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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lifting the veil

The almost global debate on whether Muslim women should wear their customary veil is another example of us confusing between what we think people ought to be doing and what people have a right of doing. It also illustrates lack of cultural sensitivity.

The reason the western world is so much up in arms against such explicit display of one's religion is because their religion does not have any such requirements. That being the case, they just cannot fathom things like Muslim women wearing the veil or Sikhs wearing the turban and growing beard. I am pretty confident that if christainity had any such explicit requirements, the western world would have been far more sensitive on these matters.

I do not think that wearing a veil is something any women ought to be doing. Hiding one's face to me is a sign of cowardice. At the very least it is reflective of socio-cultural conditions a few decades back (at the minimum). But that is my opinion and that is about it.

I also think that women have the right to decide what attire they ought to be wearing. They have a right to decide whether they want to expose their face or hands in front of others - its their personal decision and they have a RIGHT to make that decision. If they do decide to wear the veil, its not something I appreciate or like or support, but I certainly support their right to make that decision.

Now again, this right to wear or not wear the veil cannot be absolute. If the demands of work or things like security demand it, then one cannot be allowed to hide under the garb of religion. So one cannot possibly be allowed to teach to small children wearing a veil - it just does not make sense for example.

In the same light I firmly feel that in India we ought to have a uniform civil code. We ought to have a basic common framework governing individuals. It cannot be left to subjective interpretations by religious scholors of ancient scriptures. Nor should we have different sets of rules governing different individuals depending on their relious beliefs. There ought to be one single law applicable to Indians and within that legal framework, individuals are free to practise their religion.

That's it for now...

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