segunda-feira, 13 de novembro de 2006

Azar Majedi: «Revisiting the question of the veil: Must the veil be banned?»

«The question of the veil has become a heated debate in the British media. In this debate some fundamental principles seem to be at stake: Individual freedom to practice one’s religion, freedom of choice, freedom of clothing and discrimination against a particular community, that is, the so-called Moslem community. Islamists and some human rights activists maintain that the so-called Moslem community is being stigmatized and have been under racist attack since September 11th. They argue that the latest attempts to ban burke or the nighab is a violation of individual freedom and another racist attack on Moslems. Let’s examine these issues closer.
Two events following one another brought up the question of the Islamic veil in the British media: Jack Straw’s comment on the women wearing the nighab and the case of Aishah Azmi, a 24 year old support teacher, who was ordered to take off her full veil, including the nighab. She took the school to court and the court decided in the school’s favour, and so she appealed against the court’s decision.
In my opinion defending the right to wear the veil in any form or shape and in any circumstances as freedom of choice is fallacious. It overlooks other, just as important, rights recognised by modern civil society. In unconditionally defending the right to wear the veil, one comes, at best, in collision with other set of rights, i.e. children’s rights, women’s rights, societal rights, and the principle of secularism. In debating about the freedom of wearing the veil, one must take different circumstances into consideration. 1. The age of the person wearing the veil. 2. The extent of the veil and 3. Where the veil is worn.
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The argument that classifies the veil as a style of clothing is totally misleading. The veil is a religious ritual, a religious costume. Moreover, nowadays the veil has become the political banner of a political movement, namely, political Islam. The veil has become the symbol of Islamic power. Wherever Islamists gain power, they force the veil on women, as a sign of their victory and supremacy.
Why is this argument relevant to our discussion? It may be argued that irrespective of its religious or political character and significance, one must be free to wear any “political or religious symbol” one chooses to wear. My response, and I believe many others’, to this is a categorical NO. It must be said that in most countries, including Western democracies, there are certain dress codes at workplaces and wearing different political symbols or religious ones are not allowed in the workplace. Therefore, the veil must also be viewed in this light. We should tear out all this romantic falsification surrounding the veil. The veil is a religious and political symbol of a religion and movement that degrades and deprives women.
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The veil is both the symbol and the tool for women’s subjugation. Islam, as in fact, all other religions, is a misogynist ideology. Islam is a direct product of sheer patriarchy. Islam, particularly, due to its earthly characteristics, penetrates every aspect of private and social lives of men and women. A woman, according to Islam, is an extension and subject of a man. She does not have an independent identity and is defined by her master. The veil has been prescribed to hide men’s property from potential violators. A “free” woman, according to Islam, is considered an open and free target, a free ride.
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The veil is a pure discrimination against girls. It hampers their physical and mental development. It segregates them from the rest of the society. It restricts their growth and future development. It assigns to them a prescribed social role according to their gender and a division of labour. Therefore it must be banned. Society is duty-bound to safeguard free, healthy and normal development of these girls. It is a crime to ignore this obligation. Freedom of choice is purely nonsensical regarding the veil for underage girls. “A child has no religion”. It is the parents’ religion that is imposed on the child. The society must respect the child’s right to a free development.
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In a secular society, religion must be a private affair of any individual. The state must be separated from religion and stay away from promoting any religion. A secular society can better defend individual rights and civil liberties. Contrary to the commonly held belief, religious hatred or communal stigmatization can better be avoided in a secular society. In a secular society wearing or carrying any religious symbol at state institutions and in the place of education must be prohibited. By doing this, the state and the educational system do not promote any particular religion. Religion remains in the private sphere and clashes between followers of different religions is somewhat avoided. Therefore, I believe that the recent legislation in France regarding the banning of wearing any religious symbols in state institutions and schools is an appropriate step in the right direction.
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when dealing with burke or the nighab, we surpass the sphere of individual rights. Here, we enter the sphere of what I call societal rights. The person under this kind of veil has no identity in the face of fellow citizens. The society cannot work with faceless humans. At a workplace, and I mean any workplace, it is the right of the fellow workers and customers to see the face of their colleagues or the personnel. There is also the issue of trust at stake. You can not trust the person who has covered their face. Eyes and facial expressions are the key to communication, if you hide these, there can be no real communication.
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Hopefully, we come to the agreement that certain limitations must be imposed on the veil: banning of all shapes of the veil for underage girls. The use of the veil at public workplaces and educational institutions and total ban on burke and the nighab