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Your Face is Haram: Belgium Banning ‘The Burka’?

April 4, 2010

A few days ago, the news broke that Belgium was ‘on course to become the first European country to ban the burka after a parliamentary committee backed proposals to make it illegal on the grounds of national security and women’s rights.’

So much to talk about, but where to begin? I don’t know enough of politics to speak about it in those terms,  so let’s start  – as any sensible person would – with common sense and common decency. I’ve read dozens of articles, am a racemic mix of disgust, disdain and despair, and although I could take each one apart line by line, I won’t because that would result in a book, and I don’t have time for that. Let’s just look at two.

~

The first article is from the Daily Telegraph, an English broadsheet.

National security, as far as arguments go, is a valid and justifiable reason to be concerned about ‘the burka’. Women’s rights, on the other hand? I am not aware that forbidding a woman to cover is tantamount to liberation and every attendant bliss.

“Even if it’s on a voluntary basis, the burka is contrary to the dignity of women. It’s a walking prison,” he said. “We have to free women of this burden.”

I’m sorry? I’m SORRY? Do I even need to explain all of the things wrong with this statement?

Well, let’s try.

  • ‘Even if it’s on a voluntary basis’: Bacquelaine has done the Big Bad: essentially accusing those women of false consciousness – that they think they want it, but they don’t really – couldn’t possibly. How officious. Is it really free will that a woman dresses in the manner dictated by the cultural norms of her present society? If you will accuse Muslim women of ‘false consciousness’, who is to say non-Muslim women are not equally victims of the same false consciousness? Who is this man to qualify a person’s subjective experience as neither real nor valuable?
  • ‘The burka is contrary to the dignity of women. It’s a walking prison’: stripping a woman of her right to wear certain clothing is not contrary to her dignity? To take away her freedom of choice liberates her from this ‘prison’? Why are her clothes offensive, when her lack of them is not? If we accept that nudity is a valid expression of human freedom, there must, by logical extension, be a similar view of the opposite of nudity.
  • ‘We have to free women of this burden.’: ‘free’ her of her uterus and an X-chromosome while you’re  there,  k? What a presumptuous prig. There is so much more wrong with this statement that you’ll just have to think about on your own.

To me, the inconsistency within the entire paradigm really only shows what anyone with an eighth of a brain knows to be true: logic and sense are suspended when confronted by what is perceived as a threat – as unmitigatedly alien*. The real reasons, masked in hysteria-inducing rhetoric, are little more than a collection of unacknowledged prejudices parading as ‘liberal secularism’. In reality, those people screaming for a ban of this kind – non-Muslim and Muslims alike – would be better served by examining their own minds and liberating their consciousness from ignorant bigotry, than liberating women from their clothes.

‘This is a very strong signal being sent to Islamists.’

No, Mr Ducarme. This is a very strong signal being sent to Muslim women who cover, and by extension, every Muslim, male or female, who believes in her right to do so, and the signal says ‘SCREW YOU MUSLIM WOMEN STOP YOU WOMEN WHO COVER HAVE EXCLUDED YOURSELVES FROM THE HUMAN RACE SO WE EXCLUDE YOU FROM HUMAN RIGHTS STOP KTHXBAI STOP’. I don’t think the ‘Islamists’ give a toss, and I also don’t think the ones you have in mind are women.

~

The second article is from the Guardian, another English broadsheet.

‘It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual. Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society.’

I may be missing something here, but I can’t see a logical connection between NOT wearing clothes that cover you up and an ‘open, liberal, tolerant society’. Cognitive dissonance, Mr Bacquelaine. Surely in an open, tolerant and liberal society, we allow people to basically dress as they please, provided it doesn’t harm anyone? Perhaps these women might be afforded the same privilege as other minorities – that of ‘live and let live’. Is that not the hallmark of an open, liberal and tolerant society, that it allows the space for difference?

‘We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen.’

Um. I would like to point out to Mr Bacquelaine that I would be overjoyed never to have to see random undressed people again – men or women – and I’ll bet the reviled women would agree. They aren’t so much ‘claiming the right’ as ‘lacking the choice’. But that the same society that allows women – and men – the liberty to uncover as they please should prevent women from covering as they please lacks the internal logic that would make it at least rationally acceptable, if not ethically.

Nobody disagrees with a person putting curtains in the windows of their houses, seeing without being seen. Perhaps we should live in transparent houses? Will that make us a more transparent society? (Did you see what I did there? Punnishment!)

We accept that houses are private. It does not take too much more mental effort to extend that logic to understanding that some women define their limits differently. It may be uncommon and not what we are accustomed to, but nevertheless, that is not a reason to strip them of that right to define what their personal space is, or to take charge of the way other people can see them.

It is not one person’s inviolable right to see another person in a way they do not wish to be seen. And if that person dislikes what they see, it is their prerogative to look away – not demand that the object of their dislike conforms to what the onlooker deems as right and acceptable. These are values of personal freedom that are at the heart of the liberal, pluralistic society we live in. To deny them that right is to contradict the values that same society holds most sacred.

To my friends who still have difficulty grasping this: imagine these women are simply in mobile houses and you are postmen. A postman would not demand to see the occupant of the house where he delivers a letter: likewise for you. Heck, if it helps, imagine they have a mental disorder (you probably think they do, anyway) and can’t go out unless they are in their mobile homes. If you can have compassion for – and humour – a schizophrenic, a sane non-psychotic woman shouldn’t be too hard. And anyway, as I said, just PRETEND, if it helps.

‘Of the 500,000 Muslims living in Belgium – with big populations in Brussels and Antwerp – very few women wear the full veil, and there has been little public debate about the need to ban it. While Bacquelaine admitted there was little problem with full facial covering among Muslims in Belgium, he argued for a preemptive move, saying: “We have to act as of today to avoid [its] development.”‘

What? So basically, it is an almost entirely symbolic law? More for the sake of saying, ‘look suckers, we can do this’, than because of a genuine ‘need’? Seriously, what. Kind. Of. A. Rationale. IS this? Are they running out of stuff to talk about in Parliament or something? They have no economic, health or educational concerns, and now with a little time to kill and some money to burn, they thought they’d cool their heels banning a statistically insignificant number of women from wearing certain clothes? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

‘Muslims who ignore the ban could face fines of £22 and a jail sentence of up to seven days unless they have written police permission to wear the garments’

Excuse me? You need WRITTEN POLICE PERMISSION to wear CLOTHES? Are you KIDDING me? Do you need police permission to wear a hat? A bikini? A surgical mask?

WAIT OMGGGG!!!!

How do we know surgeons ARE REALLY SURGEONS?!!?

It could be ANYBODY behind that mask!! IT COULD BE OSAMA!!!!!!!111one

I demand a law preventing any medical staff from covering their faces. It’s fine if they do it in the privacy of their own homes, but it’s just not suitable in the workplace, in an ethical liberal democratic society that values freedom, equality and fellowship.

‘Following a heavy regional elections trouncing last week, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France called for a burqa ban.’

Blatantly trying to score points.

“The all-body veil is contrary to the dignity of women,” he said. “The answer is to ban it. The government will introduce a bill to ban it that conforms to the principles of our laws.”

Nic Teakozy** is contrary to the dignity of the human race, if it has any. The answer is to ban him. The government should introduce a bill to ban him that conforms to the principles of common decency.

Who’s with me?

~

I haven’t finished talking about this subject, by any means***. I don’t think banning specifically Muslim attire is an answer to Europe’s problems (which, by the way, are problems of their own manufacture). I think this proposal is the beginning of something very serious – something rotten – in the States of Europe, and is a forerunner of far more sinister things for Muslims settled in the Western World.

