I don’t care what you wear, unless you want to buy something

Posted in Liberty, Society at 13:50 by RjZ

I remain perplexed about what is right and reasonable for religious and cultural practices. As I wrote here, in cultures such as Egypt where it is the standard, women don’t actually abide very strictly by the religious tradition that motivates wearing a veil. All across Europe, however, while the number of women wearing the niqab (full face covering) is dramatically fewer than in Cairo, the impact is greater. Particularly in Britain, where no laws have yet been passed restricting this behavior, many people on both sides of the debate are feeling the challenges.

What do you think? Should women in Britain, or the United States be entitled to wear the niqab if the so desire? Sounds like an easy question. Perhaps you think: of course they should, it’s their right in a free country to express themselves. It’s freedom of religion! Even the most conservative amongst us have a hard time justifying making the headscarf illegal simply because these people ought to fit in and integrate just as they ought to (whatever that means) learn English. Oh sure, they ought to; like our grandparents did, but must we have a law restricting clothing?

On the other hand, we already do! People may not claim that it is their religious rights to walk around naked, because, that right would offend the prude majority. Satan worship is allowed, but virgin sacrifice isn’t, regardless of your religious persuasion or beliefs. But what’s the harm of women covering their faces? In a society where women are discouraged or prohibited from closing contracts without male family members, there really isn’t any problem not being able to identify them. In the west, women are provided with rights to buy cars and houses, so it’s not unreasonable that those closing those deals might wish to verify the identity of their business partners.

What about teaching, withdrawing money from a bank, being caught speeding, using a credit card? It disturbs me to limit someone’s freedom, certainly their religious freedom (a theme on which the United States was founded) and especially for such a trivial notion as clothing, but the customs, and economic function of Western society make it difficult to do otherwise. At some point during nearly all of these transactions, we’ll need to see her face.

Women must be allowed to dress anyway they wish (men too) whether they are motivated by religion or mere style. It’s just that the government and business partners have a reasonable expectation to expect to see more than eyes behind a veil. Do what you wish, but don’t expect to participate in society at large without some compromises.

What do you think?

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