Friday, October 13, 2006

Muslim Woman Ordered to Remove Veil

This is an aspect to the veil saga that has been largely overlooked; the security implications of being unable to identify a person. A local newspaper is reporting that a woman was ordered to remove her veil by post office staff before being allowed to send a parcel. They claimed it was for security reasons. (The online article is incomplete so if anyone gets The Lancashire Evening Post please send in the rest of the story.)

While this case may have been an overreaction there are other situations when wearing a veil is a security risk. Since Mr Straw's comments is has emerged that a terror suspect evaded arrest by wearing a burqa, an event that is common in the Middle East. Also, a journalist managed to board a plane wearing a veil without having her identity checked.

This isn't a new problem; last month the DSA ordered female examiners to remove the veils to check who was taking the test. This was in response to a spate of cases of people impersonating others on driving tests.

However, the problem is a serious one. Besides the circumstances in which the woman (or man pretending to be a woman) can be confronted and forced to remove their veil, there are other situations. Covering a face means that you cannot be identified on CCTV. It means you're reactions cannot be observed. Both key elements in security.

So, while the debate rages around personal choices and who has the right to ask what, let us not forget that there is a far more serious point here.

UPDATE: It has emerged that a Muslim teacher has been suspended for refusing to remove her veil in class. The school said that the children, many of whom did not speak English as a first language, could not understand her when she spoke because of the veil.