In the UK schools are now allowed to ban pupils from wearing full-face veils on security, safety, or learning grounds under a new policy by the government.
This post was commented by Woman Honor Thyself, which agreed with the policy.
There are some basic points which are expressed by the law, and there may be a positive aspects from an educational standpoint. It is important that teachers are able to see the reaction of students to information to monitor progress. It can also be argued that veils dehumanize female students. All of this is true, but is this policy in the UK good for the US or even good for the UK with regard to civil liberties – and that is not code-word that I am an ACLU fanatic. It does mean that civil liberties are very important.
Much has bee made about the inroads of Islamic culture within Europe the UK and the United States, and this blog has often commented about multiculturalism. Prime Minister Blair had this to say about some who wish to retain full identity of their own culture, while denouncing the culture of their own nation, “Multicultural diversity, he declared, had led to separation and alienation by a minority of Britain’s Muslim community who subscribed to a ‘new and virulent form of ideology’. All minorities had a duty to integrate, and if they didn’t want to conform to British values they should not come to Britain because the ‘hatemongers’ were not wanted here.”
To this statement, which affirms the vital role of humanistic coexistence within a diverse society, we would have to agree heartily. However, with regard to the banning of facial veils in a public school, that same agreement cannot be given.
I think that multiculturalism when all embrace the fundamental human rights of others can have a positive effect on a society. It would be dangerous to be exclusive as a knee jerk reaction. As members of a free society that places a value upon individual rights and inputs, while we must buoy our awareness of the danger of extremism, the best cure for that is to remain ever vigilent of repression in any form against individuals. Democracy and liberty require responsible citizenry. I would applaud Mr. Blair’s statements. It is regrettable that such an honorable and decent human being has been run out of the executive position in England.
With regard to the veils in the school, as an educator I see some problems with it, but if it did not create a distraction to the learning process, or pose a security threat, I would not oppose it. While I am second to none in my opposition to the barbaric treatment of women in Islamic cultures, and am concerned about some of the more infamous practices now being reported in the US – genital mutilation as an instance – to ban this expression of religious belief in a public setting could be a slippery slope. At what point would wearing a Crucifix or a Star of David be seen as disruptive to the process or be seen as an establishment of religion. To view this as a form of parental repression is also a stretch. Many Christians and Jewish children are compelled by their parents to participate in their religious heritage, and this is a part of the rights of parents to guide the lives of their own minor children.
By protecting this fundamental right of individual expression of a religious belief we protect the rights of all relgious people to allow their free speech in a public sector. Let us be careful in what powers we grant the state with regard to reasonable expressions of faith in the public life.