The Doha Debates, a series of debates produced by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (headed by Her Highness, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned, wife of the Emir of Qatar) and based in Doha, Qatar, recently hosted a debate regarding the issue of Niqabs (face veils) and whether they should be considered a barrier to integration in the West. Long, but well worth watching, you can access the debate on LGF.
Surprisingly, considering the majority of the audience was Middle Eastern, 57% voted for the motion, agreeing that the face veil prevented full integration into western society. And they're absolutely right! When living and working in a foreign land, one has a responsibility to adapt to its customs. I can guarantee, that if I were to move to Saudi Arabia, I would be forced to cover myself, from head to toe, in cloth. And if I willingly chose to move there (which will never happen in this lifetime!), I would have an obligation to follow their rules and regulations, including whatever restrictive dress code they happen to require of their women. So, likewise, immigrants to Western countries should have to adapt to western culture, and our dress code. It's a given. I'm not saying that one has to totally give up one's ethnic identity, what would the U.S. be without all the wonderful multi-cultural festivals and fabulous ethnic restaurants, but when in Rome... blablabla.
Although I don't have as much of a problem with women wearing a loose head scarf, (as a sign of modesty), I don't really see the importance of advertising one's religion on one's head, so to speak, at least outside of a religious arena (Temple, Mosque etc). And some head scarves seem more cultural (than religious) in nature, more of an adornment; and in some cases, are actually quite attractive, like the Indian Sari. And you could argue that if other religions utilize, in some form or another, a head covering including the Hindus, Sikhs (who are not Muslim, by the way) Haredi Orthodox Jews, some Catholic Nuns, some Amish and Mennonites etc., then the Muslims should be allowed to, as well. No-one seems to take issue with these other religions, so it seems rather unfair to single out the Muslims. However, the added veil (Niqab), which covers absolutely everything, sans the eyes, (and sometimes even the eyes are obscured) I take great exception to. The inability to see the expression on someone's face I find extremely disconcerting and incredibly rude. But more importantly, the fact that it's a symbol of Islamic fundamentalism, proves a lack of desire to integrate. Basically, they're flaunting their Islamism by saying: Look at me, I'm a Muslim first, and a citizen of your country, second.
I don't care what people do in private, but in public, they need to adapt to western cultural norms. In fact, Tunisia, Turkey and Azerbaijan (Muslim countries) have all outlawed the hijab in government buildings and continued use is punishable by law. Women must quit their jobs or school if they insist on wearing the veil. So, if these Muslim countries can prohibit the hijab, why not the Western world?