~

* Which you could argue as a lack of foresight in their Empire-crazy forebears. Perhaps if the savages had been left alone, they might never have thought about coming to our civilised countries. Moreover, they could not LEGALLY and JUSTLY claim a place in our great and free society, and would have stayed in the caves they were born in. Harrumph.****

** In my dialect of Bengali, we say ‘saa’ for tea (as opposed to ‘chaa’, for my ‘shuddo’ friends). Thus, the Bengali version of the gentleman’s name is, indeed, ‘Teakozy’.

***I’m just tired and too busy to write more 😄

**** What is French/German for ‘harrumph’? ‘Harrumph’, for the record, is a time-honoured Great British Institution.

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2010 9:14 pm

    wow, well put saya.

    • April 4, 2010 9:30 pm

      Hee! 😄

      It was driving me mad. This is the first of a SERIES of prolonged rants. 😄 😄

  2. Bran permalink
    April 4, 2010 11:23 pm

    I can only hope future history books will have things like this in them and that those who read it will shake their heads and be amazed at how anybody could ever have believed such a thing was right or reasonable. This is ridiculous. The reasons given for it are even more ridiculous- throwing around buzzwords and sophistry.

    SIGH, Belgium. You totally deserved the total diss that Douglas Adams served you in that one Hitchhiker book where Belgium was the worst curseword in the universe or whatever.

    • April 5, 2010 11:05 am

      Ah, sophistry, that was the word I wanted and was eluded by 😄 😄

      That’s exactly it.

      At the risk of my geeky reputation (which, tbh, has been non-existent since I admitted I have never EVER seen Star Wars in ANY incarnation), I must admit that Douglas Adams, while being resident under my bed for several years, was someone I didn’t quite get around to reading. I’ve been put off it recently discovering his personality, which doesn’t appeal to me 😄

      Also, let’s make it clear that we’re dissing people who are stupid REGARDLESS of their nationality, not on the basis of it. Stupid people may or may not be Belgian. They may or may not be French. They may of may not be American. Or English. Or Bengali. And so on. 😄

      /disclaiming

  3. Levantine permalink
    April 5, 2010 9:47 am

    If Aliens landed on Earth, they would very quickly latch onto the fact that Homo sapiens is obsesseded with two things: sex and burqas.

    After they get over the spontaneous internal combustion, mutliple intracranial aneurysms and general massive septic shock triggered by such a spectacular rape of logic and rationality and comorbid concomitant show of inherent hypocrisy (being themselves allergic to nonsense), I would fully expect them to deem us as not worth their time or investment, and find only one legitimate use for our collective physical reality: to be fed into their snazzy machines as ROCKET FUEL, thus helping them launch back off in disgust in search for better things Out There where no man has (thankfully) gone before.

    H4X.

    • April 5, 2010 11:15 am

      If aliens landed on Earth, they would leave very quickly 😄

      If they had an ounce of foresight, they would note not only the thinned ozone layer, but the fact that there is a HOLE in it the size of a medium-sized COUNTRY, immediately discern that:
      a) if this was happening due to natural circumstances, it would not likely be a hospitable environment for them (on the basis that they are interested in an Earth-like habitat); or
      b) if the resident species were responsible for it, then they are a species best avoided, if they engage in wanton destruction – the kind of concerted, prolonged activity that produces such a profound environmental alteration – then they are not only foolish, but also dangerous.

      And that is only if:
      c) they make it past the debris in the atmosphere. (http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/photos/the-15-most-toxic-places-to-live/earths-orbit#image)

      And a, b and c would be true on the assumption that aliens are SMART.

      Which, if we are judging by the human race, they may not be. 😄

      • fjafjan permalink
        April 7, 2010 9:11 pm

        I think Aliens landing on earth would notice that homo sapiens are obsessed with Aliens landing on earth.

        And Saya: I doubt Aliens traversing the universe would be scared off by Ozone, the worst it can do is give you cancer which these Aliens most likely had pretty much cured already. And the debris in the Atmosphere is small, and slow moving enough that it would not be difficult to construct a shield, if you can build a ship using nuclear explosions as propulsions, I believe Aliens with advanced enough technology to travel at the very least several light years, would be prepared for collisions with small slow moving objects.
        The most interesting conundrum would be what we would talk about, and socialize, seeing as we might have pretty much no common interests, they would find our technology ancient, we would probably be unable to grasp theirs.
        Oh and they would probably be some form of Robot.
        See this is much more interesting than forcing a handful of women to show their faces in public.

        The problem, which you seemingly do not address is the fact that unlike wearing a surgical mask the Burka is hiding your face in ALL public situations, most surgeons take off their mask when they take the bus or buy a TV. Most people do not sit in their house and communicate with passers by through the blinds and in fact most houses do not move about. Indeed I would argue if a religion had a practise of not allowing women to leave the house, indeed that part should not be allowed in an open society.
        Faces are hugely important in communication, for both parties, and is rather fundamental to how a number of societal institutions, driving licenses, passports, anyone intending to remember someone will do it with a face. And if you don’t have face (because let’s face it, two eyes, hidden rather deep, are not a face) can not use these things and thus do not work with essential democratic and free institutions. So any group demanding to be constantly masked should at the very least be questioned in their demand, there might be legitimate reasons for wanting to cover your face in some circumstances, so for example during protests or strikes where preserving your anonymity can be crucial for exercising your democratic rights and thus must be protected, but it is another matter altogether to be anonymous all the time.

        As for the freedom of women, I think you will be hard pressed to deny that women in many Muslim countries often lack several privileges that boys enjoy, and women then endure severe repression, such as the death sentence for infidelity, punishments for NOT wearing a Burka etc. (And bar the Burka part, I know this is true in many non-muslim countries as well, and Islam is SUPPOSED to be very nice to women etc, this is besides the factual point which is not about Islam but about the reality of these societies and the women living and fleeing from them) It is then not entirely unreasonable to as the author does put into question the freedom under which these women wear the Burka rather than a Hijab or such. This is not at all the same as saying that there are not women who chose to do so, but the fact that they are such a small minority, and presumably they or their parents are immigrants from a country where women are not given the choice. It is then very possible there are pressures within the family forcing these women to live a life behind a burka, in their mobile home, and no one should be forced to.

        These argument is met by a cavalcade of fallacies, like the red herring of undressed people and your desire not to see them and the false analogy of ‘stripping women of their X-chromosomes’ as though the Burka is defining quality of what it is to be a woman.

        The bad part about such a law would not be the content, but the spirit with which it was passed and the pressumed reception in the Muslim community who while almost completely “burka-less” seem very unwilling to distance themselves from this garment which is in fact and deed used in several countries as a tool of oppression.

        On the whole this article still leaves me very much meh about laws banning Burkas

        I think this post is going to make me unpopular around these parts. Not posting would be intellectually dishonest though

  4. Levantine permalink
    April 7, 2010 11:38 pm

    There is always the issue of religious traditions being abused. However, even in these horrifying places you speak of – many of which, I think, you’ve merely experienced via our wonderful objective and totally unbiased media – in most Muslim countries, there IS no Taliban style regime to force women to cover up, and the majority do so willingly. I have come across more women in one of the supposed axes of evil who have had to fight their families to earn the right to veil their faces and sometimes have become cast out as a result, than those who have been forced into it. In fact, the current social pressures in many Muslim countries is to move AWAY from covering up. A phenomenon I’ve also found in London, for that matter, where there is thankfully no Taliban, I do believe (whatever The Sun and The Daily Mail would have us believe).

    The majority of veil-wearing women are quite happy to uncover faces for airport purposes, security purposes, passport photos, etc. I think that what they do out on the street or restaurants or whatnot beyond that is down to them. Essentially, people on the street do not talk much with other people on the street, so I don’t see what part of ‘communication’ this impairs. Unless it’s of the variety of ‘communication’ that a nice man explained the other day to me in Sainsbury’s, which went to the tune of ‘wanting to be served his beer at the end of a hard-working day by a pretty woman – what’s so wrong with that?’ (In which case, we’re just dealing with men who are peeved at being denied their eye candy… but that’s another story entirely.)

