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Drawing a veil

7 October, 2006

UK former Home Secretary Jack Straw has reportedly asked Muslim women to consider not wearing a veil that covers their face, as it may be seen as making communications, and community relations, more difficult.

But the response from some Muslim women has been the well-worn ‘this is what my religion requires me to do’.

This is a response that, in our society, leads to a full stop in the conversation: you can’t question my behaviour because it’s a part of my religious beliefs. End of story.

Ironically, this is the same effect as wearing a veil that covers the full face: I can see you, but you can’t see me.

It’s a position that expects anyone who wants to enter into an relationship with the ‘religious’ person, to do so on unequal terms: I have access to your thoughts, feelings, state of mind (because I can see them in your facial expressions), but you can never know about me; I am not open with you; you do not know who I really am. We will never relate on an equal footing; and you can’t do anything about it because I’ve played the ‘religion’ card.

Isn’t this a form of power game? Would we tolerate it if the game-player hadn’t claimed a religious motive? 

Isn’t it also another example of how some people use ‘God’ to justify behaviours which they cannot justify by reasoned argument?

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