Wednesday, 25 October 2006

The dance of the long black veil

Your house, your rules. That would be the easy way for Britons to resolve their present debate about the wearing of the niqab by a Muslim woman. He (or she) who owns the property sets the rules, and she (or he) who visits said property can either abide by those rules or go elsewhere.

So if I go to a mosque, I might be expected to follow the rules of the house, and if you come to my house or my office or my school you might be expected to follow mine.

We don't need to necessarily respect the rules, just to follow them if we wish to enjoy the hospitality of the host.

The problem in the case that has generated the British debate is that the woman who wishes to wear a niqab that completely covers her face in the manner pictured above wants to work in a government school as a teacher, which means that since there's no private property argument to which to repair, the debate as framed is unresolvable. Literally unresolvable.

Many parents with children at the school object to their children being taught by a woman whose face is concealed. But she has the right to wear what she wants, doesn't she? The principle to be followed here is that no one should be forced to pay for beliefs which they oppose -- but of course that belief is violated every day in very government-owned school across the western hemisphere. As long as schools are unowned (or government 'owned'), then who gets to make the rules about what you wear in class, what food children are allowed in their lunchbox, and what religious observances are practiced is left at the mercy of whoever grabs the levers of power.

What happens without clear private property rights is that a women who does wish to wear the veil to teach in a secular classroom has to endure a national debate. That's pathetic. No such problem would (or should) exist if the secular school wasn't a place to which children are forced go, and parents are forced to pay for. If the school was private and parents had the choice about their children attending then the problem would just disappear. Don't like the rules or the dress-code of the teacher? Then don't send your kids there. Their school, their rules, right? Choice and private property resolving the apparently unresolvable.

But there is another point to be made.

There is something barbaric about wanting to veil yourself, or being forced by religion to veil yourself. The Western value of freedom of expression rightly protects the freedom of someone to choose how they dress (when their property is their own or someone who accedes to the dress code), but there is an element here amongst British Muslims that they must confront of wanting to eat their Western cake and to have it too. And there is something too for non-Muslim Britons to learn. Says the Ayn Rand Institute's Alex Epstein on these last points:

Britons are absolutely right to criticize the niqab. It is a demeaning, barbaric article of clothing that inculcates shame in women, depriving them of individuality and femininity. But to criticize niqabs will not go very far in making Britain a more integrated, less balkanized nation. Britons' most powerful tool of assimilation is to understand and proudly and convincingly proclaim Western ideals.

“They must understand that what made the West great is individualism, reason, the pursuit of happiness--and that this is objectively superior to the tribalism, superstition, and earthly deprivation that many Muslims seek to live out and bring to Europe. Britons must reject the insidious idea of multiculturalism, which holds that all cultures are of equal value. Cultures are not of equal value: prosperity is superior to poverty, happiness is superior to misery, freedom is superior to slavery, and a visible face is superior to a slit revealing two anonymous eyes."
And that's the truth.

UPDATE: I just completed this and then noted that Liberty Scott has made almost the exact same points as I have: 'Niqab, Islam and Civilisation.' Great minds, etc.

LINK: How Britain should promote assimilation - Alex Epstein, Ayn Rand Institute
Schools told: Ban the veil - Daily Express

RELATED: Politics-UK, Multiculturalism, Education, Religion, Political Correctness


  1. "which means that since there's no private property argument to which to repair"

    Yes there is, the Government owns the schools, so it can set the rules. The schools (and hospitals etc etc) are the British Government's private property.

  2. I think you're missing the point of the post, Eric.

    'The Government' qua property-ownership doesn't exist.

    'The Government' is everyone and no-one, but as long as everyone is required (by force) to pay for such bogus 'ownership' then people will continue paying for opinions which they themselves find odious, nd those who wish to impose their own opinions will continue to try and seize the un-owned for their own ends.

  3. ...But there is another point to be made.

    There is something barbaric about wanting to veil yourself, or being forced by religion to veil yourself....

    And PC's agenda floats to the surface.

    By the way PC, you do realise that there are in fact private schools that British parents can send their kids to if they wish. In true libertarian style they can vote with their pocket if they care so much.

    To lay out my cards, I agree that I find naqibs (naqeeb? naqiib? *shrug*) unsettling - but fashion, if anything, is relative. And yes, it is just fashion.

  4. Let me clarify - fashion is dictated by many things, most of them irrational. Religion is just one factor that has a huge influence. The point is that getting hyped up about what people wear is a waste of time - better to focus on what people think.

  5. And hell, I wonder if any of the parents who are so worried have actually sat down with the teacher and had a chat to find out what she's like. That's why my parents did when I was in school and they wanted to know what the teachers were like.

  6. The problem with the niqab is it is representitive of other things and people understand this, even if sometimes only sub-consciously.

    They recognize the lack of freedom inherent in unreformed Islam and it is very, very scary in many ways.

    Ordinary folk see this clearly but it takes University educated "intellectuals" with a few PHD's in "third-world non-judgementalism" to deny the obvious.

  7. Facial expression the ability to see someones face is an important part of commmunication. Ever actually talked to someone ins an full face veil Polemic? It is unsettling in the extreme. You are not sure who you are talking to. It is barbaric and is more than merely a fashion statement.


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