Imagine sitting in front of a cafe in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, wearing a full crusader costume, my red chest cross in full view, pouring whiskey into my coffee. What message does this send to passers-by? The message is: “I despise your customs and your values. I don’t want to be like you because you are morally and culturally inferior. The same is true of the wearing of the full veil: it is perceived by a large part of the non-Muslim population as unnecessary and arrogant. Such provocative behavior, coupled with the almost daily reports of harsh, if not virulent, misogyny in Pakistan, Iran or Afghanistan, is certainly a public relations disaster for British Muslims.
I fear that it is simply not enough to say, as Maleiha Malik does (full sails are not barbaric – but our response may be, on September 17th), that “we need a debate in the world. within Muslim communities ”. What must happen, in the interest of British Muslims themselves, is that the leaders of the various Muslim communities signal a change of direction away from separatism and towards greater integration. To this end, it is they, and not the politicians, who must make a big fuss about the full face veil and the need to phase it out.
Bedale, North Yorkshire
As everyone knows who thought of what to wear during a job interview, clothes are language. So what message do women wearing niqabs want to convey? Do they want to participate fully, and the face covering is the only way for them to do so? Or do they want to stay separate and apart? We hear a lot of people speaking on their behalf, but not a lot of women themselves. Also, how is this message received? I find it difficult, for example, to remove from the veil of my face all the connotations of Saudi Salafism, with its long misogynistic history.
I am a Muslim of German origin and have lived in England for almost 10 years. My parents came here from Pakistan because of the freedom they saw their children would have in European countries. They came to make our chances of having a good life high because of the well structured education system here. Many parents escaped harsh cultural oppression so that their daughters and sons could attain the same level of education. Some girls can be oppressed and they have every right to speak out, but I suggest that politicians should find these girls first and have a strong case before they tackle a topic nationally.
My love for education will last for many years to come, but I will not give up my religious beliefs in any way, and one of them is covering my head and body and sometimes my face. I will not let politicians “impose” their belief on me because I have the right to dress as I wish. I am by no means a fanatic but an ordinary girl.
The Guardian clearly makes peace with those who promote the veil of women. “Three Muslim leaders” in your article (“Is the veil the biggest problem we face in the UK?”, G2, September 17) express a range of favorable opinions. No mention of British Muslim women unhappy with this antisocial black cloak. Not a word from the women in the world who courageously resisted this expression of Sharia, defying the brutal codes of honor and shame. And most shocking of all, no sense of outrage towards the schoolgirls and women of our streets whose faces are hidden in the name of religious extremism, lest they tempt the uncontrollable urges of men. The liberal left is ready to trade equality and civil society for religious appeasement.
During the current discussion on the right of Muslim women to cover their faces in public (Lib Dem calls for debate on Islamic veil, September 16), I haven’t noticed any mention that for many of us who have become increasingly deaf over the years, it is extremely difficult to follow a conversation without seeing facial expressions, especially being able to read lips. It is not a question of religion or of rights, but of human communication.
Birmingham Metropolitan College is wrong to give in to protests over its ban on the face veil on campus (Report, September 14). Sikh men and Muslim women have the right to wear their headgear, which is incorporated into the uniforms of the armed forces, police, etc. But such a headgear does not cover the face.
Wearers of the niqab completely hide their faces, which gives them an advantage over others. They can see the exposed faces of others, but others cannot see who they are or, more importantly, read their expressions. It’s intimidating to be in the company of people whose faces are completely covered. I therefore fully support MP Peter Hollobone’s private member’s bill to ban the wearing of face coverings in public.
Perhaps the niqab should be worn by anyone testifying in court (woman asked to remove veil to testify, September 17). This would prevent the judge and jury from making unpredictable assumptions due to the appearance of a witness. They could then focus on the evidence and use it more objectively.
Dr Petrina Stevens