Friday, October 06, 2006

Straw takes on the Niqab

Jack Straw, the former UK Foreign Secretary, wrote a letter to the editor of his local newspaper suggesting that muslim women refrain from wearing facial veils (or the niqab). The headscarf is the hijab. Islam For Today has more information on Muslim dress codes and their Quranic inspiration.

While America has been mesmerized by the Foley foolishness, the UK has been debating religious tolerance and how best to integrate minority cultures.

Echoing his contentious comments of yesterday, Mr Straw said he had seen more women wearing the veil in the street and he had "picked up quite considerable concerns about this being a rather visible demonstration of separateness".

He warned against the "development of parallel communities", adding: "Unless we bring some of these issues out which lead to parallel development, we will all be worse off."

Mr Straw said that the increasing trend towards covering facial features was "bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult. You cannot force people where they live, that’s a matter of choice and economics, but you can be concerned about the implications of separateness and I am."|Times Online|


The BBC has a short piece comparing the law of the different European countries on hijabs and niqabs.

France bans hijabs and niqabs as does Turkey. I ran across a site called Protect Hijab that has a lot of information about the hijab debate, although the site definitely is pro-hijab.

The book Private Lies, Public Truths has an interesting discussion of how in Turkey, if hijabs were optional, then social pressure would force women who don't want to wear a hijab into wearing it because of the social consequences of appearing less than devout are stark.

An example in this country of preference falsification would be how Arlen Specter warned that the Torture Compromise bill would set back the law of human rights 900 years by essentially repealing habeus corpus, and then voted for the law, because he didn't want to appear soft on terrorism or go against the President.

But I digress...I think the niqab issue is an interesting example of an issue that is divise among muslims and between muslims and wider western society.

I'm not sure what the role of society should be in encouraging one side or another in an internal religous debate, but the niqab is definitely a very visible part of the Islamic community's difference from the society around them.

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