06 September, 2005


On your own head be it

The town of Masseik in Belgium has banned the wearing of the burqa in public places. This has provoked the usual liberty vs culture debate about whether the UK should follow suit.

Personally I regard the wearing of burqa or niqab on the streets of a "secular Christian" country as a cultural affront, an act of disrepect to the indigenous or host culture. But I wouldn't ban it. There are subtler ways.

By all means let Muslim women wear burqa, niqab, chador or even a nicely tailored US Army surplus pup tent on the public thoroughfare, but do not pander to the practice in commercial or institutional transactions. Entry to many buildings requires photographic ID, passports and driving licences and the like require photographic ID. When a motorcycle courier enters a business premises he is generally required to remove his helmet so that his face is visible to staff and to security cameras. In many shops and shopping centres and other public-private sites, hoods, helmets and even baseball caps are banned on the grounds that you must make yourself visible to the ubiquitous CCTV.

So there you have a solution consistent with both liberty and cultural integrity. By all means wear your head-tents if you like, ladies, but if that means you can't avail yourself of our society's various services, that is your problem.

It's interesting that the Dutch are now talking about a ban on the burka in public places. I'm pretty much with you on this one, Edwin. Much as I dislike seeing women dressed as daleks, I wouldn't ban the things.

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