Thursday, August 28, 2008

The veil - a quote

From The Heresiarch, in response to an article by the Guardian's religion correspondent, Riazat Butt, about some abuse her fully veiled sister encountered on a street. Butt asked how her sister should respond next time such a thing might happen. Here's the Heresiarch's response:

How should she respond? By taking it off.

I'm sorry your sister has been abused, but the veil not only gives many people the creeps (and that is only natural, given that it is utterly alien, not just to western culture, but to western conceptions of human dignity) it is also extremely rude. So it's something your sister wants to do? I might want to walk down the street stark naked. I don't, as it happens, but I might. If I did, I would run the risk of being arrested; but even if walking around naked were not illegal, it would still be an act of selfishness, even self-absorption, displaying a complete lack of regard for other people and the common proprieties. Wearing a face veil is exactly the same.

If your sister wishes to go about her business like everyone else, then she should prepared to meet society at least half-way. She should accept that, far from being "modest" (it is, surely, as immodest a garment as it is possible to imagine) the veil is a proclamation of difference, even of superiority. It is (in an unveiled society) an assertion of not wanting to belong. Well, that is her right in a free society. But it would be wrong for her to imagine that it is or should be cost-free. If your sister has a right to passive-aggressively insult the culture in which she lives, then, sadly, rude ill-bred people have an equal right to be rude to her. Most people will be silently pitying her.
Click through to Heresy Corner to read more from Maryam Namazie and another Guardian commentator, Clare London.

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