I hope nearly everyone sees the ordinary Muslim veil/ headscarf as being a non issue. When we holiday to less diverse parts of the UK, the children have been known to ask where the Muslims are.
What should our response be to the niqab, the all embacing veil which covers the face? Respecting strongly held religious views is easy when it does not clash with the majority’s opinions or or prejudices or laws.
Quakers hold different views, I know one Quaker would ban it anywhere outside the home, (religious freedom anyone? ) and another Quaker who wanted to wear one, so she didn’t have to think about what she was wearing. And there are lots of positions in between.
In the past, Quakers got into endless trouble for wearing a distinctive clothing, refusing to bow to their social superiors as the world saw it, refusing to use deferential language and titles, and above all, for refusing to doff their hats to anyone but God, and then only if someone was praying. These were deeply held religious views, which got them into trouble with judges and magistrates.
Those hats did not cover the face and this for me is the source of my concern. We like to see the faces of those we are talking to, and in particular when we want to give or receive information, or reassurance, or need to assess someone’s honesty. I understand the judge who says a female defendant or witness must uncover their face when giving evidence, though whether anyone except the lawyers, the jury and the judge need to see the face is questionable. But as often the case, we are balancing rights and responsibilities, one may be distressing or humiliating the woman by insisting on this.
Another issue for me is that people hold strong views, not deriving from their religion. Suppose someone wanted to shield themselves from a male gaze, based on their own personal view. Should they have less or more protection in law?
This is probably not a situation which can be resolved neatly, and certainly not to everyone’s satisfaction. But I have to try to take the wearers position seriously although it makes me uncomfortable.