In a 2016 episode of Britain’s Secrets Anne Robinson featured interviews with two couples at opposite ends of the clothing spectrum. It included a few points that illustrated why I believe it would be healthier if niqab wearing women chose to stop wearing a veil.
On the one had there was a naturist couple who went about their everyday lives completely starkers. Then on the other hand there was a Muslim couple who spend their lives covered in cloth from head to toe.
Well, that’s not strictly true of course. It’s the wife who has to cover her head and her face. Hubbie doesn’t have to cover from the neck up. He just has to refrain from shaving.
Face to face communication is one of the most basic, oldest, and deepest forms of human contact. It’s a universally recognised way of expressing intent and communicating messages through facial expressions. You can’t have clear communication with someone who keeps their face covered. Niqabs and burkas hinder integration and contribute to segregation.
Even if you don’t share a common language you can exchange so much just using facial expressions. Minute muscular movements reveal the message in ways that we recognise consciously and subconsciously.
An uncovered face in the street or in a photograph can tell us so much. A veiled face tells us very little.
A veiled face says, ‘Do not look upon me. You are not worthy of looking at me. I do not want to be seen‘.
Those who suggest that women should be allowed to wear a veil wherever and whenever they want often use the argument that it’s a basic freedom of choice.
By that same logic anyone could walk around stark naked. Neither of these choices fit within the norms of British, European, and Western societies.
People are often reluctant to criticize the traditions of other cultures for fear of being labelled as racist and xenophobic. There is no greater crime these days, it seems.
Is it xenophobic to say that you find the veil an affront to open and honest communication?
Isn’t the whole idea that we’re all supposed to get along in a multicultural utopia? How can we do that if some signal their refusal to participate by putting up a physical and psychological barrier?
Those who wear a face covering feel it’s acceptable to look up on the uncovered faces of others but not for those same people to see their faces. Why?
Some niqab wearing women complain that they feel dehumanised, ignored, patronised, or overlooked.
Misogynists and xenophobes will still exist whatever you wear or don’t wear.
I suggest that women who wear the veil would receive the same respect as every other woman if they removed their face coverings and met the gazes of those within the same societies.
All it takes is a glance and a smile and all kinds of assumptions melt away. Stop wearing the veil and start speaking with your facial expressions.