Unveiled in Belgium

The Belgian government has voted to banish the full face Niqab and body covering Burkha from public places. The ban applies to public places, streets, parks and buildings delivering services to the public. A similar ban is also being considered in France, Denmark and the Netherlands. The primary reason given is one of security in that it stops people being identified, and the vice president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, Isabelle Praile, warned that it could set a dangerous precedent “Today, its the full-face veil, tomorrow, the veil, the day after it will be the Sikh turbans and then perhaps it will be mini skirts,” she said. Talking about drawing a long bow! Since when did a turban or a mini skirt stop someone being identified?
And to top it off, the ban has been opposed by not only some Muslim leaders, but also a Catholic bishop and Amnesty International! My, it fair warms the cockles of my heart to see old Amnesty supporting a woman’s right to be negated!
Some people are saying that this is a blast against Islam, and yet to make someone cover themselves in public like this is the furthest I’ve ever seen from my own experience of Muslims. Now bear in mind that I am not talking about the hijab, or head covering and the general principles of modesty in Islam, which personally I applaud and feel that us non Muslims could learn a lot from in terms of respect and equality – see http://www.islam101.com for more understanding.
In Scotland I lived in an area in Glasgow called Govanhill. It was an area that was usually the first stopping point for migrant waves. At the start of the 20th Century it was the Irish. Back in the 20s and 30s the Jewish people came, then the Italians, then in the 60s and 70s people from India and Pakistan, many of whom were Muslim. In fact a stunning gold domed mosque was built hardly a mile from Govanhill, and on the whole the people who came were peaceful and contributed greatly to our community. A good proportion of the women seemed to be in some ways better off than some of their non Muslim counterparts – especially in areas like education – but I never once saw anyone wearing a Burqa or a Niqab on the street, so its hardly a universal Muslim requirement.
Some people say that the women should be able to wear the garments if they choose to, but is it a free choice? What repercussions will they suffer if they choose not to wear it? If there are any repercussions its not a free choice.
Another more traditional argument for it has been that a woman’s looks will tempt men to commit sins of the flesh, so actually, its the guy’s problem, not the womens’. Perhaps compulsory mittens for the men might be the answer rather than the veils for the women. That old argument has been thrown out years ago in our courts when it comes to rape cases, so why tolerate it in other areas?
I’ve known some very good people who happen to be Muslim, as I’ve also known very good people who happen to be Christians, atheists, Sikhs and Hindus. Their common traits have been the desire to spread the love and a respect for others, men and women.
When a woman is condemned to be veiled in public, she is cut off from society in both a larger way and in the everyday pleasures of things as simple as exchanging a smile. It denies her the right to self expression, and freedom of movement. I certainly would find it difficult to strike up a conversation with someone at the bus stop or in a queue if she was covered from head to foot.
It’s crap that it has to come down to a government edict to grant people basic human rights. The best changes come from within the system itself, in this case the middle eastern arms of Islam.
As a Taoist and a bit of a pick n mixer, spiritually speaking, I’ll continue to petition to Whatever’s out there, like NASA’s regular radio signals, to turn its face towards us and to help bring the love in and free the veiled ladies.

Published by Maggie

Writer, traveller, observer.

One thought on “Unveiled in Belgium

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