    When it comes to jobs, veiled women similarly are expected to recognise that some of them are incompatible with a veil, while others may not be particularly effected. Some veiled women don’t quite have the right balance with this, but they hardly speak for all.

    Communication has many forms. If a veil bars a woman from some of them, she knows this when she enters that little world. There are still many others open to her at which she can excel, and many aspects of life which are not hampered by veil-wearing, but rather by the resistance of others to that which is different. Bit like knowing you have to give up certain lifestyles when you choose to be an athlete. Or giving up meat when you decide you’re destined for vegetarianism. It’s called choice, the supposed pride and glory of democracy… Ultimately, PEOPLE FEAR WHAT IS DIFFERENT. And then find excuses for their fear; scapegoating is rather popular here.

    Essentially, Fjaf, I think you cannot come to terms with the fact that there are women right here telling you that they are perfectly happy to veil their faces, and furthermore would be very unhappy if not ‘permitted to do so’, in which case they would rather not go out and mix with a society which demands to intrude into what they believe is their personal space. In such a scenario, I would deem their opponents to be selfish oppressors seeking only to satisfy themselves at the expense of the emotional well-being of others. And mollify their fears. And safeguard the present, wishing that it would never change. And refuse to accept that that which makes THEM happy may be a tragedy for others.

    When someone tells you that a clothing-related action which is harmless to others makes them feel complete, and you tell them that it’s not true, there seems to be something profoundly wrong with that.

    Denial springs to mind. As does projecting your views of completion onto others.

    Hmmmmmm.

    • April 7, 2010 11:40 pm

      I second that.

      I also think it possibly saves me from replying to it! 😄

      (I would have done so more impolitely XD)

      • Fjafjan permalink
        April 8, 2010 3:55 pm

        Of course, you’re an impolite person 😛

  5. Levantine permalink
    April 7, 2010 11:45 pm

    Also, I wouldn’t say it will make you unpopular around these parts ; ) At least, no more than you already were

    *innocent whistle*

    We know you well enough to know to expect this kind of thing… ^_^

    And we wait patiently for your deliverance and initiation to new realms of logic and reasoning

    Oh, a chicken feather! Fizban woz here…

  6. April 8, 2010 2:43 am

    “It is then not entirely unreasonable to as the author does put into question the freedom under which these women wear the Burka rather than a Hijab or such. This is not at all the same as saying that there are not women who chose to do so, but the fact that they are such a small minority, and presumably they or their parents are immigrants from a country where women are not given the choice. ”

    One of the problems I have with anti-burqa arguments has to do with this fact. The number of women forced to wear the burqa, at least outside of Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, is ridiculously small compared to the number of women who choose to wear it. I have yet to meet a woman who wears the burqa for whom it was not a personal choice. Women are more often forced to unveil – in countries such as Morocco and Jordan where, in the city, it is very difficult for covering women to get jobs, and in the West – than forced to veil.

    Also, even if, as you and others claim, so many women are ACTUALLY being forced to veil, what do you think banning the veil will do? The people who are supposedly forcing them aren’t going to suddenly decide it’s alright for them to unveil. Because of such laws, if women ARE being forced to wear it, whoever is forcing them is just going to force them to stay home and not interact in public at all. So you are removing the one dimension in which these women can go out in public and interact in the world, which is the opposite of what you are claiming to want to do, which is really, really just a case of not thinking through a situation to its conclusion before jumping on the sensationalism train. If you actually want to integrate Muslim women in society, the best way to do that would be to work on anti-discrimination laws that encourage Muslim women, especially covering Muslim women, to interact socially, politically, and economically. Not force them to stay home because they cannot or will not give up their right to cover.

    On another note, it really, really irks me when people say that women cannot interact because they are wearing a veil. I’ve participated in classes while wearing the niqab. I’ve had discussions with strangers on the street. I’ve gone out and done errands. I’ve gone to the bank and the movie theater (at the bank I had to go into a room and lift my niqab so the woman could identify me by my ID card, even though I’d come in plenty of times and she knew who I was, but I have no problem with doing such a thing for identification purposes). The only thing I have not done is worn my niqab to work, which is kind of a moot point because currently I work from home, but it’s very stressful to even think of going to a job interview with niqab on – not because I don’t believe I can do the jobs that I am qualified for with niqab, but because I know that due to people’s prejudices, I would never get the job. But to say niqab hinders social interaction is a complete lie. It only hinders social interaction insofar as people allow it to with their prejudices.

  7. Fjafjan permalink
    April 8, 2010 3:45 pm

    La la la, this time it is a short post!

  8. Fjafjan permalink
    April 8, 2010 3:52 pm

    So apparently I cannot write my whole reply in one.. post, it just won’t publish it, so two parts it is (and someone delete my above entry, I was trying to find what was wrong)
    “One of the problems I have with anti-burqa arguments has to do with this fact. The number of women forced to wear the burqa, at least outside of Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, is ridiculously small compared to the number of women who choose to wear it… [Snipped for brevity]…”
    Also, even if, as you and others claim, so many women are ACTUALLY being forced to veil, what do you think banning the veil will do?”
    And the number of women wearing the burqa in Belgium IS very small. Since I can’t be butted to find a proper source and this blog hates my links, here is a quote

    “He estimated that only a few hundred women in Belgium wore facial veils, but said it was a rising trend.” which would then be 1-2% of Muslim women. It is not unreasonable to assume that a significant portion of these, say 0.5% of these women are in families from cultures where women are forced to wear the burqa. Which is not to say it is true, but it’s not an unreasonable thing to bring up, and it’s easily falsifiable so someone with the proper resources could probably disprove this, even though proving it definitely is pretty hard.

    So to clarify the math logic here, as I have no idea how familiar you are with statistics and such, is that if we have a large sample set, 600k Muslims who are from a variety of societies, with fairly unknown distribution . But let’s assume that 5-10% of these people are from countries where the burqa or is legally required. That is a small portion and not a very big assumption (a bigger portion, which is very possible, would only help out case). If then 10-20% of these families force their daughters/wives to wear the burqa you have the observed amount. We assume here that the overwhelming of Muslims don’t come from countries where the burqa is legally required, and the vast majority of those who do are NOT forced to wear it. So we’re not saying anything about how “So many Muslim women”, in fact we are saying that so FEW Muslim women are forced to wear it. This of course is no argument for it being true, but it’s a test of validity.

    But what will a ban do? Well there are a number of outcomes, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable that it could force a shift in the culture. It could also backfire, but criminalization of forcing people to wear the burqa (as well as choosing to wear it, but you can’t really have one without the other) has a likely consequence, as the banning of many activities, of reducing the rate at which is happens.
    But let’s not get too distracted, it’s not primarily about saving these women, as many of them chose to live this life. But let’s be silly, no democracy is about allowing all choices, you cannot marry your cousin, you cannot carry around guns, you can’t do this and that, the relevant concern, disregarding the potential unchoice of the matter, is whether someone can be anonymous at all times in society.

  9. Fjafjan permalink
    April 8, 2010 3:53 pm

    “it’s very stressful to even think of going to a job interview with niqab on – not because I don’t believe I can do the jobs that I am qualified for with niqab, but because I know that due to people’s prejudices, I would never get the job.”

