I’m just not. The burka is a different matter, btw. But, please, so what if the ladies choose to wear a head scarf? Big f*ing deal. What’s next, refusing to let a cancer patient wear a hat or scarf? And suppose it’s a wig we’re talking about? Most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. In fact, observant Jewish ladies in New York started substituting wigs for head scarves decades ago.
This ‘rule’ is just more stupid b*s*. Leave the girls alone for f* sake.
I certainly disagree with compulsory veiling. But I also, like you, disagree with prohibiting someone from wearing a headscarf of their own free will. In this case it wasn’t simply to harrass Muslims. Rather, it was the policy of the facility that no head gear could be worn on rides. This is a sensible prohibition, and like all rules it must be applied equally to all. If the headscarfs are so important for these Muslim girls than they should be willing to accept that their rigid attire may complicate their lives a little bit. Who knows if the cops used accessive force or were unproffesional. Probably not. Interesting how they were expressly told that the issue was a policy of no headwear, but the girl says they were being picked on because they were muslim. Pathetic.
So its okay to make everyone take off their head gear EXCEPT Muslim women? you wanna talk about discrimination? Discrimination is when you treat a group of people DIFFERENTLY than others. In this case they were enforcing a preexisting regulation that doesnt apply to hijabs alone but ALL forms of headwear. So by holding people accountable to the rules is not discrimination. In fact giving Muslim women special treatment is to deny that privilage to others… THAT would be discrimination.
I also find it interesting that you predicate your justification for concessions for Muslims on your experience with the taughtness of you co-workers hijabs.
Secularism is like the measles vaccine: It is a measure which Western societies implemented (by law for the governments and its institutions, but also largely by cultural practice) to avert very serious problems. But most people seem to have forgotten about those problems today, just as with the measles. So they believe the vaccine is not needed anymore.
When secularism was implemented in Europe, it was after centuries of religious wars. And in the USA, it was implemented by people fleeing those religious wars. Basically, all those people wisely came to the conclusion that a society which is divided into faith-based communities is conducive to tensions. People segregating themselves into communal ghettos is bad news: When they start to wear distinctive markers, but also pray separately, eat separately and with different dietary taboos, when they are forbidden to marry outside of their own clan, are governed by different sets of moral rules which tell them that they are a divinely inspired community (as opposed to all the others), when they obey behavioral imperatives dictated by their religious/community leaders… All this aims at preventing solidarity towards the outside of the group, while consolidating the bonds within. That is the real anthropological purpose of ALL outward religious signs and behavior rules (and not any notion of so called “modesty” or whatnot that they will invoke).
Also, and especially important, communities which command that their members publicly flag their adherence give a lot of power to their leaders, as well as to the group over the individuals: The group and its leaders can more strictly monitor the members. For example, take a young girl who has been wearing a Muslim veil: At some point in her life, she goes through a personal evolution and realizes that her faith doesn’t make any sense to her anymore. Or maybe she wants to convert to a different faith. Well, too bad for her: If she takes off that veil, stops eating halal, stops praying 5 times a day, decides to date a non-Muslim boy… all this will automatically signal to the rest of the community that she has become a renegade. And social pressure can start putting her back in the “right” path; and much worse if she is too stubborn: It can lead all the way to a “honour murder”.
Secularism aims at both solidifying a sense of national citizenship beyond religious frontiers, and at protecting the faithful themselves from their communities. Because when faith is a personal matter between individuals and their gods, when it is something discrete, nobody can interfere: It allows for freedom of consciousness. And when people meet in the city, they don’t do it as tagged members of this or that clan, each claiming to be morally superior to the next in the eyes of god: They meet as equal and neutral citizens.
But, like I said, it’s similar to the measles: People don’t see this potential for conflict anymore, because secularism has gone a long way into taming it. So they think: “Well, why not? It’s just a piece of fabric, and she chooses freely to wear it. What could be wrong?” The answer is “A lot”. But to know this, one must have an appreciation of History. Or at least be able to look around the globe today and realize that every single society which is strictly divided into religious communities, where people are publicly tagged as such and where this defines the public identities, there is inter-community contempt, tensions, violence, if not outright massacres.
Nowadays, people only think about individual rights: There is not much social consciousness anymore. So they either don’t understand why the individuals’ rights to wear what they want should be discouraged (not necessarily outlawed) when it concerns religious markers. Or, when they do criticize religious garments, they can only see the individual problems that accompany them, such as the status of women in religious dogma.
So the debates go on infinitely between examples of women brutalized by their husbands with religious sanction, and counter-examples of emancipated women who have a Ph. D. while wearing the hijab. But all this is missing the real issue. Surely, the status of women in religions is very worrisome, and it is something that must be addressed vigorously. (And since women are conceived as bellies whose main purpose is to pump out future faithful members, the pressure is especially high on them to comply to community diktats.) But by focusing only on that, we’re missing the bigger picture, which concerns both social cohesion and freedom of consciousness.
