One of the most controversial debates of the day in England is about the recent comments by Jack Straw that Muslim women should remove their veils because they act as a threat to national integration and English values and culture.
I totally understand that people should be allowed to dress the way they wish. Every culture has a vastly different interpretation of what is deemed appropriate and what is not. I truely understand that by asking someone to take away a article of their clothing, this can be both insulting and embarrassing.
I can also see both sides of the issue here. Part of me still prefers to see Asian ladies dressing moderately, even if they might overdo it, rather than the meagre clothes worn by a lot of young English girls these days. On the other hand, however, I reckon that the veil certainly interferes with normal daily social contact. For instance, you open a shop door for an Asian female and you will have a hard time trying to work out what she is saying and her facial gesture is just a blank. Such situations are wasted opportunities to break down social barriers and build our community.
I have to say that women use the veil for many reasons be it political or just as an expression of their religious belief. The problem is that even though many English people would still describe themselves as Christians, most now feel intensely uncomfortable with explicit displays of religion of any sort. This applies to both Chistian evangelists haranguing on the streets or a mere sight of covered Muslim girls.
As far as I am concerned, all Muslims should respect the English traditions and values as English people should do whenever they visit Muslim countries. However, there seems to be a big imbalance on the Muslim side here and I reckon this without delay needs addressing. There is no doubt that Muslims should comply with the English customs and habits if they really want to join English society. The English should never be required to adjust to their culture.
I also share the view of many it’s dreadful that lots and lots of women are forced to hide themselves away, simply because of some ideas set out a few thousands years ago. These women can often be seen at tourist resorts by swimming pools whilst their husbands are playing with the kids in Wester style dress. It is rather hypocritical. To me, it demonstrates a lack of social integration too.
Having said all that, I have to admit this is just a fact of life and any attempts to equate this with our liberal way of life can be a real strain. In fact, Europe historically has not been too tolerant of religious minorities of any size. This is a fact born out by the variety of religious sects that left secular Europe for America so that they could freely practise their beliefs. Anyone that wants to live in Europe has to bear this in mind and unfortunately for us, though, there doesn’t seem to be any easy solution at the moment.