Wednesday, 11 October 2006

The Veiled Rules of this Game called Society

The current furore over the niqab is an interesting test for the methodology suggested in the last post.

Let's start with the facts. There are a significant number of British muslims, some of whom live in communities in our major cities. Relations between these communities and their neighbours are not without issues, with some misunderstanding and hostility on both sides.

Jack Straw suggests that the wearing of the niqab (the full veil for women) is bad for community relations. It is difficult to see how this statement can raise much controversy. While one might argue about whether it is right for some people to be troubled by the niqab, it is certainly the case that they are.

Now for the opinion. Straw goes on to suggest that, for this reason, he asks women to remove their veils during meetings. Clearly here we have to balance a person's right to wear what they choose, their religious sensibilities and so on,--against the impact of such a separate form of dress on community relations. Whatever you think about the answer to that question, it is difficult to argue that there is nothing to debate here. Of course it might be bad for society to have that debate - that's a different question. But at least this way of thinking concentrates on the metric - how we measure the value of the different outcomes - rather than other, less pertinent parts of the debate.

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