To veil or not to veil

That is the question


The Muslim veil or niqab has been in the news lately.  Birmingham Metropolitan College banned veils in the classroom, and then, intimidated by a local campaign, relented.  Now a Lib-Dem Home Office Minister, no less, Jeremy Browne MP, has called for a debate on the veil. 

What stance should UKIP take?  My starting point is that we are a Libertarian party.  Broadly speaking, we favour allowing individuals to do what they choose to do, provided it doesn’t harm others or our wider society.  Sometimes, however, this issue of “harming wider society” becomes a very grey area.

There are various practical arguments against the veil.  In many public and social situations, face-to-face contact is important.  We think we communicate with words, but to a large extent we communicate with body language and especially with facial expressions.  Deaf people rely on lip-reading.

There was a recent case where a judge insisted that an accused Muslim woman should be seen for purposes of identification.  She refused.  Eventually a compromise was reached where a woman police officer saw the accused’s face privately and verified the identity to the Court.  This seems to me to be the start of a very slippery slope.  For judge and jury to form an impression of the reliability of a witness, it seems to me essential that they should be able to see the witness’s face and expression.  Mere verification of identity is not by itself sufficient, and in my view the judge was wrong to allow it.

In schools, again, facial expressions are an essential part of communication.  The pupil must see the teacher, and the teacher must see the pupil.  In commercial and social transactions, the same comments apply.  And of course we already ban motorcyclists from covering their faces with crash helmets (although for different reasons) in banks.  It may not be a major issue for most of us, but there have been cases of (usually male) criminals and terrorists covering themselves in the burka to commit offences.

There is a totally different and much wider-ranging argument against the veil, and that is the fear that many Muslim women are pressured or forced to wear the veil when they would prefer not to.  It is difficult to get data on this, and difficult to intrude into these areas of cultural sensitivity, yet most of us would say it was wholly wrong for Muslim women to be pressured or forced by Muslim men to cover their faces.

It seems to me, however, that there is a much broader issue here.  In our society, the ability to see the faces of other people is key to social interaction, to trust and to relationships.  We all see the masking of the face as potentially suspicious or even threatening, whether it be Muslims in veils, louts on the street in hoodies, motorcyclists with helmets, or bank robbers with stockings over their heads.

Hiding the face is a public demonstration of alienation from society.  It is a deliberate (and arguably provocative) assertion of differentness and isolation.  So I would argue that allowing one group of people in society to cover their faces in public places and public institutions is disquieting and divisive. It is bad for them, and bad for the rest of us.  It is certainly a barrier to integration, and I believe that integration is a vital way to welcome citizens of different races and religions into our society.

On balance, therefore (and it is a difficult issue), I believe that we in Britain are indeed entitled to ask visitors and immigrants to make at least this small concession to our own indigenous culture.  I think we should ban the full face veil, at least in public places and public institutions.  I am glad to see that there appears to be widespread support for this view – even amongst the Lib-Dems.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to To veil or not to veil

  1. Peter Harris says:

    First class, couldn’t agree more

  2. Joseph T Croft says:

    I quite agree with what you say Roger , but that judge should never have backed down no matter what religion or race , they are attending a court of law , you cant have people dictating their rules , to a judge in a court of law , she should have been charged with contempt of court , if they don’t wish to follow our laws and customs , perhaps they would better finding a country that suites there needs better ,

  3. Eric Worrall says:

    I disagree with this sorry Roger.

    In Turkey moderate Muslims call Muslims who wear veils “scarfies”, very much the same way we might call someone with rude backwoods manners a “hick”. There are widespread feelings of contempt for President Erdogan’s wife, for wearing a headscarf.

    But a few centuries ago, wearing headscarves of even Hijabs was far more prevalent in places like Turkey.

    This shift in attitudes was not because headscarves were banned, but because many people in Turkey wanted to identify with educated Europeans, to make a break from the old culture.

    If someone has deep feelings about wearing a veil, forcing them to remove their veil won’t force them to interact with society. More likely it will increase feelings of isolation, by adding the element of shame – they’ll just stay at home, either through personal choice or pressure from male relatives.

