Monday, March 19, 2007

2 eyes, no nose or mouth: The Niqab (face veil) barrier to integration

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?


greenwashed said...

Jimmy Carter was not only one of our most intelligent presidents he is also the only to receive a Noble Peace Prize. Jimmy left office with a $900 billion dollar national debt. In the next three terms, Reagan, Reagan, Bush managed to pump that up to $4 trillion. Carter also is the last president that really did something about energy consumption in this country. I remember when Reagan got into office the first thing he did was remove the solar panels on the roof. Now there are hundreds of thousands of houses and buildings across the country with solar panels.

Don't ever regret voting for him. Look at him now, still out helping low income people build and buy their first homes.

Anonymous said...

why would any woman be a republican...self-hatred, perhaps...maybe you believe men are better than you...

Lambent said...

I agree, incog. Schools in the UK have just been given authority to ban them.

One of the July 7 bombers in London wore a full-length one to cover his escape. For this reason alone, they should go.

MUD said...

Just How the hell did Jimmy Carter get in here? I guess "greenwashed" was too young to remember that Jimmy almost singlehandedly ruined the economy of the US. Home loan interest rates went to about 15%. I had a tornado blow down my home right in the middle of all that and had a terrible time finding anyone that would finance a building bridge loan let alone a long term loan. There was a good reason that he was not elected for a second term.
You can rewrite history as long a no one notices or cares. Jimmy Carter was about as bad a President as Hoover right before the Depression. I love his support for Habitat for Humanity but don't try to foist him off as a great or even good President.
I agree that when in another country you should try to not offend their customs. I did have trouble with the Saudi's enforcement of the veil and no driving for our servicewomen during the 1st Gulf war. Wonder what people would say today if we had just let Saddam have all the oil countries and gas was $6.00 a gallon today? Oh well, enough of an old fart with a fair memory, let see, where did I put my car keys? MUD

Papa J said...

One of my religion's creedos is: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and ALLOW ALL MEN THE SAME PRIVILAGE, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

I don't think that the face veil is the linchpin of their religion. I do think that before laws are passed forbidding any religious practice a thorough investigation of the beliefs must be conducted.

If, for example, a religion advocated human sacrifice, notwithstanding its relgious standing it is obviously fair to limit this religion because it would infringe upon the rights of another citizen. However, if a fringe religion required everyone of its adherents to wear an eyepatch, who could begrudge them? What if this eyepatch was meant to symbolize the blindness of the world around them? Who cares? There is no threat to fellow citizens and therefore the practice should not be prohibited.

I don't believe there is a compelling enough arguement to limit the religious practice that brings some muslims to wear the face veil.

If it isn't harming other citizens or their inherent rights government should just steer clear of religion entirely.

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Thats hilarious greenwashed, Carter will go down in history as a lamentable failure. As for anonymous well he or she is clearly a nutbar of the left. It is my understanding that the Hijab etc is a fairly recent invention of hardliners within Islam and in fact is not strictly proscribed by the Koran. If they wish to veil themselves I personally do not care but we have to understand that immigrant populations now are better described as settlers without the need or inclination to assimilate.

Incognito said...

Hello Greenwashed and Anon. Not sure what either of your comments has to do with this post, but that's fine.

I would agree, Green, that Carter has done something wonderful with his Habitat for Humanity, but that's pretty much it. As for intelligence: for an *intelligent president* he has done and said some pretty idiotic things.

And Anon. self hatred? No, actually, not at all. And if I thought men were better than I am, I would leave the blogging to them. I find it interesting that you found it necessary to remain Anon.

Incognito said...

Yes, Lambent, there are other stories about how insurgents have used the Burqa etc to escape capture. Cowardly on their part, but altogether dangerous.

Thanks for your Carter perspective, MUD. I know, I also had trouble with the servicewomen having to conform to the dress code there, but I was thinking more in terms of a visitor or foreign worker. Frankly, I find that whole dresscode distasteful but it's their right, I suppose, to enforce it. yes, would have been interesting to see what would have happened had we allowed Saddam to take control of Kuwait. Gas is almost that price in Europe.

