Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hijab in schools

I told you that the other day I spent a bit of time catching up on my newspapers. I came across this angry column from Martina Devlin (May 22). Devlin's writing about veils, Islam, women, etc after the issue arose at a Wexford school. 13-year-old Shekina Egan wants to wear a hijab to school, but it's not part of the uniform. The school principal allowed her to wear the hijab. I don't really have a problem with his decision.

Now truth is, if the school says that the hijab is not part of its uniform then it shouldn't be allowed. If the principal wants to make an exception to the uniform policy to allow a girl to wear a veil/hijab that's his call. He's the ultimate authority when it comes to discipline and his decision is law.

Devlin, however, wants to ban hijabs, pretty much anywhere in Ireland. She doesn't want women wearing the hijab in "banks, hospitals or libraries, not in the guards or civil service and most definitely not in schools".

She also says:
Here's what banning the headscarf is about: the State demonstrating our belief in gender equality. It's about removing a symbol of repression and submission.
Yes. In order to demonstrate "our belief in gender equality" we're going to tyrannically remove a woman's choice to wear the hijab. I once heard a woman describe a wedding ring as a symbol of submission. Should they be banned too?

Why is she so worried if some women want to wear a hijab? I think it's because She believes we're on a slippery slope.
Today the hijab which covers the hair and shoulders, tomorrow the niqab or full-face veil, the day after the burqa hiding everything from tip to toe -- described as a mobile prison by women obliged to wear it.
I suspect that Devlin is worried that Ireland is going to adopt Sharia. I don't think that's going to happen.

Regardless, a woman covering her hair (& shoulders) is hardly extreme. I would, however, agree that the niqab (covering the face) is too extreme. We in the west must see a person's face when we deal with them. It's part of our culture and we can - and should - resist any attempt to normalize the niqab.

There is a huge gulf between the hijab and the niqab and we non-Muslims should acknowledge this. I mean, it's not like it's that long ago that women in veils (aka nuns) were a pretty common sight here. I still see some occasionally. A woman wearing a veil is not the extreme behavior that Devlin wants us to believe it is.