    Far better to allow people to live how they want – and allow normal social pressures to push people into integrating with wider society.

    The generation who get off the boat will probably never feel fully British – but their kids might.

    We can however accelerate this process a little. One country we can learn from, when it comes to integrating Muslims into society, is America. In America, if you want to wear a headscarf or hoodie, you d@mn well can – its a matter of personal freedom.

    But nobody will pay for your lifestyle choices – if you want to eat, you have to acknowledge, and to an extent be a part of wider society. And that sometimes means making compromises.

    • I can’t buy the idea that what we wear can be entirely a matter of personal choice, regardless of the norms and standards of society. Does a nudist have a right to walk down Oxford Street naked?

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Depends on the time of day 🙂

        Seriously though, I doubt many people have been taught all their lives that nudism is an absolute religious necessity. Telling a nudist they have to cover up sometimes is unlikely to generate quite the same level of distress.

      • Me_Again says:

        You are just not getting it Mr Worrall, the veil is NOT a religious necessity. It is NOT part of Islam.

    • Harold Armitage says:

      Anyone coming to this country should be prepared to adopt our customs.
      If not. get out.
      They are here as political and economic refugees from their own culture.
      We don’t need that culture here,we will end up the same.
      If you joint a cricket club, you don’t demand to play football.

      • David says:

        Yes they come here for safeety, freedom, yet abuse OUR WAYS

      • Eric Worrall says:

        If it had been made clear to them they weren’t allowed to wear a veil before they migrated, I would agree with you. But this feels a little like changing the rules after the game has started.

      • Me_Again says:

        The converse argument is that when you recognise a wrong, then you are morally obliged to right it.
        If it is such a problem, us changing the law we can always offer repatriation at government cost. The very least we can do for people who have made the wrong choice. It would of course have to be totally voluntary, I mean otherwise we’d be accused of ethnic cleansing wouldn’t we?

  4. David H. Walker says:

    In most of the places where I’ve seen hijabs and other head coverings, punishment for crimes is severe, and crime is relatively non-existent. If Britain punished crimes with the same determination, the same methods, I’m sure there’d be no problem covering one’s face in public.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Quite – I’ll never forget reading the front page story of Khaleej Times in Dubai, about the capture of a person who burgled 6 houses. No violence, it was just shocking, front page news that someone in Dubai tried to make a career out of theft.

      I’m sure what they did to him made front page news as well, but I wasn’t around for the followup article.

  5. Me_Again says:

    I can see Eric’s point above but he misses the simple fact that Asian muslims don’t integrate in America any more than they do here. I also rather suspect that there are many fewer -at least proportionately than there are here. In addition America is the land of Chinatown and all the other micro countries that don’t integrate and form ghettos.

    In addition it should be noted that the wearing of veils is not prescriptive of Islam. I repeat for the hard of hearing, veils are not mandated by Islam. Therefore the claim that it is a religious requirement is entirely spurious.

    I recently visited Birmingham [I live quite rural nowadays] and was shocked at how little of England there is left in vast swathes of it. Shopping Malls where all the shop assistants are Asian, busy streets where there are no white people in sight at all. The smell is not England, the sound is not is not England and the sight is not England. I was commuting daily into what I came to think of as Karachi [certainly passed the smell, sight and sound test I can vouch from my last visit some years ago] or Bordersley Green to the hospital my son was in. When I passed a huge Sainsburys at a range of about 5 miles [S], I was passing the border between England and Pakistan/Somalia. On the first day when I took him to the hospital he was looking out at the people in the streets as we neared the hospital, he said ‘They look like dementers Dad.’ I had no idea what he was talking about. I said ‘What?’ and he said ‘You know, like in Harry Potter’. and it finally clicked, he was talking about all the veiled women resembling the souless spirits in the harry Potter films. Out of the mouths of babes……..

    As in France and Belgium, ban the veil in public places.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Rising numbers of young Asian women in western countries being brutalised by their families – honour killings, young women escaping forced marriages, kidnappings – suggests there is a fair amount of social tension at work, that at least some young people in such families are trying to escape the strictures of their parent’s culture.

