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The politics of choice February 16, 2007

Posted by infidelkafirwatch in Uncategorized.
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I am no fan of the niqab, but It is none of Jack Straw’s business what other people decide to wear.

I am no fan of the niqab. I feel it turns the wearer into a blank space, an anonymous mass, a non-identity. But it is none of my business, or Jack Straw’s business, what others choose to do or not to do with themselves. Some people choose to fill their faces with so many tattoos and piercings that even looking at them becomes painful, some to make themselves up like clowns, others to disfigure their facial features with endless surgery that even their mothers must have trouble recognising them at times.

Individuals and groups are entitled to decide how they wish to live, what they wish to eat, drink and wear, even if we strongly disapprove of their choices, as long as they cause no harm to others. Moreover, the state cannot intervene to impose a uniform way of life or way of thinking on its citizens. If it did, it would be sliding into totalitarianism. That is precisely what communism did in the name of cultural revolution, what Saudi Arabia is doing in the name of religion, what France is doing in the name of secularism, and what some sections of the media and political class would have us do in the name of integration and security.

There is no doubt that some women who wear the niqab are forced to do so by their families, or communities. But that is not a general rule. Women who wear the face cover often do so in spite of their families’ disapproval. In societies where Muslims are a minority, the practice tends to be a symptom of a heightened sense of identity and a desire to differentiate oneself from the majority society. In the natural as in the social world, the more external pressure is exerted on an organism, the more defensive it gets, and the further it withdraws into itself. The increasing drive to place every minutiae of Muslims’ lives under the spotlight is likely to deepen their sense of alienation from a majority that suspects them, generating a siege mentality, and supplying the ideal conditions for such practices as wearing the niqab to flourish. Soumaya Ghannoushi – October 9

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