More On The Veil

Not that I want this site to turn into a 'veil issue' site, but this BBC news story has perfect timing. (Plus I have a day off which I have spent mostly sleeping and am too tired to write a big post).

A Muslim woman has been suspended by a school in West Yorkshire after she insisted on wearing a veil in lessons.

Bilingual support worker Aishah Azmi, 24, was asked to remove the veil after pupils found it hard to understand her during English language lessons.

I'm not the only one then. (Although it'll be interesting to see how the tribunal goes).

30 thoughts on “More On The Veil”

  1. Hey, I've got a good idea, why don't we prevent the spread of flu by all remaining in our homes and keeping them sterile at all times? Oh, I remember – it's because we are SOCIAL people who rely on communication and interacting with others to keep us sane. As Kyle points out, we don't generally wear masks, because the payoff (a slightly reduced chance of catching flu) isn't worth the cost (hugely reduced communication).Hence why a very effective punishment in our society is “solitary confinement”, seeing nobody. Even in our playgrounds, if kids want to really upset someone, there are two ways of doing it – one is to physically or verbally pummel them, the other way is to ignore them completely, not speak to them, not look at them directly, cut yourself off from them. It used to be called “being sent to Coventry”.

    Is it any wonder then, that we don't understand the people who WANT to cut themselves off, to not be recognised or spoken to by non-family-members?

  2. But Darth Vader was an evil psycho (dressed in black) fighting against the lovely Luke Skywalker (embodiment of all that is good dressed in white). If you want to look far enough into anything you could make accusations of racism, (happen to think that in many cases Hollywood is tho)Totally agree that being scared to voice an opinion incase it is misinterpreted into racism shouldn't be allowed as if anything this will just maintain the status quo and prevent 'true integration' arising through debate

  3. I thought I heard someone from the MCGB saying this morning that the Koran specifically says that there's no need to wear a veil when in front of children.

  4. Jack Straw goes to give a talk to a muslim womens meeting. One woman in the group said to another ” I don't know how he's got the cheek to show his face here”

  5. Just wondering again though, what will we all be wearing in public if SARS or “bird flu” epidemics hit?I'm sorry, I think this debate is another distraction created by spin experts to distract from the humanitarian disaster cuased by our illegal invasion of Iraq, and the government's ongoing moves towards a police state.

  6. …and I wonder if dentists have to take off their masks in front of children now, so that they're understood.To be clear, I'm not Muslim, I don't support the overt or covert oppression of women, I just think this is a spin-doctor's wet dream – “hey, let's blame some chicks' clothing for any tensions involving the Muslim community!”

    It seems to me her problem was more her poor pronounciation and the kids poor understanding of English than her facial garb, and that one is a topic for another kind of rant given the outsourcing of callcentres.

  7. Facial masks actually does pretty little against things like avian flu – it is a dangerous assumption to assume that they help prevent the spread of flu.If it was so good, why don't we make our young and elderly wear facial masks during the flu season? Ok, a pandemic grade flu is a little different, but the mechanisms of infection are similar.

    It's not just about pronounciation – communication is visual, I should know, I'm deaf. There's more than 9 million people in the UK who have problems with hearing, and that figure is rising, and it is not always easy to ask them to remove the veil, especially in a public place.

  8. The two professions are not comparable.For a dentist, the priority is offering medical procedures with a minimal risk of infection.

    For a teacher, the priority is communicating well with the children in their charge in order to educate them.

    A dentist's mask does not interfere with the medical procedure, it makes it safer.

    A teacher's mask will interfere with communicating well with children, and doesn't enhance the educating procedure in any way.

    Finally, the dentists I personally have seen, have greeted me with an open face and friendly smile, put their masks on to fiddle about with my mouth, and then removed the masks again when I am getting off the chair in order to tell me clearly what (if anything) they have found or done, what (if anything) needs doing next, when they would like to see me again, and to bid me goodbye.

    They remove the masks without being asked, because facial masks are a barrier to communication!

  9. I find it slightly depressing that the only time we have a debate about something like this (ie something that matters) is when a politician whose star is fading sees it as an opportunity to make a run for the deputy leadership of his party. Sorry Jack, mate, Ive always thought you were OK, but nobodys fooled by the timing here. A whole party conference just passed and nobody even noticed you. It was time for you to stir something up to get noticed again.We have become scared to debate anything that might offend people in this country. To illustrate, speaking as a gay man, Im totally happy for people to tell me they think I deserve to burn in hell. Im happy for them to express these (shit) opinions as long as they dont start the process there and then with a petrol bomb. It remains my absolute moral right to do as I wish, no matter how much they voice their disapproval. Equally, Muslim women are thoroughly entitled to wear whatever they wish, but it remains our right to give voice to the self-evident observation that its an impediment to fully functioning in our culture and that, frankly, many of them look like an obese version of Darth Vader and thus plain silly.