      Its a different question entirely as to whether its wise for western countries to take on such a load of problems in the first place, but there’s no point closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

      Making Muslim women from strict families even more isolated, by convincing their male relatives not to allow them to leave their houses at all, will solve nothing.

      • Me_Again says:

        You appear to ignore the social tension brought about by multi-culturalism i.e the equating of the pre-exitisting culture to imported ones. The importation and elevation of foreign culture to the same levels as that of the indigenous population -without the consent of the population is morally wrong. The rising number of brutalised of young Asian ethnicity women is because we pussy foot around Muslim infractions of the law e.g. not prosecuting doctors who offer abortion because the ‘wrong’ sex is conceived. This is only because they are treading on eggshells around other cultures. Dammit if I go to Saudi or a dozen other countries I have to accept their culture, it isn’t an option. When people come here they should accept ours too

        “…making Muslim women from strict families…”
        Strict what? I have already explained that wearing a veil is not a religious requirement.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        I agree multiculturalism in Britain, with mass immigration well above the comfort level of the original inhabitants, has been a disaster.

        My thinking though is, where do you go from here? Alienating a significant minority of the population doesn’t seem the easiest route to greater integration and harmony.

      • Me_Again says:

        Not an easy question Eric but one thing you don’t do is continue down a path you know will lead to a bloody disaster of monumental proportions -that’s if it isn’t too late now.

  6. As usual a balanced and sensible view from Roger and one with which I concur. I liked the point made in the penultimate paragraph and this is enough I feel to disallow veiling and covering of the face in our society (except during Arctic-type blizzards when outside).

  7. Anne says:

    Eric, this is not Turkey, this is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The whole point in going into a witness box is to try to find out the truth. The truth over all. If a person cannot be identified fully in the witness box there is no point in having them as witness in
    the first place. Since Turkey’s military rulers in December 1982 imposed a ban on the wearing of the veil, or hijab, by female students and teachers in state schools and universities, the veil’s place, propriety and meanings have been the subject of heated debate across Europe and, increasingly, North America.

    The alternative is of course, is for EVERYONE to wear “The Veil” in the witness box and refuse anyone to have a look at their face, until British Justice as we have know it for many years actually is accepted by all. Contempt of Court also springs to mind.

    United Kingdom: A tolerant attitude toward students wearing religious signs, especially the Muslim veil, is giving way to restrictions. In march 2007, Education Secretary Alan Johnson gave state schools authority to ban the wearing of Muslim veils on “safety, security and teaching” grounds. The policy, however, applies only to full-face-covering veils, not to mere head scarves.

    In 2006, a British appeals court ruled that Shabina Begum’s human rights were violated when the 17 year old was banned from wearing a head-to-toe jilbab to school. But in Match 2006 the House of Lords overturned that decision. In October 2006, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair criticized the veil as a “mark of separation” that “makes other people from outside the community feel uncomfortable.”

  8. maureen gannon says:

    Agreed Roger . What sickens me most is that being offended has become a religion in itself, well the offended are now offending me, also what now offends me is their statement “we should respect their wish to look like dementers”[ I did like that] what about them showing the country and it’s people where they have chosen to live some repect ? although the woman charged with intimidation is a British convert , had I been the judge I would have ordered its removal and if she refused charged with contempt and given three months after she had done her time then repeat until she obeyed the order.
    She is British so this is probably a big show to prove what a good muslim she is ,

  9. Mazzzz says:

    When in Rome … etc.

    This Country has bent over backwards in trying to accomodate immigrants. The socialist do-gooders, who make me SICK!, should go to any Muslim country and try behaving as they would do in this Country – If a man, try drinking alcohol, if a woman, try wearing a bikini – or some other such things. See how far you get!

    When in Rome …etc.

    • David says:

      It isnt “immigrants” its one particular , rather difficult group.
      No trouble with USA immigrants, Russian, Japanese, the list goes on, just one “sore thumb”

  10. ogga1 says:

    It seems to me that we will allow the felon to walk free meaning could you pick out a veil wearing felon?
    Go to a country where that mode of dress is acceptable, on security issues alone it is totally
    unacceptable in this country.

