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Reserving the right to cover ones face if one so wishes … (1st July 2010)

Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP, has yesterday launched a private members bill to ban burka’s and facial coverings. Private members bills are proposals from individuals, in this instance 20 MPs were drawn in a ballot for the chance to get a Private Members’ Bill on the statute book. Hollobone’s bill is titled “The face covering regulation bill”. Only a minority of private members bills becomes law, but as it is such a bold statement that has been put forward it has got media coverage. And in turn a debate has been started, I’d like to put forward a defense.

He says “We are never going to get along with having a fully integrated society if a substantial minority insist on concealing their identity from everyone else.” This is only true if you believe that a person’s identity is their physicality. Wouldn’t a fully integrated society accept diversity and embrace difference? As if it does not, surely wouldn’t we live in a reforming society rather than an integrating society? For security reasons in places such as airports it is not unreasonable to ask a person to remove their niquab for identification purposes and an instance where someone refuses to meet security measures is unreasonable. But when else is it necessary to see someone’s full face? I’m talking here about necessity rather then preference.

This isn’t the first time the PM has been in the forefront of a veil debate. Back in March his comments in a parliamentary debate where reported to the police by the Northamptonshire Race Equality Council. He likened wearing a veil to wearing a paper bag over your head. Comments like this make it really difficult to not retaliate in a condescending way. This man clearly has no respect for Islamic/middle eastern tradition, culture or religion unless of course paper bags hold more value to him than I am currently placing on them. But I doubt this.

As a woman I feel there is so much pressure to look a certain way and to fit it with societies idea of how we should look. The niquab offers the woman a release from these pressures and the ability to escape materialism, which should be an option for all women. However many young women and older alike, feel is something they cant escape. During university I wore full veil including face covering for a week in order to write a newspaper article in response to Jack Straws outburst about a veiled women in his surgery back in 2006. I have never felt more liberated. People were so polite to me and with only your eyes and your voice to communicate I felt people listened to me more. I felt it’s value without the religious meaning attached.

It just begs the question what does this former investment banker know about Muslim tradition? About how much it means to a persons faith to have the right to cover them selves if they so wish. Time after time white, British, middle class men decide they know what is best for these women. I have great respect for women who go against the grain of modern society and choose to protect their tradition. It’s just another example of anti Islamic secularization, which has become a prominent theme in secular politics. Why can’t we give people the choice? To choose how they dress, it’s just as oppressive as someone being forced to wear a face covering and creates a massive double standard. I don’t want to be represented by a government whose ignorance creates fear and intolerance. Veils, to the west are a representation of a society that is different from it’s own. Regardless of what ignorant forms of media suggests, not all Muslims are terrorists (stating the obvious I know but some people need to be told), Islam represented many things long before it represented oppression and terrorist bombs. Protect modesty at all costs, we’re fast become an arrogant nation. Just because people don’t wish to be like yourself, doesn’t mean they are wrong.

Recognise the Spin. Love all the people

References:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/10464321.stm

http://news.uk.msn.com/uk/articles.aspx?cp-documentid=153982979

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2010/03/on_burkas_and_paper_bags.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2010/jul/01/michael-white-philip-hollobone-burka-bill

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