    And I am sorry to say, if we assume I am without biases, I would probably not hire you because you’ve made it impossible for me to do so. When hiring someone for most jobs your personality is hugely important and not seeing your face you’ve cut out a large part of your person and personality.How you interact with people IS in large part your face. A niqab would be less bad than a burqa, as the eyes are among, if not THE, the most expressive areas of your face. It’s the same reason most companies will not hire someone over the phone, which allows for pretty much all the same modes of communication as a Burqa. I would not hire someone who showed up for an interview wearing any mask like device, not because it’s strange, but because it’s not personal, it’s inherently different from face to face communication. Prejudices are not the whole part.

    “There is always the issue of religious traditions being abused. However, even in these horrifying places you speak of – many of which, I think, you’ve merely experienced via our wonderful objective and totally unbiased media – in most Muslim countries, there IS no Taliban style regime to force women to cover up, and the majority do so willingly. I have come across more women in one of the supposed axes of evil who have had to fight their families to earn the right to veil their faces and sometimes have become cast out as a result”

    I will again point out what a giant red herring this is. I was never talking about Islam, or what the trends are within these societies, what happens in some of these countries regarding veils etc was never relevant to any point I was making. It’s also anecdotal but yeah.

    “The majority of veil-wearing women are quite happy to uncover faces for airport purposes, security purposes, passport photos, etc. I think that what they do out on the street or restaurants or whatnot beyond that is down to them. Essentially, people on the street do not talk much with other people on the street, so I don’t see what part of ‘communication’ this impairs. ”

    If Burqas are accepted as commonplace it allows for a non-controversial anonymous transportation mode for all people. So while you don’t communicate much with people on the bus, you can either recognize someone who is wanted by the police, or notice that someone is strangely masked. So as a criminal you could not travel with the bus or train without fearing recognition or suspicious being aroused by your anonymity. Wearing a burqa, assuming you are not unusually tall, would not arouse any suspicion. There is also the aspect where someone can usually tell if you’ve been beaten or crying, I think it would be interesting to hear from organizations for abused wives about how common this is as an identifier and thus for helping these women, because I imagine it’s fairly common but I could be mistaken. Then there’s the aspect of just communicating with looks with people not from your “clique” which I think is very important for forming independent people, but is probably the least important aspect.
    So that’s on a bus or restaurant etc. As for on the job I can think of no job other than professional poker that someone wearing a burqa could do better than someone wearing standard professional clothes (appropriate for whatever profession), while there are many places where it is a hindrance.

    There is also the purely physiological effects of covering your skin whenever outside, http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/nina_jablonski_breaks_the_illusion_of_skin_color.html

    • Levantine permalink
      April 8, 2010 7:52 pm

      Fjaf wrote:

      As for the freedom of women, I think you will be hard pressed to deny that women in many Muslim countries often lack several privileges that boys enjoy, and women then endure severe repression, such as the death sentence for infidelity, punishments for NOT wearing a Burka etc. (And bar the Burka part, I know this is true in many non-muslim countries as well, and Islam is SUPPOSED to be very nice to women etc, this is besides the factual point which is not about Islam but about the reality of these societies and the women living and fleeing from them) It is then not entirely unreasonable to as the author does put into question the freedom under which these women wear the Burka rather than a Hijab or such.

      And then Fjaf wrote:

      I will again point out what a giant red herring this is. I was never talking about Islam, or what the trends are within these societies, what happens in some of these countries regarding veils etc was never relevant to any point I was making. It’s also anecdotal but yeah.

      So you did in fact drag in other countries/women being pressured/Islam in general into it yourself first, to which I responded.

      Fjaf wrote:

      So while you don’t communicate much with people on the bus, you can either recognize someone who is wanted by the police, or notice that someone is strangely masked. So as a criminal you could not travel with the bus or train without fearing recognition or suspicious being aroused by your anonymity. Wearing a burqa, assuming you are not unusually tall, would not arouse any suspicion.

      Er, what kind of fearful mentality would we all have to have in order for this to be a significant part of our day? I can’t speak for you, but most of US are not people built on automatic mistrust of others, or get on buses looking out specifically for evidence of wrongdoing. I think someone has been fed too many stereotypes and/or lost faith in the goodness of the vast majority of people. Also, this argument has the same foundation as ‘if you wear long skirts with high heels, you may trip’. (Which some people do, but we don’t ban them.) Or ‘if you get into a car, you might crash’. Etc etc etc… are you out to eliminate all risk of anything and everything? Seems ridiculous, especially when the chances of being hurt by a veiled woman are far less than by being hurt by a drunk, in a car, or probably from wearing a skirt and heels together.

      It is sad you associate veils with hiding crime. Which is what you have effectively done. This is nothing short of fear-mongering, which is unhealthy for society.

      There is also the aspect where someone can usually tell if you’ve been beaten or crying, I think it would be interesting to hear from organizations for abused wives about how common this is as an identifier and thus for helping these women, because I imagine it’s fairly common but I could be mistaken.

      There you go, stereotyping again. I think it’s ALCOHOL which is particularly linked with wife-beating, though I may also be mistaken. Incidentally, something the husbands of veiled women are not permitted to use. Being male is generally bad for women, in this area. Let’s ban men

      Then there’s the aspect of just communicating with looks with people not from your “clique” which I think is very important for forming independent people, but is probably the least important aspect. So that’s on a bus or restaurant etc.

      Again, communication is the product of many things, not just appearance. In fact, IF you were to ask educated women (I doubt you know many veiled women, though) how they feel about communication, the common denominator tends to be: MEN LISTEN TO WHAT I SAY KTHXBYE, AS THEY CAN’T STARE AT MY FACE/BOOBS/LEGS/ETC. IT’S SUCH A RELIEF.

      Why do you distrust people not of your ‘clique’ anyway? Why not just assume they are as human as anyone else, and as capable/incompetent as anyone else? Why the tribal mentality?

      Women feeling listened to? Hmmmmmmm.

      As for on the job I can think of no job other than professional poker that someone wearing a burqa could do better than someone wearing standard professional clothes (appropriate for whatever profession), while there are many places where it is a hindrance.

      Are you saying Saya would stink at any job aside from poker if she did it in a burka? 😄

      At any rate, it would ultimately be to the great loss of that employer if they chose not to hire the vast majority of veiled women I know, so not wasting any tears over that.

      I’ve argued that permanent anonymity in public spaces is a harmful notion and not worth the cost to society to safeguad the personal desires of some people.
      How so? Drunk-driver kind of harmful? Or hat-person-doesn’t-look-like-me-I-must-suspect-them harmful. Which is what you did, by the way – your very first counter-argument was to bring up a point revolving around no less than SUSPICION and FEAR.

      but there are a large number of social phobias that people suffer from that prevents them from interacting with society, and these women suffer from it I would offer them psychological aid.

      Before you make such sweeping conclusions, I suggest you look up the term ‘phobia’ and then the term ‘free will’ and the concept of defending the latter. Smacks of Russians labeling all anti-government individuals as schizophrenic once upon a time. At any rate, it’s interesting that you’ve essentially re-labeled a group of people refusing to conform the will of others over something that harms no-one and brings them internal completion as evidence of psychological disturbance, and then proposed that the solution to this is to essentially convert them to your perspective.

      And people accuse MUSLIMS of wanting everyone to see things their way?

      if you can’t go out in public without wearing a mask, or mask equivalent, I’d say you need to boost your confidence.

      Weakest argument you’ve made so far. Women dress up for OTHER WOMEN, to make themselves feel good about the way they look. Do a survey of women who’ve converted to Islam or decided to start covering how they feel about their looks. The resounding response will be something along the lines of what a RELIEF it was to be free from the pressure of constantly being looked at, constantly worrying how one looks, constantly preening and primping for the sake of what everyone things. Ultimately it leads to better internal well-being, and healthier self-image. I think that defines confidence! Better self-esteem, for sure!

