Saturday, September 08, 2007

Again with the veils?

Apparently there's another dust-up brewing in Quebec about a decision to allow women to vote while wearing a niqab or a burka/burqa, as long as they have two pieces of ID and another voter to vouch for them.

Visual aids:

Totally random aside...why are burkas always such screamingly bright colours?
ANYWAYS: I find it interesting that no one responded to Mohamed Elmasry's straight-forward solution:
Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress said that Muslims aren't asking to be allowed to vote with their faces covered, and that niqabs are a rarity. He said veiled women would have no problem removing a niqab before a female voting official for identification purposes.
I guess that's too simple, eh? The thing is, voting takes place in a public forum, which means if a woman removed her veil it would not only be seen by the elections official, but probably also by a dozen or more other voters waiting for their turn.
Another thing not mentioned is the whole how-important-are-ID-checks-really angle. As anyone who had underage kids in college knows, visual ID checks are sketchy (interesting article on eyewitness unreliability here ). And the elections officials are generally volunteers...trained, competent, but not experts, n'est pas?
Previous to-dos about veiled drivers being pulled over are, I think, a different issue. That's time sensitive, and there's no way to effectively get past the need for immediate identification in those circumstances.
The BBC has an interesting breakdown of the pros and cons--not of veils as a practical matter, but whether or not they are required:
Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof…

Qur'an 24:30-31

As many have pointed out, if women are totally covered, why should men lower their eyes? and so on. Basically, my reading of the doctrine is that modestly is required, hijab is usually considered a part of modesty, but burkas and niqabs are not called for in scripture or Hadith and can theoretically be done away with. To me, this indicates that if a woman chooses to wear a niqab or burka, she may, and the fact that it makes people uncomfortable is not a good reason for banning it or making it functionally impossible. However, there will be circumstances in Western life where there are no work-arounds, and no woman should be (or could be, according to scripture) considered immodest for cooperating with police at those times.

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