So to answer Rabbit’s original question:
Personally, when I see a veiled woman on the street, I never think “Poor oppressed girl”, because I know nothing about her personal situation. But I do think: “One more little step toward a Lebanon-like society”. And likewise when I see a Jew in a black fur hat or a Sikh with his dagger and turban…
It might just be your 2 cents but given what you’ve written it is worth a fortune. First I saw your name, the introduction and length of your post and immediately thought I was going to be forced to hear a muslim’s defense of their cherished traditions, but you haved nailed the issues on every single solitary point.
Most of the responses so far have been 1 dimensional…2 at most, focussed on the shallow topics of how the veil looks or whether the wearer chooses to wear it or not, but seldomly does anyone actually focuss on the real crux of the matter, and the cruel irony that should be recognised when observing these woman flaunting the very symbol of misogyny with the utmost of pride, in complete ignorance of the fact that by acquiescing to wear this symbol they embody their own subjugation and destruction.
Seldomly do I hear commentators express with such modesty the real consequences of tribal demarcation, and the societal plague that it foreshadows. You vindicate my faith in human reason, on an article posted from the now so popular popularistic perspective. If there is one bit of criticism I can offer it is the ever so slight understatement of how important it is for the woman of today to recognise how far they have come thanks to the likes of the suffragettes, and secondly how pernitious this voltary segregation is.
When you don’t know your neighbour because they choose to through up a 10 foot wall between you and insist on being treated differently all your other neighbours when you do have encounters, you begin to imagine evil things about ‘them’ simply because you don’t know them, and you’re quite right when you point this out, but I would go that step further and insist on the dissolution of all faith schools for the sake of community cohesion.
Thanks PainfulButTrue, for reading and for the comments,
I’ve been using “Raman” as a nickname on the Web for a decade now. And I’m just starting to realize that people sometimes assume I’m Muslim because of it… In fact, I picked that name from Hindu mythology, while I’m actually a Quebecker. But that might explain why people sometimes skip over my comments… (While the fact that I’m French-speaking explains my sometimes funky English sentences…)
I’ve been going around trying to explain these aspects of secularism for a while now. That usually gets me to be labelled a xenophobe, if not a fascist, and to get lumped in with the likes of Pamela Geller and the Tea Party… But, once in a while, someone lights up and gets it that laisser-faire can sometimes lead to people having less freedom. People especially rarely see how the Muslim veil (or any other outward religious marker) serves to control the wearers. Hammering that point seems particularly important.
But these are the times we live in. Everybody seems only to want to be “nice” about this, or at least to avoid “offending”, and they don’t think much further. In short, people are more concerned with being virtuous than with the actual repercussions of their policies.
The situation is the same here, in Canada. So we’re slowly seeing those religious symbols gaining ground in all sectors of society, while people who criticize them, or who want to curb their expansion, get punished and are increasingly being criminalized for being “intolerant”.
And the governments don’t help. I was very disappointed with the current American president, whom I like much better than the previous one, believe me, when he named Dalia Mogahead to office, as when he chastised France for their banning the veil in public schools. (If anyone wants proof of what I wrote above, they should look at the religious ghettos that are developing in France’s Muslim suburbs: A very worrisome situation…) I know that Tony Blair was also very religion-friendly, but I don’t know about the current British PM. And Hollande owes a big chunk of his recent victory to the “Muslim vote”, so I don’t expect much from him on that level. In Canada, pretty much all politicians would do anything to grab the ethnic/religious votes, to a point where they rarely address “Canadians”, or “Québécois” anymore in their speeches. Citizens are too often hyphenated: “Canadian-Muslims”, or “Canadian-Sikhs”, or the “Jewish community”...
Anyways, I’ll keep speaking, even if that gets me to be called intolerant. My biggest hope right now is that my son won’t have to live in a society where his faith, or lack thereof, will determine what clan he belongs to. Nor in a society where he will have to constantly walk on eggshells, trying not to violate arcane rules that different communities hold for sacred and that they have come to enforce as laws, with the blessing of public institutions. In short, I hope the Enlightenment wasn’t just a phase.
I agree with those posts here that argue that wearing the hijab in essence says that those women agree to be discriminated against. Worse yet, it also says that they agree with other women being forceably subjected to covering their hair against their will. I would dare all the Muslim women who live in Western countries and insist on wearing hijab to go and live in Saudi Arabia or Iran for a while and then let us know how they feel about enforced religious rules! As far as I am concerned no woman should subscribe to any religion whatsoever. One thing is crystal clear: religion and democracy are incompatible. the more religion we get involved in governance, the less democracy we will have.
I would imagine that there are Muslim women who wear hijab out of choice and others who are coerced to wear it in some way. There is a thin line between permitting free expression of religion and ignoring religious oppression.