If you think that you have just one life, think again. There's the life you think you have, the life others think you have and the life you really have- three lives!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

HIJAB HYPE

Congratulations to the UK for dismissing the claims of discrimination from Aisha Azmi's for unfair dismissal because she refused to remove her niqab (face veil) while employed as a techer's assistant at a Church of England school.


Read the story here

She was asked by school administrators to remove the niqab after some of her students claimed that it was difficult to understand her during English language lessons.

I used to be an English language teacher (many many moons ago) and I know that, when teaching phonetics and pronunciation, it is necessary that students are able to see your mouth movements.

Her story has sparked a huge and timely debate in the UK about the veil. What is really interesting is that she did not wear it when she had her initial job interview in front of a panel of men!

Now, I've said before that I fully support a woman's right to choose what she wants to wear- be that burqa or bikini- but I do not support the objectification of the hijab in its various forms for political purposes or personal agendas. If she can take it off for her job interview, why can't she take it off to teach her young students?

The comments by Muslims on this issue has been refreshingly reasonable with many agreeing with the court's decision and stating that the niqab is not mandated by Islam. Yay!

What really irks me though is some of the high and mighty responses from some Western women who refuse to recognise that the veil is often a woman's choice. To them the veil stands as the single, most potent symbol of gender based oppression while failing to recognise that, in the West too, many women are still fighting for equal rights.

The Western feminist discourse largely portrays Muslim women as unable to speak for themselves because of the repressive regimes under which they live. Thus the Western woman is bound to speak on behalf of her Muslim sister. This has effectively reduced Muslim female identity to an article of clothing.

The imagery is powerful. The veil is the shroud through which the muffled voices of Muslim women struggle to be heard. The emancipated Western woman seeks to symbolically, but also literally, “unveil” Muslim women as if somehow the act of “unveiling” will free them of the oppressive shackles with which they are bound.

Ironically, by focussing attention on superficial symbols such as the veil, Western feminist discourse serves to distract attention from the feminist objective of achieving fundamental social rights for women.

I welcome the open dialogue and debate on the veil but let's get away from the moral high ground that Western feminism propogates- let's keep this debate about the responsibilities that go hand in hand with rights. Women have a right to choose what they wear but a responsibility to exercise that right in the appropriate context. After all, Aisha Azmi would probably have received the same fate had she shown up to teach her class in a bikini.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know, I though you were going to go the other way on that when I saw the title of the post! Glad you didn't :)

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The Usual Suspect said...

Awww Craig
you should know me better by now mate!
Can't stand the moral highground no matter where it comes from. And it usually comes from these girls who somehow think they are holier than thou because they choose to wear a tent!

Anonymous said...

You are definitely my twin U.S.!

I'm glad there's someone who still thinks like me, or vice versa.

Just a normal, reasonable person, who is able to balance being modern with having faith in all the good things God made.

Keep it up baby. Thumbs up.