  11. Jane Davies says:

    The need to see the faces of those giving evidence and the facial re-action to that evidence by the accused is a no brainer. I have served on juries in the UK and here in Canada. Some witnesses swear to tell the truth on entering the witness box then lie their heads off. Jury members need to see who are telling the truth and who are not, end of.
    If not wearing the face veil means that those women will not leave the house, so be it. They should live in a country that allows it and the UK is not the place. How many people of other faiths who go to Muslim countries have their religious symbols welcomed or respected and how many Christian churches and other places of non-Muslim worship are there in Muslim countries?
    The UK is fast losing it’s identity in belonging to the EU and the job will be complete if this issue is not sorted out, ban the hijabs and the domination of women by men who in the name of Islam use it to control them.

    • ogga1 says:

      Morning Jane
      In complete agreement, go to Green Square Libya and demand the reaction would not be very nice
      at all,Just heard Mr Hunt on the news a master of evasion, he would not be pinned down to a yes/no
      answer, this is the norm in current times,appeasement,appeasement,appeasement.

      • Jane Davies says:

        What it boils down to is we need judges and politicians with a backbone who have the interest of indigenous people in the forefront of their minds. Stop all this political correctness it has totally got out of control. If those arriving in the UK are not prepared to adapt then they must go elsewhere.

      • Me_Again says:

        Absolutely. Other countries manage to put themselves first, why not us for a change.
        I find our liberal judiciary guilty of aiding and abetting the destruction of our society.

  12. Richard111 says:

    Well, we have the name on the GCSE exam paper. But who wrote the answers?
    Who was even IN the car photographed breaking the speeding law?
    Who was that seen helping themselves on the Supermarket video?
    Is that really a woman in the ladies toilet?
    TRUST is the key word, not FAITH.

    • Harold Armitage says:

      At the tourist beaches on the Red Sea coast in Egypt the veil is banned.
      Why is this?
      The local men were coming down to the beaches clad in niqabs (etc) to ogle Western women in bikinis.

  13. David says:

    So if the right to choose to wear a veil in the UK or any other Land is so important,to them and that we must tolerate it, accept it, why dont they accept western women showing faces, arms, legs etc when in their lands. The trouble is they wont, they want to dictate to us in either place as to what is right. They will accuse us of being racist if we do not let them,, therefore they are being racist to us by not allowing western women to walk around their lands with any skin showing. Double standards! What an intolerant bunch.

  14. Anne says:

    Judges and Magistrates need to see exactly who is before them. They have, at times, to tell people to “stand up” etc take out what ever may be in their mouths. If they do not present themselves accordingly they may even be “sent down”, until they decide to show respect in Court, because the Judges and Magistrates sit on behalf of the Crown. In every Court, except for the new Supreme Court, there is the Royal Plaque behind the Judge’s chair to remind us all whose Courts they are in.

  15. ex - Expat Colin says:

    Have seen it in East too many times…the Religious police thing where a gang of males get to handle females who happen to be there and the Death of a Princess at the call of a relative. Thats just a little about it. What I did not want to see is anything similar here, but lo and behold the males have it. Their males that is !

    Never quite understood why some of them wear almost complete black out kit and heavy coats on top in the middle of summer and in an non aircon department store (Debs Merry Hill). The escorting (in the lead) male wears the latest boys kit of course.

    Those long black garbs get caught in escalators and caused my niece to trip over the stupid thing in Glasgow.

    Disrespect of the court also arises where a Chowdrey like male refuses to recognise the court and refuse to stand as required. I asked a local MP (KHC W Mids) about that. He said the lady judge did not want to waste time being confrontational – something like that. If that were me I think I’d be smartly placed in a local slammer – am sure of that.

    I’d say forcing young women to stay indoors is false imprisonment, but for many of them imprisonment has been a way of life….get them when their young (very young).

    I don’t say they are all like this….just too many of them are and it is causing us unnecessary trouble. Some are rather militant about it also.

  16. Me_Again says:

    Maybe we need to do the UKIP thing and have a referendum. If they tab it on to the voting form I use at the European elections we could do both at the same time. Huge cost saving and problem solved because they CA’T say the people are wrong or that they don’t know what the people think.

