Just as I said about the French ban on face coverings, an English school banning the niqab is equally divisive. It’s disappointing to see the National Secular Society supporting the policy.
Banning the niqab is restricting the religious freedom of the individual. Why does a school have the right to decide what children can and can’t wear? Especially when attire is part of religious observance.
Teachers need to see a student’s whole face in order to read the visual cues it provides.
Every day I work, converse, collaborate, make decisions and develop friendships with people without seeing their faces. I do so with people in the same town or on the other side of the world. We learn from each other, too.
This notion that a niqab diminishes the ability of teachers and other pupils to interact with a student is nonsense. Yes, a large proportion of human communication comes down to body language, but removing that does not erect an impassible brick wall. Come on, do you really think the telephone would have taken off if that were the case?!
The school’s appearance policy states that “inappropriate dress that offends public decency or which does not allow teacher student interactions will be challenged”.
I beg your fucking pardon – offends public decency?!
1. What is indecent about covering your face? Walking around naked in public is indecent. Abusive behaviour is indecent. Not showing your face affects no-one. If I don’t want you to see part of me, that’s my right. It is categorically not indecent of me to choose who I show myself to.
2. An organisation that campaigned against the ridiculous provisions of Section 5 of the Public Order Act which effectively criminalised insult should be ashamed of using “offence” as an excuse to support curtailing a person’s individual liberty.
The ban is not Islamophobic. It is not an attack on the religion of Islam. However, the decision, and the NSS’ support of it, does fuel the perception of ‘Islamophobia’.
Supporting a ban that does nothing to address real community division only serves to anger groups in the community and further divide them.
It’s also a little galling to see the NSS invoke Conservatives who are big supporters of the free schools agenda which the NSS knows full well further promote religious privilege and division.
The National Secular Society, by supporting a ban on religious dress are harming the cause of secularism in the UK.
They are further dividing communities, limiting individual religious freedoms and sending out the message that secularists are here to shut down religious expression.
Secularists believe in freedom from religion and freedom of religion. The NSS ought to remember that.
Image: By User:Shaleiha guldam (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons