Strathclyde Telegraph

Trending Debate: Should full face veils be banned in some jobs or positions?

Proposition by Kerri MacKenzieOpposition by Carey-Louise Howie

Proposition

There is no easy way to approach this topic. How do you live in a democratic country which is an advocate of freedom of speech and then try to tell someone they are not entitled to freedom of expression? It’s an unanswerable question but one which needs to be carefully defined. What is classed as inappropriate? Is it just the burka and niqab (which is often worn with the hijab to cover the face) or is the hijab included too? While the other two cover the face, the hijab does not and it is my argument that the matter can be resolved with some compromise on both sides.

Although my argument is against full face covering veils, I firmly believe that the hijab should not be included in this. In order to live and thrive in a multicultural society we all need to learn to compromise. Simply telling people that they are not entitled to freedom of expression will solve nothing but compromising might make life easier for everyone.  Saying no to face covering veils in certain areas but still allowing headscarves might make it a little bit easier to reach a fair agreement.

In public sector jobs it’s just not feasible that you can work successfully in that environment with your face covered. Communication is undeniably important in schools, hospitals and any other job which involves working with the public. Good communication is all about trust. I work in a shop part-time and I would never be able to successfully fulfil the customer service criteria with my face fully covered. Not being able to see someone’s face makes people feel uneasy or even uncomfortable as they can’t relate to the person they are talking to and this naturally leads to a break-down in communication. However, with the hijab you can see the face and this in turn makes the wearer much more approachable.  There’s no denying it, compromise really is the focus here.

It needs to be understood that the veil is an important part of Islamic culture and belief and this absolutely must not be disregarded. But at the same time it needs to be accepted that there are certain spheres of society where covering your face is simply not an option; on the witness stand, in school and in jobs where you deal with the public. In the news recently a judge ruled that a witness could wear a face covering veil in court but not on the witness stand, at this point he said the witness could wear a headscarf only. This is exactly the type of compromise I’ve been bleating on about. There is no way a jury could tell if a witness was telling the truth or not with their face covered. The fact that the judge allowed her to wear the full face veil for the rest of the time showed willingness for compromise which is exactly what is needed nowadays.

Whilst multiculturalism is important, so is assimilation.  If we all learn to compromise and appreciate each other’s beliefs and values then perhaps we can build a more harmonious society to live in.

Opposition

The well-publicised case of the Muslim woman forced to remove her veil whilst giving evidence to a court of law has sparked controversy all over. Many feel that the judge was right in asking her remove her veil, the reason being so that the jury could read her facial expressions. Others, however, think that the judge was wrong because it breached the woman’s right to express her religion freely.

This is a bit of a ‘grey’ area. On the one hand, every individual has the right to freely express themselves in society, be it through piercings, tattoos or wearing certain clothes but sometimes these expressions are impractical in certain jobs. For example, a Muslim woman who applied to be a nursery assistant claims she was refused the job on the basis she wore a jilbab for religious reasons. When the case was brought to an employment tribunal, they favoured the nursery school citing that the jilbab was a potential health and safety risk to the woman in that it her long robes were considered a trip hazard. The nursery did offer other modest alternatives which allowed her to manifest her beliefs but these were declined.

In this instance, I agree with the nursery school. In most companies and organisations there is a basic dress code which every employee must adhere to but there is flexibility when it comes to religious beliefs. Virtually all organisations allow women to wear headscarves in the workplace so they can express their religious beliefs. In fact, many organisations allow their employees to express themselves to some extent so long as it is not a health and safety risk as mentioned previously.

Where I work, in a supermarket, it is considered a health and safety risk to have false nails and long hair which is not tied back, the reasons being that long hair can get trapped in heavy machinery and the false nails could find themselves in a customer’s shopping which are fair points. However, a person can still express themselves to a certain extent; for example, girls could still wear make-up and subtle jewellery which was not offensive.

Personally, I think as long as the expressions are not a danger to the person or anyone else around them; I do not see why the veil should be banned in certain jobs. The government should not overstep the mark by telling people what they can and cannot wear as the law clearly states that “The UK condemns all instances where individuals are persecuted because of their faith or belief, wherever this happens and whatever the religion of the individual or group concerned.”var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);