yrieithydd: (Visitation)
I was going to call this post `When in Rome ...' but then I decided that that quote did not seem to work for the situation, partly because dressing modestly is more of an imperative than dressing immodestly. This made me think about St Paul's comments about respecting other people's scruples and also about how at Taize, a place in which a variety of traditions meet, one is asked to cover one's shoulders when in the Church. In some cultures, for examples Italian, it is disrespectful to enter a Church with bare shoulders. In that circumstance, it is easiest for those of who do not have such taboo to put somthing over our shoulders (and white cloths are provided at every entrance for this purpose) because there's no imperative for us not to cover our shoulders. That now reminds me of the argument I had with someone in MethSoc over the use of Alleluia in Lent. He tried to argue that to be ecumenical I should put up with the use of Alleluia whereas my argument was that seeing as I had a reason for avoiding the use of Alleluia and it was a matter of indifference to him, then ecumenically it was most sensitive not to choose chants with Alleluia in them. The problem with this approach comes when two imperatives clash. For example, I have heard that the Orthodox actually use Alleluia more in Lent which would clash with the Catholic tradition of not using that word.

So how does this work in the whole veils debate? Well, with headscarves, it works. It's a matter of indifference to me whether my hair is covered or not, but if someone believes that for religious reasons one should one's hair, then that's fine for her and if I wanted to enter a building where that is the tradition (and I suspect there are still some Churches where this is the case)* I would be perfectly happy to do so.

However, in the case of veils which cover the face, I think a probelm arises. Covering the face is not a matter of indifference in our culture.** It implies secrecy and threat. One is asked to remove motorcycle helmets when entering a bank so that your face is visible. Passport photos must show an uncovered face so that one is recognisable. Faces are important in our culture and have been for a long time. We still talk about losing face for example, and meeting face-to-face which was actually the phrase which sparked off Jack Straw's thoughts on this matter. In the case of veils, there is the added aspect of oppression/inferiority of women which also goes against our culture. Thus we have an imperative towards showing our faces which conflicts with the imperative felt by some Muslims that women should cover faces when in the presence of non-related men. This cannot be solved by application to the idea of scruples, because there is a scruple in both directions, but we seem to lack any other way of solving it either. It then becomes a flash point in the wider debate about culture and integration. In the UK, we prize tolerance over conformity and live with diversity. But, though we sometimes seem reluctant to recognise it, there are limits to tolerance. We do not tolerate crime for instance. The problem is that there are areas where we disagree over whether something is tolerable or not.

*Interestingly, in the Church I went to in Greece, the older women covered their heads and were dressed modestly, but younger women had bare heads and shoulders. I had bought a shawl so as to cover my shoulders because I wasn't sure what the norms were and I did in fact continue to wear my battered sun hat inside.

** It is relatively recent that women have gone about outside bareheaded in this country but I do not think that women have routinely veiled their faces, but I could be wrong. Even where we do have veils (primarily at weddings, although that is less common these days) it is a gauzey material which does not entirely obscure the face.
yrieithydd: (Visitation)
This week, two stories have left me with the same feeling which is `why can't the media read?'

The CofE and Domestic Violence )

Jack Straw )

How can we have a proper debate if the media cannot report accurately but prefers to stir things up to fit its own agenda(s).

footnotes )

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