IMO one should be able to dress as s/he pleases in a public place (personal dress law!!) unless it leads to a public problem (inability to see properly to drive, interaction in a teaching job, or identification as a witness/defendant in court).
LAWYERS and JPs will have to ask women wearing burqas to show their faces before witnessing their signatures under tough new laws in New South Wales. The move to “burqa-proof” identity checks follows a public outcry following last year’s controversial Carnita Matthews case. Ms Matthews, a Muslim, had her conviction overturned for knowingly making a false statement accusing a police officer of racism because the prosecution could not prove that she had signed the statement. The 23-year-old JP who witnessed the signature of a woman wearing a full black niqab had assumed it was Ms Matthews but had not asked her to show her face.
Given this growing backlash, many people now see clothing as a civil rights issue, standing up for conservative muslim women who are caught between the law and the (patriarchal) community. In this sense there is an overlap between the UCC debate in India and the burqa debate in the West. Generally, people will be more comfortable in viewing other people as belonging to communities (rather than individuals) and society as being made up of communities.
On the day after the Parti Québécois tabled Bill 60 on Nov. 7, I started wearing a hijab at work, to publicly register my opposition to the proposed values charter. I am not a Muslim. But I am a public-sector worker — an associate professor of history at Concordia University — and as such, a category of worker that would be affected by the charter in my working life.
I already had been considering wearing a hijab for some time, not just to register my opposition to the principle of a values charter but also as a gesture of support for the people that Bill 60 proposes to target. Wearing a hijab — or any other — also seemed to me to be a potentially effective strategy for defying the charter’s effective implementation, if Bill 60 is ever passed.
“I’m not really Muslim,” I felt inclined to tell people. “I’m only doing this to oppose the charter.” But that felt like cheating. On the day the charter was tabled, I decided it was time to make a stronger commitment — wearing a hijab more consistently, and wearing a proper hijab.
My youngest son, age 5, thought the hijab was fine. “Everyone can wear what they want to,” he said. But my 8-year-old son was clearly uncomfortable when he saw me striding through the classroom toward him. “Kids are going to make fun of me,” he said. He was right.