Sunday, July 10, 2011

Democracy unveiled

NZ in Tranzit - opinion

There has been great controversy in the last week after two separate bus drivers emmployed by NZ Bus in Auckland ordered veiled women off their bus. Extra-ordinary and bizarre. I hardly think that bus drivers should be dictating how people dress!

However I too work in a customer interface position and find it repulsive to serve persons with full face veils, bandanas, or masks so that it is impossible to see most or all of their face.

We live in a community based on democracy - this is not just a formal system of voting, free speech etc it is a spiritual ethos of all people being equal, open and honest with each other. It is said  90% of communication is conveyed by subtle body and facial movements. The inter-face (literally) between humans is the very basis of that whole system. There can be no community of equals if there is no facial expressions to communicate.

A secondary factor is offences by a hooded person are possible without any possibility of subsequent identification. Historically hooded faces in the west have been associated with crime (cowboy era bandits, street gangs) and oppression (hangmen, Ku Klux Klan) or the hooded person is a prisoner in some sense of an oppressor ( kidnap victims etc) - I see no reason to reverse this first base suspicion even knowing that the religious use of full faced veils does not imply in itself criminal intent.

If a comparatively small minority of the Moslem world wish to live in countries where the full face burqa is considered a norm, that is certainly their right, but I see absolutely no reason why we should attack or undermine the spiritual basis of our own spiritual nexus and democratic culture.

I believe veils covering the hair by nuns or Moslems or anybody else are welcome, but the covering of the face by hankercheifs or veils in public places and facilities, without obvious temporary reason of dust or weather, should be discouraged, clearly spelt out as unacceptable to all residents, immigrants and visitors. 

This said, this is a deeply sensitive but important  political issue and not one to be decided at a shop counter or bus driver level.

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