    • Jane Davies says:

      Me_Again, that is a good idea… it won’t happen!!!
      Ask the vast majority of Brits about this and I’m willing to bet they would favour banning this medieval treatment of women. Get it sorted Roger once you have the power to do so (along with my frozen state pension) lets get the UK back for those of us who love the old country as it was not that long ago. I might even come back from Canada if you get it right! Many other “rats” who fled when that vile Gordon Brown became un-elected PM would be happy to return.

      • Me_Again says:

        On a slightly different note, how are you finding it over there Jane? I have about 60 cousins over there whom I see very occasionally when they come to see ‘the old country’.
        Most of them seem to be on the same hymn sheet as us on here. My wife and I are still seriously considering emigration, esp if it gets much worse here -maybe even asylum.

      • Jane Davies says:

        Canada is a really good place to live Me_Again a bit like how the UK used to be in places. But the Canadian government need to learn from the UK’s mistakes and be selective who they allow in. There is already a points system in place so they do not get so many of the dregs from other countries, but they do let in asylum seekers too. Having said that if non-citizens commit serious or serial crimes they are deported after serving their time in prison. Also new immigrants do not get any financial help from the Canadian government until they have been resident for ten years. Asylum seekers do get some financial help and are not allowed to work while their claim to stay is processed, which to me is crazy. they should work and earn their keep.
        We came here in 2006 in our late fifties and on reaching retirement age we find our state pension from the UK is frozen at the first payment, blatant discrimination by the UK government as some countries are frozen some are not. The USA is not frozen for example. UKIP must address this injustice and I know Roger is against this disgraceful policy as he has blogged about it in the past. But on the whole Canada is great!

      • Me_Again says:

        Thanks for that Jane you’ve only got a few years on me. Surprised to learn that the UK has no reciprocal agreement with Canada. Stupid without a doubt. Sorry to pry but you went out there to work I presume? Probably means I won’t be allowed to go out there already retired since they’d only see me and the boss as a ‘burden to be’. They’d probably see me as an extremist anyway for being a UKIP member.

        As a last resort I’d have to try asylum. I believe a German couple successfully applied for asylum in the US, something about their children’s education or something.

      • Jane Davies says:

        One can come here to retire but you need to prove you are financially independent. We came here as retirees and we also have family here. My husband now works, he’s an artist and has built up a local reputation, we need to boost our income until we have been here for the required ten years. Just so as you know, reciprocal agreements are not necessary for the UK to stop this discrimination, the DWP have had to stop saying this as we now have freedom of information and this has been shown up for the lie it is! Even if this was true Canadian expat pensioners who live in the UK get their annual cost of living increases so the UK should reciprocate but they don’t.

        Sorry everybody…we seem to have gone off topic!

      • Me_Again says:

        Think there’s probably only me you and Roger reading this bit Jane but thanks very much for the info.
        So the DWP lie and say there is no recip agreement so we can’t pay increments, BUT there doesn’t need to be so that is a red herring anyway?

      • Jane Davies says:

        Yes Me_Again a giant red herring!!

  17. Jane Davies says:

    Here is a young woman who will not be intimidated by a cleric. Good for her!

  18. Malcolm Edward says:

    Immigrants who come here should do so because they wish to live by our values and styles. If they do not, then there is no point for them in being here and they should not be here, and they should go to countries where their lifestyle is the norm. In fact dressing differently and wearing a veil is an intentional snub to the indigenous population and it is a means of creating a separate identity and division. So-called religious equality laws need to be re-framed that they cannot be upheld if they conflict with British traditions and norms.

  19. Chris says:

    The burka and niqab have no role in British society, for all the reasons that Roger has stated. They should be banned as found in France. There’s freedom of expression and there’s pushing things too far. This has gone too far. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And if you don’t agree, then it’s time to find a place which agrees with your views.

    • Jane Davies says:

      Isn’t that the problem Chris, these women shrouded from head to toe have their freedom of expression suppressed! It beats me what the men who dictate this medieval mode of dress for their women are afraid of. Well, I can answer that for myself it’s a control thing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s