A much needed public debate has begun in Britain over the public wearing of veils by a minority of Muslim women. Jack Straw kicked that off. The uproar continues, of course. The Times of London weighs in today with an editorial.
David Cameron gave a warning yesterday against politicians and others “piling in” on the issue. He said that Jack Straw had first raised the issue in a “calm, moderate way”. He noted, however, that many Muslims were feeling “slightly targeted” on the issue. Politicians have every right to comment on issues of national importance, and the integration of Britain’s Muslims is indeed such a case. It is wrong to denounce Tony Blair for voicing his concern that the veil is a “mark of separation”. It is a mark of separation. But these are sensitive matters that should not be sensationalised.
The Koran certainly does not demand that women wear a full veil. The relevant verse urges women to lower their gaze and “not display their beauty except what is apparent of it”. That phrase has been open to differing interpretation. But it also forms part of the theological dispute between mainstream Islam and some of the narrower and more puritanical sects, including the Deobandis, who originated in India. Ms Azmi comes from a Tablighi Jamaat background, a sect even more puritanical. Those insisting on the veil are a small minority of British Muslims — perhaps no more than 5 per cent. But they form part of the fierce political struggle going on for ideological supremacy and leadership among Muslims from different countries, ethnic groups and religious traditions.
In some areas, such as Keighley and Dewsbury, these disputes are fuelling extremism, especially among young Muslims. The issue has been under- reported: that is no longer the case. No community should be judged by its extremists, and the vast majority of Muslims are uneasy about radicalisation from within. And the vast majority of Muslim women are rightly uncomfortable with a very male interpretation of the sacred text.
Note that last line. It gibes completely with what Asra Q. Nomani wrote about very male interpretation of another line. That one was the subject of this post. Meanwhile, The Anchoress is also discussing the subject of the veil, riffing off another op-ed in the WaPo. It is that radicalization from within that the Times talks about that is one of the primary causes of the a large number of the problems we are encountering in the world, of course.