The following letter to the editor appeared in the Arizona Republic (Phoenix) yesterday (Nov. 6), written by Sister Nicole Hadley of Mesa. It's pretty good and she makes an interesting analogy at the end: the niqab as a "flag" of liberty and freedom.
The House of Commons leader Jack Straw has been widely criticized - and commended - for proclaiming the veil worn by some Muslim women a hindrance to full assimilation into society.
As an American Muslim woman, I see this as an extremely ignorant statement. I am a Caucasian Muslim raised in America, and I am about as "American as apple pie."
In accordance with my religious beliefs, I cover my hair, but does that make me any less American? Would Straw ask me to assimilate into my own country?
Granted, Straw's comment was in reference to the veil that covers the face and not the hair, but we have to be careful when speaking about taking away people's rights. When one right is taken away, where does it stop? If covering the face is taken away for the sake of "assimilation," will covering the hair be next?
I think I speak for all Muslim women when I say that I appreciate the fact that Prime Minister Tony Blair said that covering is a matter of choice for women. This should remain a choice that every woman has the right to make for herself, whether she originates from a Western, Middle Eastern or Asian country.
If the goal really is assimilation, then what better way for an immigrant to assimilate into a Western nation than to embrace its laws of freedom of religion? Many immigrants come to the West fleeing religious persecution in their own countries.
Women in the United States and the United Kingdom have the right to dress the way that best suits their identities. We should be proud of the fact that women do not have to endure religious persecution here, and hold this triumph up high for the world to see and take as its example.
By exercising their religious right to cover as they please, Muslim women in the West are brandishing their flag of liberty. This is the pride of America - freedom.