      You’re just upset you wouldn’t get to see women, in this world ; )

      Anyway, re: the physiological effects – the main one is the effect of lack of sunlight in women who’ve migrated to cold climates and also cover themselves. It’s not great, but I think – having seen such patients in friend-circles and at our hospitals – that it’s nothing near as bad as the effects of smoking, drinking, eat junk and being overweight, etc etc etc.

      I’ll warrant you know nothing of the positive effects, though. Which include healthier hair and skin, protection against skin cancer and a better complexion, better ageing overall, and relief for those who have certain allergies and inflammatory conditions. Also, it interrupts the flow of pheromones from the female body… which is one of the theorised reasons as to why women cover their chemically alluring skin.

      By the way, the two things that ultimately age us are food and oxygen.
      So… unless we’re going to eliminate ALL medical risk and live in vacuums… possibly as specimens of people, in jars of vinegar… 😄

      Anyway, ultimately, being ALIVE is bad for you, physiologically speaking. (Says the physiologist.) Even exercise, healthy as it is, will ultimately cause wear and tear on bits of your body. BUT the damage a veil can cause physiologically is almost nowt to speak of in most women, and only relevant to some of those who migrate out of their sunny climates.

      The bottom line which sort of breaks down all your arguments is this:

      1. Muslims do not believe in mixing the sexes much.
      2. When in public, Muslim women will not want to communicate with strange men anyway unless they have to for practical or necessary matters; nor do they wish to be looked at by strange men, or attract attention to themselves.
      3. You cannot force women to mix with men if they don’t want to, or offer their bodies to the male gaze if they do not want this. Robs you of your eye candy, but I think their feelings take priority in this matter. Anyone who tries to pressurise another human – most likely a pleasant, hard-working, innocent human being – into behaving differently just because it doesn’t fit their grand scheme of how things SHOULD be is nothing more than an oppressor.

      So, live and let live. If no-one’s hurting anyone else, I don’t see what business it is of anyone to intrude into another person’s sphere of existence. You can make up all the rhetoric about it being for the good of society or communication, but the reality is that this was not an issue pre-9/11 before everyone suddenly became interested in Muslims, and Muslims suddenly became the source of society’s biggest problems. And women still wore the veil out in the West back then, in precisely the same ways and for precisely same reasons with minimal fuss or trouble from anyone…

      … so, what’s wrong with this picture?

  10. Fjafjan permalink
    April 8, 2010 3:53 pm

    “Essentially, Fjaf, I think you cannot come to terms with the fact that there are women right here telling you that they are perfectly happy to veil their faces, and furthermore would be very unhappy if not ‘permitted to do so’, in which case they would rather not go out and mix with a society which demands to intrude into what they believe is their personal space. In such a scenario, I would deem their opponents to be selfish oppressors seeking only to satisfy themselves at the expense of the emotional well-being of others. And mollify their fears. And safeguard the present, wishing that it would never change. And refuse to accept that that which makes THEM happy may be a tragedy for others. ”
    I’ve argued that permanent anonymity in public spaces is a harmful notion and not worth the cost to society to safeguad the personal desires of some people. If we accept this as true (which is the required premise for any action taken) then If some people then cannot interact with society that’s sad, but there are a large number of social phobias that people suffer from that prevents them from interacting with society, and these women suffer from it I would offer them psychological aid. Which I imagine you find hugely offensive, but if you can’t go out in public without wearing a mask, or mask equivalent, I’d say you need to boost your confidence.

    “PEOPLE FEAR WHAT IS DIFFERENT. And then find excuses for their fear; scapegoating is rather popular here.”
    If we head back into reality, you are very much correct here. Banning burqas is popular not so much because it’s an actual problem, but because they see people who call themself Muslim kill people and they hear about the laws in Iran and Saudi Arabia etc and they see how more people calling them self Muslim are arriving in their country. It’s more or less racism and it’s largely unfounded, which is why I said I think the spirit of this law is what is troublesome.
    I really wish this site had a previous feature, having to read in this little box is very distracting. (as is copy-pasting somewhere else)

  11. April 8, 2010 7:25 pm

    I will just remind everyone to be nice to each other, and try to understand the other’s point of view: it’s okay to think different things, but that’s not the same as refusing to understand someone on their own terms.

    But do continue to discuss, by all means: that’s the whole point. ^_^

    (Oh look, moderating! It’s been a while! XD)

  12. Fjafjan permalink
    April 8, 2010 7:36 pm

    Please tell me when and if so where you think I’m being impolite/disrespectful, I have noticed people find strange things enraging and I always try to avoid name-calling etc. Also you nilly willy deleye my “try to find out why it won’t let me post” post above! (This doesn’t count as name calling :P)

    • April 8, 2010 9:40 pm

      Wait what? I deleted a post? I didn’t…not quite sure I understand what you’re saying there.

      I think what I, at least, find most difficult about having this kind of discussion with you is that I feel like you haven’t understood the point I was making. Similarly, the original entry was not making a point about identity checks, but about daily life and choices that government and legislation shouldn’t interfere with. (And the medical staff wearing masks thing was quite clearly a joke, being as how it was completely ridiculous XD)

      The thing your whole argument rests on is a basic assumption that what is important to you is universally important. Specifically, the assumption that because faces are important to you in communication and personal comfort, they are universally important for effective communication and comfort.

      The point that is being made is that this is not the case for some people. For some people, showing your face is not a symbol of social conscience or consciousness – and since it’s their face, not yours, they get to decide whether or not they will show it.

      In fact, yesterday, I was having a conversation with someone on the same subject (and she happens to be French XD), and she mentioned to me something even I hadn’t thought of. An old friend of hers used to live in Yemen – this is pre-2001 – and her friend observed to her that even though nearly all the women covered completely, you always knew who they were. Certainly, you could only see their eyes, but somehow, after a while, you were able to tell each one of them apart.

      This suggests, and my friend also noted this, that in the absence of one cue, we begin to employ others, and she likened this to people who are blind or visually impaired – how their other senses are heightened, supplementing for the ‘missing’ sense.

      This made me think of those studies of how well white Americans (I think – the sample was Caucasian, in any case) differentiate between Chinese faces: and you know you’ve had the thought ‘they all look the same’. And yes, they do – to you. But ask a Chinese person or a person who knows them, and they could probably tell each of them apart. You can figure out why, right? It’s about familiarity.

      What that shows is that the ‘facelessness’ of women who cover is perpetuated by our refusal to acknowledge them, or see them in another way. Yes, they are covered; yes, you can’t see their faces. But try and see them some other way. That is what they’re asking.

      The intolerable thing – to anyone, in any situation – is to be told that their personal, subjective experiences are invalid, because they don’t fit into a preconceived idea of what that experience should be. Never have the arrogance to tell someone their experiences are ‘wrong’.

      (I would point out I started writing this a while ago, went to cook, had dinner, and now have come back XD)

      (PS – have noted Lev’s response. Much more eloquent than mine XD)

    • April 8, 2010 11:13 pm

      Fjaf, your comments were caught by the spam filter (yeah, I just noticed, thanks to Noor XD), and I’ve just checked through them, and it should be fine now. It would appear that when you write a really long comment, you’ll have to wait for it to be approved, and if you flood, same thing. Not that you’re ACTUALLY spamming, but WordPress THINKS you are.

  13. April 8, 2010 9:53 pm

    “If then 10-20% of these families force their daughters/wives to wear the burqa you have the observed amount.”

