Veil Makes Islam Women Faceless

October 25, 2006

Author: Cathy Young

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Britain has been in turmoil over veils in recent days, after a school in Yorkshire suspended a Muslim teacher's assistant for wearing "niqab" -- a form of the traditional veil that leaves only a slit for the eyes.

Further stoking the flames, House of Commons leader Jack Straw revealed that in meetings with constituents, he had asked niqab-wearing women to remove their veils for better face-to-face interaction.

The niqab controversy has focused on thorny questions of cultural integration and religious tolerance in Europe. However, it is also a debate about women and Islam.

For Westerners, the veil has long been a symbol of the oppression of women in the Islamic world. Today, quite a few Muslims regard it as a symbol of cultural and religious self-assertion and reject the idea that Muslim women are downtrodden.

In our multicultural age, many liberals are reluctant to criticize the subjugation of women in Muslim countries and Muslim immigrant communities, fearful of promoting the notion of Western superiority.

At the other extreme, some critics have used the plight of Muslim women to suggest that Islam is inherently evil and even to bash Muslims.