As usual I’m not completely sure what I think. Well that’s not really true as the man knocking on the door half an hour ago with a clipboard crystallised a few key things.
I do not agree with a legalisative ban on wearing the burka.
I’m also really shocked he was going door to door in a mainly muslim residential area. He seemed confident once seeing me I’d be falling into line with his rhetoric. I gave him a quick rundown on why I wouldn’t be and why his thinking was flawed. I’m pretty sure he regretted knocking. I don’t think my counter arguments found a resting place in his grey matter though…pity.
I’ve meant to write a post about this as it’s been in the forefront of many news items and high on my list of internal musings.
I think the french ban is wrong, ignorant and short-sighted and completely the wrong way to effect lasting change. I feel it’s a group of bureaucratic men trying to strong-arm cultural change. From a government who consistently deal with the Roma by chasing them out-of-town with pitchforks and burning torches.
Does this mean I like the burka? No – absolutely not. I find it divisive, offensive to my feminist sensibilities and insulting to women. Do I dispute the right of an individual to wear one? – no.
As I’ve mentioned before we live in a culturally diverse area which is predominantly Asian muslims. Our first parents evening at the school made it very clear that Steve and I were an ethnic minority. I’d say that maybe half of the women were wearing a burka and a few were in a niquab. I felt pretty isolated. Which is statistically how most women wearing the veil feel. Despite media protestations and a recent (post 9/11) rise of popularity it really is a very small minority of women who wear it. The three mosques in my immediate area are all pretty conservative – ie no women are allowed to worship there. There are three islamic faith schools in walking distance. My good friend Halah who is an Egyptian muslim says moving here could be compared to being a fairly relaxed Church of England, high days attendee turning up in a town were the only other christians are Amish and everyone else expects you to fall in with their customs and styles of worship. So I pass many veiled women day-to-day, at my local shops, at the school gate, at our local playground.
So you’d think I’d probably agree with the many spirited arguments I’ve heard about how the veil prevents communication and integration. My friend asks if I’d be happy with the kids primary teacher wearing a veil – surely it would be a bar to them forming a productive trusting relationship? Hmmm – I don’t know the breakdown but I’m pretty sure I remember non verbal cues outbalance verbal cues in face to face discourse.
I wash up, listen to the radio, read the papers. There is lots of coverage of this issue. In amongst speculation on Kate’s (sorry- Catherine’s) dress.
See the thing is, after a bit of time to get accustomed to it I don’t find the veil a problem. The intake has shifted, a lot of the more hardline parents have opted to use one of the faith schools. It’s actually quite easy to chat and share homework and uniform woes with a woman in a veil. I smile and nod to the women I queue behind in the shop, who step aside for my pushchair on the street. I don’t always recognise them but they’re not aliens – communication is not prevented by cloth.
Steve asks if I’m not bothered about not being able to see facial expressions when we’re gossiping about the shocking state of the local “glass” playground. I’m not a chimp, I like to feel I’ve evolved. I “speak” every day to people I can’t see. On the phone. On email, Facebook – here. It’s not impossible.
Fundamentally I disagree with the idea that the female form should be kept hidden. I also think trousers should be belted around the waist and not actually under an adolescents boys arse. That the wafer is just bread, not flesh. That fishing for fun is barbaric, that jokes should be kind and not at someone elses expense. That platform shoes should have stayed buried in their 7o’s fashion grave.
I don’t try to force these people to fall into line with me.
I’m sure of and saddened by the fact that there are women out there being forced by their family or community to wear a veil. I don’t think the answer is to forbid anyone to. It may as well be everyone has to… it’s like showing a toddler biting is wrong by biting them. Something I’ve always found incomprehensible.
It’s the tip of an iceberg I know but has prohibition ever successfully solved a problem?
Today has been beautiful (aside from Mr Clipboard) The sun shone on our egg hunt and ritual food blackening. I found some Pimms left over from last summer and we lounged around, idly chatting and soaking up Vitamin D. My garden is full of the productive hum of insects and greenery. I don’t even care about the bindweed. It feels abundant. The fat buds of my peony are covered in ants eating the green-fly. I find more plump buds on my irises, they were a gift from someone’s garden and I can’t wait to find out what colour they’ll be.
Top BT’s – the lamb, red onion and mushroom kebabs. The lamb was from the farmers market and is unbelievably delicious marinated in yoghurt, cumin lemon and mint.
M&D give the kids Easter presents instead of eggs, Ida has a new swimsuit and a beautiful rainbow striped sunhat. Zeph has a mini planes construction kit with a catapult to launch them with – instantly absorbed we have to call him three times for cake.
Steve is sick and Ida carefully kisses him better from the top of his head to his toes, at the end she says, “Better?” hopefully with her head on one side – “of course!”