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The Veil Debate

(269 Posts)
boschy Fri 20-Sep-13 21:56:55

Forgive me if this has been done elsewhere, but I havent seen it.

So, there is this big debate at the moment about where/when/if women should wear the veil. Leaving aside the relious obligation, which doesn't seem entirely clear to me, I think there are other criteria involved.

For me, it seems that if wearing a full or partial veil obscures the wearer's face, there are certain situtations where it should not be allowed - for example, if you are in court on trial or as a witness; or as a teacher; or giving care (nursing/care homes etc) where those receiving the care would expect full face contact in order to fully understand facial expression, lip movement etc.

If, as an adult woman, you choose to wear the veil for most of your normal day to day interactions - then that's your choice. But in the situations I outline above, I don't think it's appropriate. Am I wrong?

Fozziebearmum2be Sat 21-Sep-13 07:20:47

I agree there are certain situations which I would prefer as a client/patient etc to see someone's full face. Facial movements account for much of our communication, plus if discussing something intimate (ie with dr or lawyer) I would be more comfortable seeing their face.

But, I do think the veil debate seems to be unnecessarily prevalent.. It impacts a minority of a minority in this country and whilst should be tackled, I do think it gets more airtime than needed - Daily mail driven maybe.....!

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 21-Sep-13 08:02:30

This boils down to masks. Masks are generally considered a sinister thing in British culture and, leaving aside the odd Halloween event, they're mostly worn by robbers and others wanting to hide their identity. If someone wants to go around wearing a mask they're free to do so but they should not be surprised if they are avoided or regarded with suspicion and mistrust. Where confirmation of identity is required, of course masks (dark glasses, full-face helmets, etc) should be off.

It's only unnecessarily prevalent at the moment because of a particular court case that forced a judge to get off the national fence.

Wannabestepfordwife Sat 21-Sep-13 09:47:22

I completely agree with you that doctors shouldn't wear the veil and I saw an article a couple of days ago where Jeremy Hunt has said he is against the veil been worn by doctors and 11 nhs trusts have restrictions in place.

I know this may sound ignorant but I've always wondered if your vision is impaired by wearing the veil and if so it's a bit of a health and safety risk

boschy Sun 22-Sep-13 22:44:08

cogito I absolutely hate and am petrified of masks! perhaps that's why I am anti-veil... hadnt thought of that before

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 23-Sep-13 06:45:31

I recently heard the argument .. 'it's only like nuns wearing veils'. Nuns don't wear masks they wear something that covers their hair only. My old granny used to wear a headscarf tied under the chin. Masks are sinister.

WidowWadman Mon 23-Sep-13 06:52:41

It's a whole lot of noise about a very small group of people affected by it.

This is a very interesting take on it

Fozziebearmum2be Mon 23-Sep-13 10:57:12

That's a really interesting article and I do agree with most of it.

We are a tolerant & inclusive society and I have no issue with new cultures expressing their beliefs, and pleased to live somewhere which allows and embraces these differences.

I think the veil has such bad press partly due to 9/11 and 7/7 and how the veil has been linked to the 'evil face of Islam' shock which is of course nonsense and also partly due to the 'sinister' mask issue raised by pp.

I do think we need to have some exceptions to people being asked to remove the veil-security reasons / hospitals (as previously discussed).

I do think we are a society though who prefers to meet someone 'face to face' so integration will be more challenging.

boschy Mon 23-Sep-13 12:08:02

Just read that, and yes it was very interesting and I kind of agreed with most of it too.

I disgreed with the blind teacher/pupil analogy, because it was too simplistic - blind teachers and students use different methods than sighted ones in many respects, tailored to individual needs. No one would leave a blind student in the middle of a class of sighted ones without providing the tools they need to access the education. Equally blind teachers (I had one) will use different teaching methods.

I also think it is very hard to expect people who are used to seeing each other's faces to automatically and easily interact with those whose faces are covered.

so if the desired result is better integration, the veil wearers need to understand why non-wearers see it as a barrier, and perhaps find a way to reach across?

Rachel778 Tue 24-Sep-13 09:07:18

A student at Bromley College in Kent wears a flat leather cap which she says is how she sees her identity . . She is in a row with the college now due to the fact that they ask her to remove it ,, she said when muslim students remove their veils she will remove her cap .. They are threatening with throwing her off the course ..

Theas18 Tue 24-Sep-13 09:21:54

RE doctors wearing the veil- are there actually any that do?

IMHO and (possibly limited understanding of Islam) the side of muslim culture that feels veils are the thing their religion requires would also be incompatible with women working at a high level, interacting one to one with men (if in an all female environment they wouldn't wear the veil) etc

I see it as a "problem" if it oppresses women etc which I'm sure it does.

The " practical considerations" are very secondary. My GP advises me by telephone - I can't see him/her. I can read emotions of people of the radio so why should I suddenly be unable to work out how a veiled lady is feeling face to face?

Theas18 Tue 24-Sep-13 09:23:03

Actually for a veiled lady the language/translator issue will be a huge barrier to communication rather than the veil itself

edam Tue 24-Sep-13 10:15:28

Veil-wearers may be a tiny minority at the moment but left unchallenged, numbers will grow. The burka used to be an extraordinarily rare site in the UK, limited to Arab tourists in Knightsbridge, but has become more common.

I do take some of the points in that article - I get splinters in my bum from attempted fence-sitting when confronting the 'no-one should tell women what to wear' point (although the poor old naked rambler keeps getting arrested so clearly people aren't always free to choose what they do and don't wear).