    There are only three countries in the world that force women to cover: Iran and Saudi Arabia (by law) and Afghanistan (by what is as far as I know no longer technically law but certainly overwhelming custom). Before the American invasion in Iraq, women in Iraq did not have to cover to the extent they are forced to now for safety reasons, and in many other countries (Jordan, Turkey, most of the Maghreb) there is enough anti-veiling sentiment to prevent women who even wear a headscarf from being able to achieve certain jobs. In addition to this, I have yet to meet very many immigrants from Muslim countries who insist on their families observing hijab. What is far more common in my experience is for Muslim parents to move from their home country to America or Europe and to encourage their children to “assimilate” (by not keeping hijab), and have children who actually want to become more religious than their parents and more strictly observant. Most niqabis I know personally are actually Western converts. So I think the idea that you can predict how someone observes hijab by the country they or their parents immigrated from is rather flawed.

    Also, I’m not sure if I made myself clear – what I was trying to say earlier is that I believe (a belief based in anecdotal evidence from all sides of the argument, not just my own) that the number of Muslim women forced to wear hijab or niqab in the West is minute compared to the number who choose to wear hijab or niqab (not discounting the number of Muslim women who do not cover at all). I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary, and the hypothetical “They come from countries where it’s customary to cover sometimes” or “They happen to come from one of the three countries where women must cover by law” just isn’t very convincing, for the reasons I stated above.

    I am not going to argue the rest of it at the moment, mostly because I have a big post coming up that will lay out my thoughts on the matter, and because I am really, really tired of arguing about this – honestly, I do it not because I enjoy arguing (I hate conflict and avoid it wherever possible) but because I would not be able to sleep at night if I didn’t. Because it’s a huge injustice that needs to be corrected, and my religion and my very humanity teaches me to resist injustice actively wherever I can. But sometimes I have to just step back because I feel like I’m repeating myself and banging my head against a wall.

    Also because Levantine’s responses were quite on point. ❤

  14. April 8, 2010 10:09 pm

    Also because I just saw this…

    “if you can’t go out in public without wearing a mask, or mask equivalent, I’d say you need to boost your confidence.”

    Keeping hijab in some form or another (whether it is just a headscarf or full-on niqab) for me was the first time in my life I dressed for myself rather than for someone else. After spending ten years in the hell of eating disorders, horrific body image, trying to fit my Venus of Willendorf body into Twiggy clothing, and propping up the fascist beauty standards of a seriously screwed up fashion industry, for once, what I wore was about first what I felt was expected of me by God and then what I felt comfortable in with my own skin. I have never had higher self confidence in my life than since I began keeping hijab. This is absolutely the most misguided way of looking at hijab I’ve seen (and that on the heels of some really rather misguided comments by my Better Half, which I’ll talk about later).

  15. fjafjan permalink
    April 10, 2010 10:30 pm

    Levantine wrote
    So you did in fact drag in other countries/women being pressured/Islam in general into it yourself first, to which I responded.
    I brought it up because the existance of that culture of opression because it’s highly relevant in talking about a culture of oppression in the west. I brought it up specifically because it’s not a muslim phenomenon but a local phenomenon, but it would still be ‘exported’. That there are nice muslim countries and bad christian/atheist/whatever countries is not relevant.

    Levantine wrote
    Why do you distrust people not of your ‘clique’ anyway? Why not just assume they are as human as anyone else, and as capable/incompetent as anyone else? Why the tribal mentality?
    I try to trust people I meet on the street, but it’s certanily the case that I won’t communicate with them in the same way as other people.

    I never said I don’t trust people my of “clique” but it doesn’t change the fact that most people I interact with, and this goes for most people, are largely similar in one or several regards, so for example the people I meet at Physics will have educated parents and an interest/’skill’ in science/math far greater than most people. I don’t know (more than aquintance anyhow) any Swedish muslims which is not from avoiding them, but because they don’t hang out where I do, nor do I really know anyone ‘working class’, yet both of these groups clearly exist. But they are not part of my “clique”. But I still interact with them at times, and know neither are particularily scary/evil.

    Levantine wrote
    Are you saying Saya would stink at any job aside from poker if she did it in a burka? 😄
    Nope, but I don’t think she would be any better at any of them. Just looking at your (probable) future job I can think of several places where it WOULD be a hindrance with male interaction, I recall reading in a study (woo poor evidence, but I don’t think it’s that controversial) that outcomes are improved greatly if you trust your doctor, and it’s much harder to trust someone whose face you’ve never seen, or indeed whose hand you cannot shake/touch (without some form of glove).

    Levantine wrote
    At any rate, it would ultimately be to the great loss of that employer if they chose not to hire the vast majority of veiled women I know, so not wasting any tears over that.
    You may not cry, but if an employers do not wish to gamble upon someone in a burqa, or indeed they do not perform as well because of communication problems, it is a loss for society at large.

    Levantine wrote
    How so? Drunk-driver kind of harmful? Or hat-person-doesn’t-look-like-me-I-must-suspect-them harmful. Which is what you did, by the way – your very first counter-argument was to bring up a point revolving around no less than SUSPICION and FEAR.
    Associating it with crime is unfortunate with the culture of distrust of muslims, but since it IS about anonymity the connection with crime is the same as in any other arena. When we talk about anonymity on the web, what is the primary objection to why it’s bad? Because it protects pirates, pedophiles and other forms of crimenal activity. Allowing permanent anonymity in public society will also lead to problems with crime. Now on the internet there are several good arguments for preserving anonymity, allowing for whistleblowing etc, as well as the technical implementations of disallowing anonymity is ripe for abuse. The same arguments do not exist ‘IRL’, where only the principle of freedom has been brought fourth.

    Levantine wrote
    Before you make such sweeping conclusions, I suggest you look up the term ‘phobia’ and then the term ‘free will’ and the concept of defending the latter. Smacks of Russians labeling all anti-government individuals as schizophrenic once upon a time. At any rate, it’s interesting that you’ve essentially re-labeled a group of people refusing to conform the will of others over something that harms no-one and brings them internal completion as evidence of psychological disturbance, and then proposed that the solution to this is to essentially convert them to your perspective.

    And people accuse MUSLIMS of wanting everyone to see things their way?
    Well democracies are often forced to make laws limiting the desires of others. It would be entirely legal and within the spirit of democracy to ban being drunk in public, and if this were to happen there would surely be a great number of people who would not like this. Now what would you call a person who refuses to leave their home because they cannot leave it drunk? I would say they have a problem of some sort, the exact terminology I’ll leave to you. There are people who are nudists, who wish to walk naked everywhere, at least as the weather permits. But in many/most societies there are laws prohibiting public nudity, are they such horrible fascists imposing this perspective on them? What can we do if they refuse to go outside without being nude? Well I would say offer them whatever help they might need to get over it, and if they refuse it then so be it.

    Noor wrote
    Keeping hijab in some form or another (whether it is just a headscarf or full-on niqab) for me was the first time in my life I dressed for myself rather than for someone else. After spending ten years in the hell of eating disorders, horrific body image, trying to fit my Venus of Willendorf body into Twiggy clothing, and propping up the fascist beauty standards of a seriously screwed up fashion industry, for once, what I wore was about first what I felt was expected of me by God and then what I felt comfortable in with my own skin. I have never had higher self confidence in my life than since I began keeping hijab.
    and

    Levantine wrote
    Weakest argument you’ve made so far. Women dress up for OTHER WOMEN, to make themselves feel good about the way they look. Do a survey of women who’ve converted to Islam or decided to start covering how they feel about their looks. The resounding response will be something along the lines of what a RELIEF it was to be free from the pressure of constantly being looked at, constantly worrying how one looks, constantly preening and primping for the sake of what everyone things. Ultimately it leads to better internal well-being, and healthier self-image. I think that defines confidence! Better self-esteem, for sure!

