But, but . . . the veil is bad.

This post has been updated since I posted it on 12 June.

Remember this?

I spoke about it in 'Should the guilty go free, or should we stop women wearing cloth in front of their face? You decide' and 'Should the guilty go free *UPDATE*'

In the Express today and yesterday, we have a couple of articles about the conviction of Mahmod Mahmod for killing his own daughter. We have 'Father guilty over "honour killing"', 'Father found guilty of his daughter's "honour killing"' and, presumably because the two other titles weren't clear enough about the father's religion, 'Guilty: the Muslim father who ordered '"honour killing"'.

Of the three, only the last mentions this:
During the trial, her elder sister Bekhal, 22, said Banaz was beaten as she was growing up when she made herself “westernised” by using hairspray or gel. Bekhal still fears for her life and when later asked about the killers, she said: “They don’t deserve to be on this Earth.”
Which is curious, since her testimony paints a rather nasty picture of the family life and the characters of the victim's father and uncle that is actually quite relevant to the story. But even that's more than the Sun, which doesn't even mention the sister's existence in either of the articles, 'Murdered for falling in love' and '"Honour killing" dad found guilty'.

*UPDATE* The god of leaving newspapers on bus seats has been kind to me today (13 June) and left a copy of today's Sun on the seat next to me this morning. It's where I first saw this, 'They can't have same life here' - an entire article devoted to thve testimony of Bekhal Mahmod, published a day after my original post.

The BBC has this, in 'Lover "heartbroken" over killing':
Banaz's older sister Bekhal, 22, said she paid the ultimate price of finding happiness with a man who did not meet with the approval of her Kurdish family.

"She just wanted to get out of it and live her life. That's all she wanted - she didn't want the world," said Bekhal.

Four years before her sister's death, Bekhal fled the family home in Mitcham, south-west London, after being beaten and threatened by her father for "bringing shame on his name" by adopting Western ways.


Bekhal said: "To do this to their own flesh and blood was unforgivable. Forgiveness isn't even a question. They don't deserve to be on this earth.

"How can somebody think that kind of thing and actually do it to your own flesh and blood? It's disgusting."
There's quite a bit of meat in that quote, so it's a bit odd that the Express only mentions it in passing - and the Sun not at all *See updated sections*. There's a clue as to why it might have been left out, in a picture also in the BBC report of Bekhal Mahmod:


Even the Mail gives rather a lot of space to covering Bekhal's testimony, mentioning her wearing the veil and her reasons for it in 'The tragic story of Banaz Mahmod: she fell in love at 19, so her family killed her'.

There's also this, in the BBC report, which I snipped out:

Now living in fear of her own life, Bekhal refuses to reveal where she lives and never ventures outside without wearing a full veil, showing only her eyes.
So, there are other reasons for wearing a veil than just as a mark of separation. Who knew?

There's also this, from a set of notes on the trial:

The jury asked Bekhal why she was wearing a full veil. She composed a short statement to say that she was covered not from religious conviction but because she feared reprisals from her family and did not wish her current appearance to be seen.
Today Bekhal Mahmod told a very different story. She arrived in court wearing a full-face veil which she was only happy to remove once she had been screened from the view of her father and uncle.
If the Express had its way, this woman's testimony would not have been possible without her showing her face to her sister's murderers. Given her distress, there's a possibility that she would have chosen not to testify rather than do that, and who knows how different the trial's outcome might have been?

Since the Express wants a full ban on veils everywhere, and railed against the decision to make it up to the judge to decide whether or not a defendant can wear a veil, it's safe to assume that the paper would even object to her being allowed to have a screen hiding her from the view of the defendants.

Here's the thing. It's impossible to make blanket statements about the reasons people do things like wear a veil. I have to admit the possibility of a woman wanting to wear a veil to hide herself from her father who had murdered her sister hadn't occurred to me when I first looked at the Express' rantings about banning veils in courts - but it perfectly illustrates why this sort of thing is impossible to make blanket judgements that are devoid of nuance about. A blanket ban would have almost certainly affected the process of this trial, and some quite damning testimony might have been lost.

That said, you'd have thought the idea of a woman wearing a veil to hide her face from her father - who murdered her sister in an honour killing - would be perfect ammunition for the Express to lay into Muslims with - but they curiously choose not to. This is, I think, because it wouldn't support the Express's line that veils=mark of separation=Bad Bad Thing in any and all circumstances, and we couldn't have that. Eliminating nuance is a priority for papers like the Express and the Sun. So something pretty darn relevant to the story gets nicely airbrushed from existence.

*UPDATE* I removed a couple of references to the Sun from the above paragraph, since the Sun now does have coverage in today's edition.

If I could quote my other half again, "that's not reporting the news, that's just propaganda."


septicisle said...

I think this is the problem that many of us on the libertarian left face in supporting the right of women to wear the veil: it's inherently a regressive, discriminatory garment which you have to imagine that many woman who wear it in the Middle East and elsewhere would love to be able to do without. It's also a reflection of a religion taking what is a disputed section of its holy book, about the need for women to dress modestly, to an extreme. Some women are undoubtedly forced into wearing it by overbearing, devout husbands. Most of us likely hate it; I know I do, much like I wish that no one felt the need to wear any religious garment out of a phony need for modesty.

The reality though is different, as the example of this woman shows. Many assertive young Muslim women also came forward at the high of the debate who clearly felt empowered by it. What those calling for the banning of such dress is that they are denying every single one of us the opportunity to make up our own minds, to think for ourselves why any of us decide on the clothes we do. I'd hesitate to suggest that calling for a blanket ban is just as bad as women being forced into wearing it. It's a denial of rights that goes too far.

That's the case I've always felt for such blanket legislation to be opposed anyway, mixed feelings or otherwise.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

It is a difficult problem to get to grips with, and I probably haven't made my position clear enough in this blog, since I'm usually busy attacking poorly argued reasoning for banning the wearing of veils - but I pretty much agree.

If I had my choice, I'd like for women to choose not to wear veils, but it's not my place to tell anyone they can't. Different women will have different reasons for wearing a veil - it's not up to me to effectively call them wrong or liars by forcing my interpretation of their significance on to them. And one thing's for certain - the first thing I'd do in the current climate were I a woman, a Muslim and brave enough, I'd certainly be thinking of covering up in defiance.

What this case shows is that blanket bans are short sighted and dumb. Even though the reason for wearing one in this case is far more nasty than I had in mind and not an argument I'd like to use generally for opposing any ban - it shows that it's nigh on impossible to think of every reason a person might have for doing something and stupid to even try.

Are women forced to wear them? Yes, some undoubtedly are, like Bekhal Mahmod was in this case. Is that reason enough to stop everyone who wants to wear them from doing so? No.

Also, the argument that we're an enlightened, forward thinking society who allows people to wear what they want so we're going to stop people from wearing what they want seems a bit daft.