Questions for us secularists

The veil question which has been raised in the media this week is a strange one for me to consider as someone who often finds himself wearing a form of religious dress in Great Western Road and elsewhere. It seems to me that people should be able to wear what they like in public. Mind you, I know that if I wear a dog collar in the street I will be treated differently from the times when I don’t wear one and not always kindly.

However, even though I think people should be able to wear what they like on the streets, I think that the recent employment tribunal was correct in concluding that a school was not being unreasonable in expecting a teacher to go about school business with her face visible, even in the presence of a male colleague. It seems to me that for a school to have a member of staff veiling herself whenever a man appears, then children are likely to infer a set of cultural values from that act that society can legitimately question. But then I’m a dedicated secularist at heart. The idea of a common set of values inherited from the collected wisdom of the ages, whether from law, religions or the commonwealth of commonsense is an idea worth keeping alive, even when there are islamists and christianists who would challenge it relentlessly.

Is it odd that those who have a faint nostalgia for nuns in wimples never seem to be those who were educated by nuns in wimples?

Strange times for us secularists. Time for a song to keep our spirits up, I think – how about I ain’t afraid by Holly Near.

Join in the chorus now.


  1. `It seems to me that people should be able to wear what they like in public.’

    Indeed. I’d shift it around 90ยบ and say apparel is not a problem but rather a symptom with underlying factors such as aggression, homelessness, a {complicated system which can be viewed as oppressive or acts of choice}.

    One has to approach it with the view that everyone has rights – to choose their dress, to have preferences, and to choose to fit in with others’ preferences or not, as well.

  2. serena says

    I confess to being a “secularist” too. This just reminded me that in banks, building societies and many retail/public buildings, motorcyclists are required to remove headgear. Presumably such institutions would be in big trouble if they extended this to veils?

  3. Jimmy says

    When my Mother was a child she was taught by Nuns for a short time – until bath night when her Mother found she was covered in bruises. That was 1920 so things may have improved since then .

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