ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 40

Veil unveils western hypocrisy

By Abdul Majeed, Ratmalana

This is with reference to the letter of veteran journalist, Neville de Silva titled “Judges go for the pragmatic, rejected veiled threats of ban”. I can remember Mr. de Silva had written on the above subject in his “European Notebook” column. The Muslim women’s face veil has become the centre of debate in Europe, particularly in Britain. From Tony Blair, Jack Straw to Judge George Glassop, various people have expressed concern about the impending threats and danger of the face veil.

There are many teachers in Sri Lanka, who wear the face veil while teaching in schools whether mixed or otherwise. No pupil has ever complained that the teachers cannot be heard because of their face veil, and the same goes for teachers in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia and so on. If the learned judge had said the Counsel Shabnam Mughal could not be heard because of her face veil, it is ridiculous. Judge Glassop’s request to remove the veil is appalling for many intellectual reasons, because, does this mean that Judge Glassop would ask a soft spoken Counsel, to change his or her voice box? I also can’t believe that someone could not be heard, when we today have microphones. I can’t believe that a tribunal in the UK didn’t have one or couldn’t procure one when Courts in Sri Lanka and that too even those in rural parts of the country have microphones to aid and assist counsel.

If ‘I can’t hear you because of your veil, ‘remove’ it is sheer arrogance. Leaders in Europe and the USA while vociferously advocating democracy, civil liberty and freedom of speech, deny the same for Asians and Africans, and particularly for Muslims.

The Learned Judge instead of asking counsel to remove the veil, should have facilitated her by way of a microphone so that all parties could participate without any hindrance. Gary Slapper, the director of the law programme of the Open University is quoted as having said, ‘In a democracy, a religious person is never asked to forsake their preferred observances. But it would be unreasonable to contend that all religious practices are consistent with all professions.’

There are two questions that stem from what he said. First, how is wearing a veil inconsistent with practising as a solicitor or a barrister? If one cannot be heard a microphone should sort it out.

Secondly, should professional dictates be forced down the throat of a religious person when her religious practice is inconsistent with the profession? In other words, what right does the Court, the Bar Council or the Law Society have to force professional requirements on barristers and solicitors which are contrary to their religious belief. Is it not a matter of choice?

The debate on the veil unveils Western hypocrisy. As we are aware, Western liberalism, protects a woman’s right to expose herself but not her right to cover. If a girl wants to wear a miniskirt for whatever reason and is allowed to wear it, should not a lady be allowed to wear a veil because she wants it for whatever reason?

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.