    As I understand the law of England now, however, anybody having a pop at me for my sexual preference could be accused of a hatecrime. Equally, I could be accused of inciting racial hatred for the paragraph above. Sure, it might be bad taste and/ or unfunny to others, but its nothing to do with hatred. It is wrong to choke off a right so important as freedom of expression to protect a (non-existent) right to not be offended by the views of others. Britain has never had any right to be protected from being offended, nor should it ever have one.

    If a person cant do their job properly because of some traditional article of clothing, thats unfortunate but surely just bad luck. She has to get another job which enables her to exercise her right to dress as she wishes, whilst still being able to perform properly in the job. Some jobs are incompatible with peoples traditions by their nature and denying this is the folly of dogma. All dogmatic politics and religion are, in my view, just institutionalised and ritualised cop outs from reality.

    Theres something faintly disturbing about how a well reasoned, measured (if politically opportune or cynical) comment by one of yesterdays men can cause such furore, followed by overwhelming support. What other latent views do we near universally share that could equally be ignited I wonder? I do hope that theyre benign.

  10. Wearing a veil is as spooky and off putting as someone wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day inside. I cannot relate to either form of face hiding. It's not part of British culture – and if Muslims want a better press they should try harder to integrate and respect our customs. We bend over backwards to avoid 'offending' them – how about some consideration for our feelings?

  11. Wow, fantastic. So well worded and as far as I can see very true. It was a pleasure to read.I think Britain has lost sight of the words “common sense”, have they fallen out of the dictionary?

  12. I will laugh myself to sleep tonight. My previous post is copied below for information.I have just watched the interview on the BBC News website and sat through it three times at varying volumes. I vindicate myself, I could not understand more than about 10% of what she said and still have no clue as to her responses in general even though I could hear the presenters questions perfectly. The only word I heard her say clearly was when she said “Pardon”.

    Previous Post…

    Tom you are my saviour! How's that for a compliment?

    I have been stewing for days now over the furour caused by Mr Straws comments, all because I could not leave my feedback to that news story on the BBC News web site.

    I am deaf, I fully accept Mr Straws observation and to have you actually speak it for me, in almost the exact words I wanted to say has cured me of my frustrated tension.

    I am a long, long way from racist and I too, dont care what people wear or don't wear, what religious beliefs they choose to follow (come and live in Switzerland and you will see eactly what I mean), everyone has their rights and I respect them. However, I feel rude and embarrassed if I keep saying pardon. Also the problem is ten times worse where accents are involved too.

    So, its nothing to do with personal prejudices – its PRACTICAL.

  13. I can't help thinking that what she sounded like on a TV-style recording would only be an indication of a face-to-face encounter if they were using a boom mike. And to the best of my knowledge, that's not what they do on BBC news unless it's an Outside Broadcast – in the studio everyone is fitted with an individual mike and battery pack, so that you hear what they are saying rather than the background noise of the studio. How well you hear them largely depends on where the mike is attached to the person's clothes (particularly in this case, was her mike outside or underneath the drapery?) and how well the sound engineers have balanced the feeds from each mike.

  14. I agree, very articulate, might have gone a tad far with the obese darth vader reference but other than that a very good read and infinitely more interesting than Salman Rushdie's quote of the week, “Veils suck”That man likes hiding

  15. Yes, sorry the Darth Vader comment was intended to illustrate how people have a right to say things that they believe. This includes making crass, cheap jokes. It didn't read that way and I honestly don't want deliberately to offend. Well, unless they deliberately wish to offend me in which case I wish to offend as much as possible, in celebration of our all-important but fragile rights.Thanks for the comments about being articulate. On this blog above all others, that's really flattering and pleasing.

  16. This should be considered akin to refusing to wear a hard hat on a construction site – the rule there is no hard hat, no work…I'm all for religious freedom but there's some times where its not appropriate…

  17. I absolutely agree.There has been a lot said lately on this topic regarding freedom of choice.

    Anyone remember the 'naked rambler'? he was in the news repeatedly last year for exercising his freedom of choice to hike the length of the country naked except for his boots and a rucksack. He kept getting arrested. Apparently you can't wear (or in his case NOT wear) what you like in this country just because you believe you have the right to do so.

