Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
on something I've been wanting to get into for months now, but haven't had the time, which is the difference between symbols and values.

The wearing of a headscarf is not the issue. Thelma and Louise have nothing to do with anything here. The issue is the symbolic display of religious affiliation, and the values implicitly associated with that affiliation.

I can wear a crucifix, or a pentagram, or a Star of David around my neck - or not. It's not only a personal choice, but most of the time it's not even considered a symbol of anything much.

But for a muslim woman to wear a veil - not just any veil, but the traditional muslim veil - is a symbolic and public statement of religious affiliation.

Implicitly the argument seems to be that this is one area which isn't just symbolic of religion, but symbolic of a religion where all of the other gender inequities that TSP mentioned are also practiced.

So rather than being a personal choice - which it might well not be - the head scarf symbolises a certain kind of submission to those values, and an acceptance of those inequalities. And in Western thinking this might be considered a bad thing precisely because it's equivalent to implying that a woman is a second class citizen.

Is this true? I have no idea. I don't have enough first hand experience of Muslim culture to know to what extent this narrative fits reality.

But it seems to be important to understand what the underlying debate is about. And so far as I can tell, it has more to do with assumptions about underlying values than items of clothing.

It's the values, as understood, that matter. The scarf is just a symbolic shorthand for them.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 15th, 2007 at 05:39:38 PM EST

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