Face Veils and the Law: A Critical Reflection

By Knights, Samantha | Nottingham Law Journal, Annual 2016 | Go to article overview

Face Veils and the Law: A Critical Reflection


Knights, Samantha, Nottingham Law Journal


INTRODUCTION

The face veil (or niqab) generates a remarkable amount of media attention. Public debate was re-ignited in the UK in 2010 by France passing legislation to ban the concealment of the face in public places. (1) Although the law is neutrally drafted it was drafted with the principal aim of banning the Muslim face veil in public. (2) The law was challenged by a French Muslim who wished to wear a face veil in public places. She lost both before the domestic courts and in the European Court of Human Rights in 2014, which found no violation of the ECHR and accepted the argument of the French government that the law was based on a "certain idea of living together". (3) The Telegraph hailed the French law with the following headline: "France's burka ban is a victory for tolerance". (4) But what is tolerant about a law preventing a woman from wearing a face veil if she chooses whilst walking along the street? A woman wearing a hijab or a face veil in a public place causes no physical harm to anyone; although conversely they may experience much discrimination, abuse and negative treatment for so doing.

As always a significant proportion of the debate emanates from individuals who will never wear or have never worn any form of Islamic head or face covering. There is nothing wrong with anyone expressing a view; however the fact remains that the voice of the veiled woman is rarely heard in the media. Frequently assumptions are made on her behalf, rooted in generalisations, and stereotyping. She typically becomes either a coerced and subjugated woman who has fallen prey to her male family members and/or extreme religious doctrine, or at the other extreme a strong willed woman exercising a free choice. The reality is much more complex with as many views and reasons for choosing a face veil as there are women who do so, including it being a reaction to insensitive Western governments, a fashion statement, and a symbol of religious freedom.

The seminar at Nottingham Trent University was organized against the backdrop of the French legislation and the SAS v France decision. I assumed of course that at least one of the speakers would be a woman in a face veil. We were told that, not through want of trying, they had been unable to locate such a person. Did it matter that such a person was not there? It seemed an uncomfortable omission at the least whilst no fault of the organisers, given that the counter view was given at the outset by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a high profile journalist who has published her views against Muslim women wearing face veils for many years. (5) Alibhai-Brown accepts that there are myriad reasons for wearing the veil and that many of her friends do. She questions whether their choice, even if independently made, was fully examined. For her, a Muslim woman, the veil is loaded with negative symbolism and represents both "religious arrogance and subjugation". I understand the reasons for her view and am sympathetic to many of them. But ultimately, I do not think that face veils per se are the most important issue in tackling an underlying problem of women's subjugation. Nor do I think that a blanket ban is the way forward, a view which she in fact herself also expressed at the seminar.

The voice of the veiled Muslim woman instead was provided through Dr Rajnaara Akhtar, a Muslim female academic (who wears a hijab in public) at Warwick University. She reported on the results of empirical study into the profile of women wearing face veils in the UK and their reasons for so doing. Unsurprisingly, the results revealed a myriad of reasons. But she did report the majority of women questioned were well- educated, rejected any notion of coercion on their decision, and viewed their decision as a personal religious choice. She also reported that the decision in a number of cases was not backed by the husbands or other male members of the family. Research amongst women in France has revealed similar findings. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Face Veils and the Law: A Critical Reflection
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.