Friday, October 06, 2006

To live in complicated times

The fuss over Muslim women wearing veils has kicked off again.

What's more important? Allowing a group of people to express their ethnic and religious identity? Or obtaining equality between the sexes? Personally, the gender issue beats the religious identity issue. But in this case, these two states of "being right" are in direct conflict with each other. What's made more difficult is that many Muslim women view wearing the veil as a choice and do it quite happily. Although it could be argued that it is a form of indoctrination - or complicity - such women are validated within Muslim culture and therefore receive an amount of power (but nowhere near the amount of power awarded to Muslim males who don't have to cover up their faces in public).

Forcing the issue either way isn't going to achieve much except to push people into opposite corners. Ultimately, I believe the veil will slowly disappear - the decades will pass and more and more young Muslims fail to adopt the ways of their parents - history teaches us this - assimiliation usually wins out.

And remember the Aesops fable about the sun and the rain who had a bet as to who could get a man to lose his coat. The rain tried first - and the man just pulled his coat tighter. But the sun shone and the man got warm and took his coat off. Something to bear in mind - if British Muslim women are to remove their veils - they need to be offered sunnier incentives to do so.

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