    Exactly my point, they need to boost their confidence, ie self-esteem. I remember hearing that one of the biggest fears of many people is public speaking, for the obvious reason that it’s hard and having lots of people looking at you it’s easy to jumble your words and become self-conscious etc. But if you’re a self-confident person public speaking is not as scary. The solution is not for people to not speak publicly, speaking publicly is great fun and important for democracy, when a lot of people can do it (everyone can bring their perspective to a larger group). So your solution would be “No one nervous about public speaking should ever have to speak publicly”, people wouldn’t worry about public speaking any more because they know they’ll never have to do it. I’m saying you should learn to do it, we know from experience that pretty much everyone CAN learn to do it but you need practice etc. If you’re so nervous and anxious about people looking at you, I think you need to boost your self-esteem so that you don’t care so much about what some random person on the street think, not to cover yourself. Of course that might be easier said than done, but the gain I think is far more real and personal growth is always better than limitation.

    Oh and as a side point, women DO dress up for a variety of intents and purposes, seeing as how there is a very large number of different women. Considering there are a fairly large number of women who regularly ‘go out’ with the specific intent of getting laid, I would be surprised if their choice of clothes were at least not in part intended to attract men.

    Speaking of side points
    Levantine wrote
    So… unless we’re going to eliminate ALL medical risk and live in vacuums… possibly as specimens of people, in jars of vinegar… 😄
    in due time, in due time.
    Levantine wrote
    Anyway, re: the physiological effects – the main one is the effect of lack of sunlight in women who’ve migrated to cold climates and also cover themselves. It’s not great, but I think – having seen such patients in friend-circles and at our hospitals – that it’s nothing near as bad as the effects of smoking, drinking, eat junk and being overweight, etc etc etc.
    I don’t know, I heard the main killer for people my age is suicide, caused primarily by depression. And there is a close link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression. So at least on the short term it’s quite possible wearing a burqa is worse for you than smoking/drinking. Not to mention most muslims ARE ‘brown’, ie from sunny places.

    Levantine wrote
    the reality is that this was not an issue pre-9/11 before everyone suddenly became interested in Muslims, and Muslims suddenly became the source of society’s biggest problems. And women still wore the veil out in the West back then, in precisely the same ways and for precisely same reasons with minimal fuss or trouble from anyone…
    This is not really true, the source of anti-islamism in Europe is much more from failed immigration policies causing segregation and economic divides, as well as globalization and the general damage that has done to workers across Europe, than from the threat of terrorism. Now terrorism is the scapegoat, but it’s entirely unsatisfactory as a real explanatory factor, and does not explain how there have been previous rises anti-immigration/anti-islamic/populist parties in the past, like mid 90s in Sweden. Of course these are not really any better, but it’s unhelpful to think these people purely malicious, and not motivated, misguidedly, by real grievances.

    Saya wrote
    The intolerable thing – to anyone, in any situation – is to be told that their personal, subjective experiences are invalid, because they don’t fit into a preconceived idea of what that experience should be. Never have the arrogance to tell someone their experiences are ‘wrong’.
    see this is why I wrote
    Please tell me when and if so where you think I’m being impolite/disrespectful
    So was it the self-confidence
    But I agree what someone experience is never ‘wrong’, but that is not to say we have to accept their conclusions as gospel. They can certainly be misguided in how they interpret their experiences. So if I go to the beach and I feel skinny and pale and ugly and then go back to the Physics department and feel much better about how I look those feelings are certainly accurate, but it’s not because I have become a more dashing fellow. There are basically three solutions to avoid these bad feelings, one is to never go back (this is bad because the beach is nice), one is to change how you look (this is arduous and maybe even impossible) and the last is to change how you think about you look, in one way or another. Maybe realize that there actually, like in reality, are very different standards of beauty, or maybe being the best looking person isn’t that important and not a stick you should measure your self-worth by. If someone says their life is so much better that they never go to the beach and see this as the solution to people being unhappy how they look I can say that’s ‘wrong’. Bah, why did I go so far with this analogy? Analogies are always more or less terrible. Well too late now.

    Saya wrote
    The thing your whole argument rests on is a basic assumption that what is important to you is universally important. Specifically, the assumption that because faces are important to you in communication and personal comfort, they are universally important for effective communication and comfort.

    The point that is being made is that this is not the case for some people. For some people, showing your face is not a symbol of social conscience or consciousness – and since it’s their face, not yours, they get to decide whether or not they will show it….

    …What that shows is that the ‘facelessness’ of women who cover is perpetuated by our refusal to acknowledge them, or see them in another way. Yes, they are covered; yes, you can’t see their faces. But try and see them some other way. That is what they’re asking.
    Okey, maybe I was being unclear, so I’ll spell it out. I am not saying I think faces are important to me, I think faces are universally important. I’ve not really proved this in any manner, I’ve assumed it true because I think there is good reason to think that this is the case, for example the incredibly early use of smileys when talking over the web. Or childrens obsession with cartoons, who all use facial features to communicate basically everything. Now this is not to say that you can’t live without this communication, I mean people certainly can deal with being blind and still talk to people, and you can know someone well by only ever writing letters to them. But it’s a major handicap, it’s something you have to learn to deal with, and even then it’s ultimately different. And wearing a burqa you’re not handicappying yourself more than slightly limiting what you can see, you’re limiting the people around you. So society can ask itself, is this a reasonable demand? What are the consequences of this handicap, costs, benefits, is it reasonable to allow it?

    Noor wrote
    Also, I’m not sure if I made myself clear – what I was trying to say earlier is that I believe (a belief based in anecdotal evidence from all sides of the argument, not just my own) that the number of Muslim women forced to wear hijab or niqab in the West is minute compared to the number who choose to wear hijab or niqab (not discounting the number of Muslim women who do not cover at all). I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary, and the hypothetical “They come from countries where it’s customary to cover sometimes” or “They happen to come from one of the three countries where women must cover by law” just isn’t very convincing, for the reasons I stated above.
    Three countries, as well as some countries where it’s just customary. Is it really unreasonable that they make up 10-20% of Muslims in Belgium? I mean there really aren’t THAT many Muslim countries to begin with.
    So okey, let me win this point via Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_Netherlands
    So there are 900k~ Muslims in the Netherlands (presumably mostly Turkish, Moroccan or ‘other’, that being a rather significant block of people), ~60k of which are from Afghanistan or Somalia, and if you add Iraq to that list it climbs to 110k, so using brain-math that becomes 7-12%+ (+ being that all Muslims are ‘accounted for’, the ethnicity of 400k people is not. Actually the + is not entirely accurate, seeing as how I do not account for Afghanis/Somalis not being Muslim). So that certainly fits my prediction, which is always nice. How many are forced within their family, well the nature of that need not be force, it can be the same pressure that keep people from openly stating their homosexuality, while not explicitly told they can’t, because all, or even parts, of their family will disown them. Now I can’t prove that this happens in 10-20% of these families, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonably large number.
    And the discussion all along has been about primarily the burqa, slipping somehwat into niqab, the two being rather similar, but only the former being what might be banned. The Hijab is another thing altogether.

    Levantine wrote
    1. Muslims do not believe in mixing the sexes much.
    That’s nice. I don’t believe in a lot of things. This sounds kinda rude, but there’s little else to say of this point.
    2. When in public, Muslim women will not want to communicate with strange men anyway unless they have to for practical or necessary matters; nor do they wish to be looked at by strange men, or attract attention to themselves.
    The argument put forth all along, and the one I’ve been arguing against above why this desire is not the most important part of the question.
    3. You cannot force women to mix with men if they don’t want to, or offer their bodies to the male gaze if they do not want this. Robs you of your eye candy, but I think their feelings take priority in this matter. Anyone who tries to pressurise another human – most likely a pleasant, hard-working, innocent human being – into behaving differently just because it doesn’t fit their grand scheme of how things SHOULD be is nothing more than an oppressor.
    Well we sort of can, in that you need to be able to deal with the opposite sex in society. We can’t adapt society to allow muslim men and women to live a ‘normal life’ without seeing women/men respectively. Wearing a ‘portable house’ is not a reasonable solution for reasons discussed. As for me, and other men, missing out on their ‘eye candy’ I can think of no better suited place to look at another individual than the face, be they male, female or something else. If anything is stereotypical in this discussion it is the image of men as unhelpable sexites, staring abjectly at any female skin, and women as unsexualized dolls, too fragile to bear any male gaze and as uninterested in the prospect as a rock. I think that above all is what is wrong about your picture.