  18. It scares me when a veil is worn when driving. Even more so when the driver is relatively short. It feels like a world gone mad when BA can ask others to remove a silver cross.

  19. What has annoyed me further on this story, is that she has said she's prepared to remove the veil, except in front of male members of staff…. all well and good, except for the fact that she has admitted she removed it for her job interview, which was conducted by a male school govenor.p.s. hi, first time poster here! 🙂

  20. Hmm, as a Christian student studying to become a health care professional, I have to take off my cross because it would be impractical for both H&S reasons, and also because some people have specific reactions/wouldn't say certain things (relevant to treatment) if they knew I was Christian. I don't see the difference – children need to be able to see lip movements/facial expression to understand how to form a language, so surely the teaching assistant's issue is not one of religion, but one of being able to do the job you're paid for efficiently and safely (the same as mine).

  21. Quite right. Re the BA thing, if other people are allowed to wear signs of their religion, be it a Sikh turban, or a Muslim headscarf, this woman should have been allowed to keep her cross. But where clothing needs regulation as a requirement of the job, that's different.Watching someone's expression and how their lips move is an important part of how children learn. If they cannot understand a TA then they won't pay attention, especially as TAs usually work with children with extra learning needs. I think the fact she got the job on a false pretence doesn't help her case; she pretended she'd be happy to not wear the veil, now she's saying she isn't happy to do that, but I bet if she had said that at interview she wouldn't have got the job as it is a barrier to an important part of her job.

  22. yeah, she's changing the goalposts (at interview for the job she removed the veil in front of a man, now she says she won't) and expecting everyone to just be okay with it and make allowances for it.She also has the idea that you don't need to see a person's mouth shapes to learn a language.

    But, she's what, 23? I know a lot of 23-year-olds of varying religious background who think it is the duty of the world to rearrange itself around them while they do what they like with no thought for others.

  23. When she was interviewed for the job she didn't turn up in a veil. When a BBC interviewer asked why not she said that she wasn't expecting to be interviewed by a man. How did she know? Interview panels change all the time. Clearly it was OK for her to dump her 'beliefs' in order to get the job, and it is this that strips any semblance of credibility from her argument. As a nurse I have to wear a uniform properly. If I wanted to wear a scarf I could, but if I wanted to wear a veil I'd be looking for another job pdq. Non verbal communication is as vital in my job as it is in teaching. This silly, selfish woman should get her priorities straight.

  24. Haven't read all the other comments, but I was working on my PC last night, and had the TV news on in the background. I was vaguely listening to the TV but not watching it. An interview with the teaching assistant you mentioned started. When she started to talk, I involuntarily turned towards the TV screen because I could not understand what she was saying, and wanted extra information by looking at her lips moving, so that I could follow the story. Needless to say it took a few minutes to get used to the muffled tones.If I can't understand her instantly, with English as my main language, what chance has a 5 year old whose first language is not English?


  25. I echo the sentiment – very well-written and credible. The Darth Vader thing didn't (and shouldn't!) offend – it was a useful reference point as an idiom and reflects purely your personal opinion without intention to offend. I've also heard the term “ferry in a tent” used, but that was more in the context of an Indian woman in a sari (“Goodness Gracious Me”). It is sadly true though that the point has now been reached in the UK where I could sue you for saying justaboutanything so long as I come from the “right” minority group…….It's interesting being an 'ethnic' minority here in Sweden though…..I had an argument with an Iraqi immigrant during the World Cup. Because he was Iraqi? No. Because he “took offence” to me wearing my England shirt. *I* was the one accused of racism, and I had to PROVE to others that I was the one being racially-abused and the killer line was, “So if I wasn't white and wasn't wearing an England shirt, then this would be a healthy debate about the invasion of Iraq – but because I am white and English it's assumed I am being offensive towards this guy?”

    I know it's already started in the UK, whereby people are now making counter-claims of racial prejudice, re the Police applications rejected on the grounds of being white, male and in 20s…..whatever next???

    Sometimes when I or people like me join in debates like the veil one or inequality amonst races in the workplace, to be accused of racism (when I spent my teens literally fighting against racism in Liverpool, as well as apartheid in SA) really sticks in my craw…..

    I got off point, sorry 😉 I just wanted to repeat that I liked your thoughts, especially the point about if someone's attire or belief system hinders them within a specific role then they should seek a role where such hindrances are not an issue – well said. There's a limit to how flexible a society should be when leaning towards the needs of another – there's a line between true integration and “pandering”.

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