Veiled Threat

According to a Washington Times article (Dec 2012), 84% of the world has a faith. How their faith is practiced varies by religion, country, and individuals. Religious devotion is quite personal, from the once-a-year visitor to the zealot. Religious beliefs can influence a wide variety of aspects of our lives including rituals, diet and appearance.

The religious ideals of some people are quite evident by outward appearance. Consider:

  • Some Christians wear a cross or a religious metal such as St. Christopher; priests may wear a white collar; nuns a habit
  • Hasidic Jewish males usually have hair curls (payots), some Jewish men wear a kippah aka yarmulke
  • Many Sikh men wear turbans
  • Some Muslim women may wear an abaya, others a hijab. The hijab may also include a veil

Most countries in Europe boast of religious freedom and are quite tolerant of religious practices. For example in the UK, Sikhs who hold public jobs such as police officers are allowed to wear a turban, (Though the turban must be in compliance with a dress code, e.g. the color.) These countries have had to develop policies and procedures to deal with religious differences

Germany doesn’t have a law against Muslim women wearing a hijab with a veil so individuals from conservative Muslim countries can still visit or live in Germany without compromising their values. As a result, Ihad wondered what would happen in a situation where identification would be important. While waiting to pick up a friend at the Munich airport who had to go through immigration, I was able to observe the review process of a young family arriving from Saudi Arabia. The woman wore a veil but was required to show her face to the immigration official because the official had to be able verify her identity against her passport. Circumstances trumped religion.

Correspondingly, some countries have begun to evaluate what practices will be acceptable. France passed a law in 2010 which was upheld by their high court in July 2014, that made wearing hijab with a veil in public illegal. (Reuter’s article)  Lawmakers said the law was needed for public safety. Most law enforcement officials believe that it is vital to be able identify an individual i.e. to see a person’s face.  Belgium and Switzerland have passed similar laws.

Some people and organizations believe that this law goes against religious freedom. Law enforcement officials and security experts believe that the privilege of wearing a veil could be abused by unscrupulous individuals. Balancing the rights for religious freedom with the safety of the general public is never easy.

What are your thoughts?