    • April 10, 2010 10:51 pm

      All I have to say about this at this time is that I don’t think any of us will benefit from continuing this discussion: all the chips are on the board, in a manner of speaking.

      Despite that, anyone else should feel free to carry on, but I, personally, know that this is a point of impasse (out of sheer obstinacy XD), and actually probably has been from the second comment or something. My original post was a response – partly tongue-in-cheek, partly very serious – to a lot of the things you’re already saying, Fjaf. Essentially, everything you’ve said has missed the point each advocate was making – whether because they were unclear, or you didn’t comprehend it, I don’t know. It might have been a combination of both.

      Perhaps living and letting live is something we need to work harder on, and perhaps there are things that don’t require us to have an opinion. Perhaps the whole problem lies in us thinking things that aren’t our business are, and then it is compounded by our arrogant and clumsy attempts to rearrange the whole wide world into something we find personally acceptable, when really we should leave things be.

      Anyway, I don’t know.

      PS I also have no problems of self-esteem, nor do I think that me not shaking hands with men will make me less skilled at any job I undertake. Nor do I think a person will mistrust a doctor who won’t shake hands for reasons of personal belief…also, have you BEEN in a GP surgery or hospital in England? Do you have any idea what would happen to the health services if Muslims and/or non-Brits weren’t there? 😄 😄

    • Levantine permalink
      May 25, 2010 2:52 pm

      I don’t have the time to dissect the sophistry and fallacy in your arguments, but there are two things I feel a responsibility to say.

      Fjaf wrote: I don’t know, I heard the main killer for people my age is suicide, caused primarily by depression. And there is a close link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression. So at least on the short term it’s quite possible wearing a burqa is worse for you than smoking/drinking. Not to mention most muslims ARE ‘brown’, ie from sunny places.

      1. Nice to know you’re basing things on what you ‘heard’. For the record, the most vulnerable victims of suicide are older white men.
      2. Er, what close link between vitamin D and depression [that is severe enough to actually predispose to suicide]? Do you realise that a huge proportion (1 in 4 Britons, and variable yet similar figures elsewhere in this hemisphere) suffer from depression, but that the overwhelming majority of them do NOT commit suicide?
      3. It is NOT ‘quite possible’ that wearing a burqa ‘is worse for you than smoking and drinking’. Do not insult all of us (and disgrace yourself) by fabricating facts. Smoking and drinking are linked – strongly – to HUGE numbers of deaths, daily. Burka-wearing has not even been tentatively linked to any such outcome, and to even suggest so is fear-mongering and the kind of ignorant nonsense I would expect from a right wing media, not from you – or so I thought.

      For the record, it’s actually emerging that women from Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Caribbean backgrounds (not all of whom are Muslim, by the way, especially re: the latter two groups) simply need stronger sunlight, and that vitamin D deficiency is being found in both those who cover and do not cover as a result of this fundamental biological trait, particularly in countries of higher latitudes (it’s not exactly a huge problem in more equatorial countries – where a world majority of veil-wearers reside). What do you propose next in the interests of health, that they all be removed to a more suitable environment?

      Furthermore, religious faith – i.e. the driving force behind wearing a burka in the overwhelming majority of such women (along with marriage and having children) is actually a protective factor against suicide. But I imagine this will not fit very well into your paradigm re: the universe and how it should work.

      In short, do not make things up, ESPECIALLY medical facts, which is both stupid and irresponsible. As a medic, I felt practically obliged to follow this point up.

      Fjaf wrote: Well we sort of can [force people to mix with each other]

      You really have no real respect for human rights, do you?

      Do you realise you just said you can force someone to live the way you want them to?

      Do you understand the idea that someone is ENTITLED not to mix with others should they so desire? Since the majority of society will not behave in this way, society as a whole will not suffer for it, and ultimately it only impacts the people who choose not to be so socially mixed. Does the concept that WE ARE NOT ALL FJAF AND DO NOT ALL WANT TO LIVE LIKE FJAF even sink in?

      So ultimately, in a world under your control, we would be fed medical lies in order to back narrow-minded arguments and forced to live how you would like us to.

      I think I just lost what remaining shred of respect I had for you. There’s nothing wrong with having a wildly different opinion to others, which is indeed creative and productive, but do not make up completely false medical ‘facts’ to try and base your highly subjective experience on some kind of objective foundation. Come out and confess a difference of opinion or even a prejudice if you wish, but do not undermine others, medical realities and our general ability to see through your sophistry in order to thinly veil them.

      Pun not intended.

  16. fjafjan permalink
    April 11, 2010 12:34 am

    I think you’re fairly correct re: where this is going, My intention was to point out a number of bad arguments (I think/thought) you were making in the ‘OP’, not to argue for a ban on burqas, which considering how few people wear one, is rather irrelevant. The argument you’ve been making has largely been “we should be able to do what we want”, which as I point out is not the way society works. You argue that it harms no one, I’ve argued this is not really the case. I’ve probably not succeeded in the last, but that’s where we’re at. I’ve presented a largely falsifiable claim, I’m not going to try and prove it true or false because it would require a lot of research, and is not really relevant to the reality of the situation anyhow, where it’s largely working class people blaming immigrants/Islam for their, and the worlds problems.

    PS. Not shaking hands would not make you any less skilled. It would however make your patients less healthy, because how much you trust your doctor has a big effect on how healthy you’ll get due to placebo (wee watching too many TEDtalks to attribute sources). And a doctor wearing a niqab or burqa (which would be the case for male patients) would certainly be less trusted, and one who does not shake hands most likely so too (which is not to say distrusted), by a lot of people, and for rather understandable reasons. Someone looking you confidently in the eye while shaking your hand is far more inspiring than someone talking behind a piece of cloth.

    As for your self-esteem you’re probably right, you seem capable of leaving your home without a burqa, and I think I should clarify what I was actually saying: Women who wear a burqa/niqab can have great self-confidence etc, it’s those who could not possibly leave the house/live without one that I think are in some trouble (which might as well be because they’re silly in other ways, but in the examples brought up by Lev and Noor that seems not to have been the case). It’s one thing to WANT to wear a burqa, it’s another to not function without it, and the latter is not healthy.

    • April 11, 2010 12:38 am

      Sigh, Fjaf. Sigh.

      That is all. 😄

      Okay, it’s not all. I wish Winnie could have had the time to read this discussion, because it so completely sums up a conversation we had about the patronising colonial attitude to savages and their practices. That is all. Because I’m tried tired.

    • April 11, 2010 12:41 am

      PS – I mentally yelled, ‘DON’T BE SUCH A NUMPTY!!’ at you with your last post 😄

      • fjafjan permalink
        April 11, 2010 1:01 am

        I think it’s unescapable that every culture will have some things that are good, and some things that are bad, and only to the extent that we are willing to change the bad things will society improve. So saying X in culture Y is bad is not being an arrogant colonialist, it’s being honest and trying to make that culture better, and in this case it’s being a feminist. You should know I’m not one to heap praise on how western society works either.

        PS. Will all the kings horses and all the kings men, convince you to think that I talk sense again? 😛

  17. April 11, 2010 1:17 am

    Let us be perfectly clear: in the nicest way possible, I haven’t EVER considered you as a person who talks sense ^^

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