BUT I object hugely to the attempt to co-opt blind people into some kind of defence of sighted people wearing the veil. Being blind is quite different. It's not a choice, for one thing. If veil-defenders want to rely on disability to prove their point, they should have the courtesy to ask blind people for their opinions.

GoshAnneGorilla Tue 24-Sep-13 12:20:29

Actually edam, there is some evidence that numbers wearing the niqab have actually fallen, due to the horrendous amounts of verbal/physical abuse and threatening behaviour they receive - but the media doesn't seem have nearly as much to say about this. Tell Mama is a good resource for further information:

I'd also like to say that I'm an NHS worker in the West Midlands and have to visit many different hospitals for work. Numbers of staff seen wearing niqab: 0 It is a manufactured controversy and a distraction from more important matters.

GoshAnneGorilla Tue 24-Sep-13 12:20:45

Working link

specialsubject Tue 24-Sep-13 12:31:27

AFAIK there is no other tradition that insists on coverage of full face except eyes. The other groups mentioned (Jews, Christians etc) do have specific ways of dressing but none wear a mask.

this is why Islam feels singled out, because there is no analogy - no other religion does it.

It is such a tiny minority doing it. Let them do it, but they need to recognise that it will mean they cannot do certain jobs. Same as orthodox Jews can't do a Saturday job and strict Christians can't do Sunday shifts.

I do find the concept 'cover yourself because men will think unworthy thoughts' grossly insulting to both genders, but if people want to live like that, let them. But they MUST recognise that it will restrict their lives in more ways than being unable to see properly and never getting any sunlight.

I also have to say I think driving while wearing a full veil should be outlawed too.

GoshAnneGorilla Tue 24-Sep-13 14:14:55

Specialsubject - There is no evidence that niqab wearing women are wanting to do public-facing work. We know this because it would appear that a niqab wearing women can barely fart in public without it being on the front page of the Sun.

Also back to your other point about Muslims being "singled out", why exactly is the media focusing on such a small number of women? Haven't they got better things to worry about, that greatly affect many people in society?

Special - finally it would generally seem that women interviewed as to why they wear niqab, view it as an additional religious practice and form of religious asceticism that they find personally beneficial, rather then because of men.

AdventureTed Tue 24-Sep-13 22:16:40

Gosh - what about the teaching assistant who refused to remove her niqab during lessons? Teaching is public-facing work.

GoshAnneGorilla Tue 24-Sep-13 23:00:23

1 woman 7 years ago. See here:

That's not really a huge problem worthy of a nationwide debate, is it?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 25-Sep-13 07:33:06

It may not be a huge problem in terms of numbers but 'quantity' is not the basis for how laws are created in our society. We have certain norms of acceptable behaviour and we legislate (or create local rules) for the unacceptable exceptions. We're a tolerant society that accepts all kinds of idiosyncrasies but when those idiosyncrasies are a) relatively new and b) challenge established rules such as identification in court, we absolutely should have a debate.

GoshAnneGorilla Wed 25-Sep-13 10:45:23

Cogito - I just see no need for that case to be national news though. Something unusual happened, there was a discussion and a decision was made which was mutually agreeable to all. That will probably now set a precedent, so the next time happens, procedures will be very clear.

Nothing in that process required The Sun and rent a gob politicians to weigh in. I'd also note that when this issue was raised on MN, all the Muslim commenters agreed she should have to show her face in court. Likewise this decision was backed by the Muslim Council of Britain.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 25-Sep-13 11:02:02

It's been a very quiet month for news.

AdventureTed Wed 25-Sep-13 11:17:34

Gosh - In 2011 the MCB said that not covering the face is a "shortcoming" and suggested that any muslims who advocate being uncovered could be guilty of rejecting Islam.

In a statement published on its website the MCB warned "We advise all muslims to exercise extreme caution on this issue, since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief.

Not practising something enjoined by Allah and his Messenger... is a shortcoming. Denying it is much more serious."

(Taken from "Muslim Council: women cannot debate wearing veil" by Andrew Gilligan, The Telegraph, 16 April 2011.)

justanuthermanicmumsday Wed 25-Sep-13 11:26:41

I think this debate about the veil in certain jobs has been created by the right wing media on the back of the niqabi lady in court. I mean they were discussing this on the radio recently regarding nurses and docs who wear the veil in hospitals and guidelines should they wish to wear it. Yet the consultant said he'd never come across such women in those jobs . I'm 33 I've never met a veiled woman working in a hospital either or anywhere. Hijab I.e headscarf with long black garment called an abaya or jilbab yes. Headscarf with western clothes yes but face veil no.

Women who use a face veil will usually avoid those jobs or work from home, or work in Muslim institutions where they can work more freely without obstacles to their dress. So I don't think it's an issue. But if it becomes an issue I'm sure each hospital will make their own decisions. It's interesting hospitals already have plans for those who wear dress for religious reasons including the veil. Some nhs authorities allow it and some don't. so I don't know why the media are jumping on it when contingencies already exist.

I've only saw a veiled woman working as a job centre advisor other than that all the ones I know are teachers in religious institutions or private teachers, that way they don't have to compromise their religious values.

I don't think it's an issue but the government can discuss it, employers can have guidelines but does it need to be public? no. with all the hatred against Muslims since 9/11 this is just adding fuel to the fire. I see it as a hate campaign by the right wing media. I am saying this as a Muslim woman who wears the veil so my thoughts should be important on this debate. Often we are discussed as if we don't exist. I think very few of us speak out in the media because our words are twisted or we are talked over .

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 25-Sep-13 11:49:23

"Often we are discussed as if we don't exist"

If that's the case, surely it's because you have opted to disengage from society behind a mask and deliberately render yourself invisible?

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