hitlist” of activists and bloggers. The extremist organisation has said that the named individuals (some of whom are UK citizens) should be killed due to their criticism of Islam. We should all as bloggers and believers in freedom condemn outright this barbarous threat. A number of individuals have already died simply for daring to express views which these fanatics regard as heretical.
It is easy to believe that such threats have little relevance to us as authors of fiction. However practically everything written can, if read (or mis-read) by a deranged person cause offence and lead the reader to engage in violence against the writer. Unless one confines oneself purely to writing technical manuals there exists a possibility that your words will, sooner or later cause offense. We should all be concerned and stand together with our fellow bloggers who are threatened by those who have a warped conception of Islam. (I say warped as most Muslims have no truck with fanatics).
The Independent and The Guardian are, I understand the only 2 leading UK newspapers who have published the cover of the latest Charlie Hebdo. In the interests of freedom of expression the article in The Independent is linked to here (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/charlies-back–and-controversial-as-ever–as-its-staff-take-aim-at-powerful-new-friends-9974065.html).
The Telegraph reports on the ongoing investigations in to whether Islamic radicals attempted to islamify Birmingham schools. The Office For Standards In Education (OFSTED) is investigating claims that teachers who voiced opposition to the alleged plans where passed over for promotion in favour of more compliant colleagues. Other allegations include pupils being suspended for holding hands and girls being treated as second class citizens with some teachers favouring boys over them. If true this is deeply worrying.
We sit eating Chinese food. You young, beautiful and vivacious full of a zest for life, me interested in your story, fighting to remain detached.
Your American accent intrigues me. Educated in an American school in Pakistan you exude the sophistication of a modern western girl. Your head is uncovered your manner warm and free. “I love the west, I am free here not like in Pakistan. I will wear a head scarf later in life”. Will you I wonder and if so will it be of your own choice or due to family or societal pressure.
You love your freedom but are constrained by fear, “I got drunk five times, I won’t do it again as it disrespects my parents”. There are many good reasons for not getting drunk, I think but not offending one’s parents comes low down the list.
If you return to Pakistan you will, almost certainly marry according to your parent’s wishes. I hope your vivacity will not be crushed under the weight of a boorish husband. It is your affair, I should stay aloof but the stifling of the individual in the name of culture or religion revolts me.
Once I have finished my present project (my book Samantha which tells the story of a young girl forced into prostitution by her brutal pimp, Barry in the city of Liverpool) I’m considering writing about the experiences of a young muslim girl/lady growing up in the UK. I want to explore the conflicting pulls of the west and Islamic worlds. This will entail a great deal of research in terms of reading both online and traditional paper books. It will be a long term project and I’d welcome any help which anyone can offer. In particular I would be interested to hear from muslim ladies (either practicing or non practicing) who have been brought up in the west. Please do get in touch either by leaving a comment on this blog or, alternatively by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Asian girl, like some beautiful caged bird, enmeshed in your mother’s world. Your voice never heard, beautiful Asian girl. Caught between two worlds, beautiful Asian girl. No veil covers your long black hair, beautiful Asian girl. Part of the west but constrained by a faith from another land, entangled in a religion which you only dimly understand. Are you happy in this world oh beautiful Asian girl?