Thursday, November 12, 2009

No Spanish Veils? or, Modesty in School

"Spanish students protest Muslim veil | Spero News"
"Spanish school authorities in Lerida, a city of the Catalonian region near Barcelona, shut down a planned protest by students at a local high school on November 11 who wanted to wear helmets to class as a sign of protest. Two fellow students, both of whom are Muslim girls, were allowed to wear the hijab or Muslim veil, even while non-Muslim students were barred from wearing caps or hats. The planned protest spread like wildfire via FaceBook but a student at the school notified authorities, frustrating the protest.
. . .

"According to school administrator Juan Ferran of the non-Muslim protesters, “They know that this is a reality that they will have to live with.” They have obeyed now without protest. “We explained to them that even while our internal regulations do not permit a head covering, the Generalitat (provincial government) has established that in education centers we have an obligation to respect religious symbolism.” Besides the two hijab-wearing Muslim girls, there are also four Muslim girls who come to class without veils who were offended by the planned protest. One of them decided to wear a veil as a reaction to the non-Muslim students’ objections. Administrator Ferran was reluctant to identify the protest as xenophobic, attributing it to reasons of "identity." "


As much as I realize that women wear what is commonly referred to in the media as a "Muslim headcovering" solely in order to distinguish themselves as Muslim, I know from reading and studying and listening to grown women who have convictions, that wearing a headcovering - to a Muslim woman - is done in following the directive to be modest. It is, therefore, a "modest heacovering". And Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and other women all wear "modest headcoverings". Schools and other places of the world which want to say it's OK for women and young women to wear a headcovering in places where normally others are discouraged from wearing something (like a gang identifying hat or conversely, something which would disguise identification) always want to safely play some kind of "religion card", and claim that they allow or disallow headcovering because it is a religious symbol. So if something is allowed because it's "religious" then anyone who is a different religion, or irreligious, then feels discriminated against. And is some cases, rightly so. Why not just explain to the students, teachers, professors, parent associations, and etc., that these girls and young women who choose to cover are doing it because of their understanding of modesty? Everyone knows that not all Muslims consider modest dress to include headcovering - and this is so of all the "major religions". But some do. When discrimination occurs as regards headcovering, it almost always appears that one group or another is being shown special favour over others.

I propose that Muslim women everywhere just start telling everyone that it's a modesty issue - not merely a religious injunction. That those who have to make these decisions tell everyone that it's a modesty issue - not merely a religious one. Take it one step further, if you will. A modesty issue can quickly lead to a health issue, at least as far as public schools are concerned (see almost any modern discussion on uniforms in public and private schools). The issue of strongly suggesting head coverings for health and safety has already been broached and accepted in bright and sunny places; couldn't it apply to schools as well, in the issue of modest dress? Even a brightly colored head scarf is less distracting that beautiful silky hair. Just ask a shampoo commercial.

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