‘No place for the hijab in civic life’ says Irish journalist

“If Muslim men are so keen on seeing their headscarf introduced into Irish society, they should wear it as well as their women. Let them cover up, too. Otherwise there must be no place for the hijab in civic life here. Not in banks, hospitals or libraries, not in the guards or civil service and most definitely not in schools.

“You hear a constant stream of hooey about why we can’t ban the headscarf. But this is not about Islamophobia. It’s not about prejudice on race or religion grounds. It’s not about equating the Muslim scarf with terrorism. It’s not about denial of civil rights. Here’s what banning the headscarf is about: the State demonstrating our belief in gender equality. It’s about removing a symbol of repression and submission.

“… it is not discriminatory to ban the hijab in a country that is culturally Christian…. Of course, some nuns wear veils but that’s of their own volition as adult women – not a custom they are railroaded into as children….

“I don’t regard the hijab as a harmless expression of religious and cultural diversity. A veiled woman carries regressive connotations. If we accept it in schools, we open the door to other practices in the Muslim world even more repressive to women, among them arranged marriages and female circumcision.”

Martina Devlin in the Irish Independent, 22 May 2008

Update:  See Yusuf Smith’s comments at Indigo Jo Blogs, 23 May 2008