Top Veil-ocity: Turmoil Across the Pond

Fear of Hejab

Thu, October 19, 2006

Tony, Tony, what has happened to you? You’re going from bad to worse these days. Tony Blair is uncomfortable with the veil (and by extension hejab, the Islamic dress code) saying it prevents Muslim women from ‘integrating’ properly into Brit society. Now don’t get me wrong, us Western feminists often have a knee-jerk reaction to veiling - but that’s forced veiling - as in - Iran. Will the Brits go so far as legislating a (no-veil) dress code? Got a Talibanish whiff to it, eh? 

I obsessed a bit about the veil when we were in the Persian theocracy and many of our writers and Divas have added their perspectives and advice, and first-hand experiences to the veil debate.

fuel the discussion — post your comments »

The story in The Independent (linked above) was written by an editor, not a reporter. In the newspaper business, editors are management and they are keenly aware that sensational headlines guarantee readership which in turn improves the bottom line. The quote from Prime Minister Blair was made in the context of a broader debate on nationalism vs. multiculturalism in Great Britain and the issue of integration vs. separation of other cultures into British society.

On their own, those words regarding veils as “a mark of separation” can be construed as insensitive and unfounded. However, if you read the explanation of his press briefing found here: http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page10231.asp, it becomes apparent that Mr. Blair made an exhaustive effort to make the point that he is not offering an opinion on the matter in specific, but rather noting how important it is to debate such issues. Mr. Blair also makes a concerted effort to express sensitivity to the Muslim community while being badgered with questions from the media.

A more thorough account of Mr. Blair’s comments can be found here at http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,20607653-401,00.html and is excerpted below:

[ Asked at one of his regular press conferences whether a Muslim woman wearing a veil could make a contribution to society, Mr Blair replied: “That’s a very difficult question.

“It is a mark of separation and that is why it makes other people from outside the community feel uncomfortable.

“No one wants to say that people don’t have the right to do it. That is to take it too far. But I think we need to confront this issue about how we integrate people properly into our society.

“Difficult though these issues are, I think they have to be raised and confronted and dealt with. ]

My interpretation of his remark is that he is not necessarily reflecting his own opinion, but considering the thoughts of those British citizens who are not yet comfortable co-existing with a culture uniquely different from their own. I also understand that he is wrestling with this issue as are many others.

And like it or not, wearing a veil can be considered a “mark of separation”, the same way sporting an orange mohawk hairdo or wearing a suit and tie can be in certain contexts. It is something that distinguishes those individuals from what is considered the norm.

If one connotes “a mark of separation” to be derogatory in nature, then perhaps it is a reflection of one’s own bias. Maybe a better question for Mr. Blair would be to define his terms.

by Larry on Thu, October 19, 2006 at 8:20 pm PDT

Holly, Holly—here’s where knee jerk multiculturalism gets you-- nowhere.  Check out Anne Applebaum’s recent column in the Washington Post about the perils of the veil for a more enlightened view:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/23/AR2006102300976.html

by garden variety district gal on Fri, October 27, 2006 at 1:35 pm PDT

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