The Times: Banning veils is not an option
Terrorism has as much to do with Islam as Abu Ghraib does with Western culture
Sir, Lord Pearson of Rannoch (letter, Jan 20) could not be more wrong. Airport authorities consistently check the identity of women wearing a veil by asking them to lift the garment when going through airport security. They do so with full co-operation of the women involved, and rightfully so. Failures in this regard demand an investigation into airport security, not women who happen to wear a veil. Terrorism has as much to do with Islam as Abu Ghraib does with Western culture; there is not a single ideological outlook in the world that hasn’t been abused to justify atrocities.
Sharia, or Islamic law, is a complex set of legal maxims which, while requiring inspired and enlightened application, can hardly be described as “gender apartheid”. Historically, Muslim women have been an integral and active part of Islamic civilisation, partaking in business transactions, such as the Prophet’s own wife Khadija, participating in battle like Aicha or founding centres of Islamic learning, such as the University of al-Karaouine, established in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri. While the vast majority of Muslims shun the face veil and a number of scholars do not consider it to be a requirement of Muslim dress, Britain is ruled by a liberal system of law, not an Islamic one.
Banning the face veil is not an option if Britain aims to remain a liberal country that cherishes its individual freedom and revels in the richness diversity brings to our nation. UKIP and its BNP kindred spirits are symptomatic of a societal malaise that requires us to fight back all together against ignorance, discrimination and hate, and not sink into the defensive posture of rejection that their vitriolic discourse feeds on.
Oxford University Islamic Society
January 22, 2010