Yes, Papa J, in a perfect world one should allow ALL men to worship as they please. I too believe there are many paths. But Islam does not have that same credo. In fact, it's the opposite. I have always believed in the 'live and let live' philosophy, as long as it doesn't harm another, but times have changed. The increase in Muslim conservatism, worldwide, is slowly leading to extremism. And this is allowed to flourish, in part, by *not* encouraging integration into Western society. You're right, the veil is not the lynchpin of their religion. There are probably many people who are Muslim who you would never know are. I'm not saying you can't practice your religion, but if vestiges of your religion foster separation and lack of integration, then I have a problem with that. If you want to wear the veil, move to Saudia Arabia, where it is the norm. If you want to live in the West, then you need to learn the language of your host country and assimilate.

BCF, I don't know about the face veil, but I think the head covering was recommended for all of Mohammed's wives.. but as with all the religious books, everything in them is open to interpretation and misinterpretation.

Papa J said...

Incognito -- I agree that they should assimilate into our society if they are here; however, what right does any government have to tell its citizen's how to behave if their behavior doesn't cause any harm?

I believe that the face veil is oppressive. Of course I understand that it is used mainly by hardline islamists; however, I believe that once most nationalities move to America it takes from one to three generations (20-60 years) for them to surrender their incongruous social behaviors and assimilate into American culture.

It is precisely this social openness that has allowed America to become great. If we start to legislate non-violent behavior in any way how are we any different than socialists or communists?

Incognito said...

Hey Papa J,

I think of it as a global problem, not solely an American one. So when I speak about assimilation I am referring to the Western word, in general; where-ever they happen to be residing And there is a definite lack of integration.

And unfortunately, the 1st and 2nd generations are not adapting either, at least in Europe. I think of France, in particular, where the French born Muslims are refuse to integrate. I have a French friend who keeps me abreast of the problems there. And it's the youth, as we well know, who are the ones who are becoming more radicalized than there immigrant parents. They were the ones out there burning the cars in the banlieus of Paris.

I know what you're saying, Papa J, and I'm the first one to defend freedom of religion, but when we are dealing with such a dangerous one as Islam, I think we need to make sure that by accomodating all of their strict religious demands we're not creating a situation whereby they become more and more demanding and isolate themselves further.

Islam is a religion that has not evolved and doesn't seem poised to, either. It really needs to come into the 21st century. Perhaps we wouldn't be having all these problems then.

A question for you: do you think that a woman who wears a face veil should not have to remove it for a drivers license photo? Blazing Cat Fur has an interesting post on Canadian Muslim Students today.

Papa J said...

I'm afraid that the French problem is a little more complex than you have painted it.

The latinos moving into America would be reacting the same way if we ever passed a law that said, "If your parents come into the country illegally and you are then born here you are not a citizen..." then we would have a similar situation. A new subset in America of second class citizens.

Rome dealt with this for a while, after they conquored new territory and proclaimed it Roman, the new Roman citiznes still could not demand rights as a Roman citizen unless you had been born in Rome or were the child of someone who had been.

Eventually they extended citizenship rights to the provinces because it was politically untenable for them not to do so.

The radical elements of Islam have an easy target in the dissenfrancised. So, they play off of the social weakness by offering them a percieved stronger situation. Retaliation.

Now, as for the license photo. I believe that government should accomodate for belief. A private room/booth for photos administered by women should allay most of their objections. Of course if she is forced to show her ID to prove identity she might then be asked to show her face. Sorry, I don't have a ready answer for that one.

Incognito said...

As far as I know, Papa J, French Muslims *are* citizens(and esp. the 2nd generation) and are not only afforded all rights they avail themselves of all the state programs.(Like our welfare system). My French friend complains about how their very high taxes support these programs for a people who do not wish to integrate into French society. Granted they live in special areas, but I would think that is more a choice than a necessity. ethnic communities always seem to congregate together. And that can be either good or bad.

And I agree, it's the disenfranchised youth that are embracing extremism. But how do you change that? Offer them jobs? We can't even do that here with our impovershed. It's easier to collect unemployment and welfare, or take to the streets and sell drugs than work.

And yes, there was a woman in Orlando, Florida who categorically refused to be photographed, EVEN THOUGH, she was told the photo would be taken in a private room with a female photog. She was suing, but I don't recall the outcome. She just did NOT want her photo without the veil. I'm not talking head scarf. Veil. So what's the point of having a form of id when you can't even tell who that person is? That could cause some very dangerous problems, down the line. It's just wrong. And the interesting thing is that it isn't even proscribed in the Koran. It doesn't even say the head should be covered. All it says is that a woman should draw her clothing across her natural "ornaments". Who decided that this should mean her hair? Or her face?