Image: Getideaka / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I guess I have to say, that I have not had any reason personally, to like, or to dislike them, and I am very much pro clothing choice for all of us. I don’t know why I feel the need to say that, but I do.
From reading the news, it seems to be an emotive subject, and it is something that is part of a way of life in the UK for a growing part of our population. It’s not an issue that we face much this far up north though. In my part of Aberdeen land we rarely ever come across any full face veil wearing. There has only been one woman who I can think of that we ever came across in the street, and it was an experience that I will never forget.
I have to tell you about that now, don’t I? Well, here goes.
On the way back from school , I was walking with the kids (middler was about 4 – 5 at the time, vocal, but no sense – as with many special needs children). Across the road from us, a tall woman wearing a full face veil with burka, and either a friend, or relative beside her began walking in line with us on the opposite pavement.
I have to say it was a totally unusual sight for my children, for whom it was the first encounter with a face veil. Middler began to gesticulate and shake with excitement, as his noise became more and more vocal. At the pitch of his voice, out he shouts (very loudly) “it’s batman.” Over and over, and over, and over. You get the gist. I am trying to shush him, try to tell him its is a woman under the clothes, but he is in full repetitive special needs mode. My face got redder and redder, and to my utter horror, the two women crossed the road to go into the street we were blocking.
As they walked past, I apologised. The woman in the burka seemed to take it in good spirit. Her friend spoke to her and laughed. I felt like wiping my brow as I felt like the worst mother in the world for not preparing my kids for the potential to meet a fully black cladded woman in the middle of the street.
When we got home, we then spent several hours over the next few weeks with middler – trying to convince him that the woman wasn’t batman, but just a woman.
We have never come across another woman wearing a full face veil. I have not had the opportunity to see how he will react when he next comes across some poor unsuspecting woman wearing one again.
It does lead on to the headscarf wearing. We do have several women locally who wear the headscarves. They are mostly very westernised and fashionable, and normally bright colours, and worn very cleverly to look nice.
There are two young girls who attend a sports class that two of my children do. They are lovely girls and always pleasant and courteous. One of the girls has reached the age of 11, and overnight she began to wear a headscarf. How to keep one on was not something that I had given much thought to before this. I just presumed that the headscarves were made so that they were comfortable and easy to wear and keep on, more like a one piece slip on thing.
I felt heart sorry for the eldest when her scarf slipped off while she was practicing her activities. The tears in her eyes when it fell off were clear, and I saw her go from a happy-go-lucky child to one who was stressed overnight. At the next session, she wore a scarf tightly wound round her face, and she was obviously uncomfortable with it on as it was a warm night.
Her little sister looked on in silence. She has not laughed at her sisters plight. She must see her own future. Asked whether she wanted to wear the scarf, or whether she had to wear it (as kids ask), she honestly said that she had to wear it. In what context that is meant, I am not sure, but the kids take it that she is being forced to wear it, and the sympathy for the situation she is in has been quite profound.
Never again will I look at a woman wearing a headscarf and just think it was an easy thing to do, or an easy thing to wear, or an easy way to live. Just to wear that one item of clothing, to keep the hair under wraps as they wish to, it obviously takes meticulous planning and organisation, as well as many, many clothing malfunctions to get right. It is like an extra right of passage, and from what I am seeing, as an outsider, not as easy a one to live with as I had naively imagined.
Amy Whyley says
I am not racist at all, but I must say I hate burkas. I have a muslim friend and she is forced to wear hers by her husband and before the marriage by her father. I was always under the impression that Muslim women had to wear what ether the husband or father tells them. I know women are considered lower than a man in strict Muslim familys (In my friends family they are anyway). To me, sex and the city 2 said it best, its like their not allowed voices etc. I think its so unfair that children are made to wear them. It’d be like me (when I was pagan) forcing my kids to stand naked outside (not that I ever stood outside naked, but you get the point). I always feel sorry for the ladies who are wearing burkas, especially during the summer xx
Mrs Turk (@maydossu) says
Thank you for this. And the Batman thing? A friend of mine has a burka – not in use everyday! – with a sign on the back: “Watch out for Robin” ;D
Scottish Mum says
The batman thing must be quite common then with children if they are not used to seeing the outfits lol.
A friend I met at university was Muslim and she didn’t wear a head scarf. She said she refused to wear one until *she* felt she was ready to. She was about 10 years older than me and was married with three children. She was very lucky that she had the choice to not ‘cover-up’.
In schools, I’ve come across children that come in on their birthdays (usually when they turn 7) and are suddenly covered up. They’ve had no choice in the matter – it is what’s expected of them. To see them suddenly struggle to do PE and play freely during break is sad.
My sister-in-law is Muslim and she doesn’t wear a head scarf – but I’ve never seen her in anything above shin-length. And her sleeves are always at least 3/4 length!
Whether a girl or woman has a choice in the matter (I think) really depends on their parents and community and how orthodox they are.
Scottish Mum says
It is sad to see the struggle.
William Tennant says
Your blog interests me greatly, particularly from the point of view of the children who have little to no contact with such things.
I work in a 6th form college in inner city Manchester, where roughly a third of the pupils are Muslim and most classes will feature 3 or 4 girls from a background where the headscarf is worn.
I found the headscarf quite intimidating thing when I started working there, but as time went on, once I was fully immersed in a social situation where it was very commonly worn, I realised that the kids themselves genuinely don’t care who wears what. They are as accepting of someone wearing a headscarf as they are of someone with dreads, or of someone wearing a baseball cap.
I think that headscarves etc., are massively divisive to those who haven’t come into contact with them. The kids that wear them are just like all the other kids.
Must stop waffling.
Scottish Mum says
It is a very difficult thing to accept for children. Watching children from other cultures who are not allowed to reciprocate at times makes them very confused. My son was upset at one little girl crying all break and lunch time a couple of years ago because she was not allowed to watch the christmas musical at school. Very sad for the children who don’t understand.
Oh Mammy says
interesting piece. Although I live in Edinburgh I was born and raised near the Borders where the population is predominantly White and so head coverings seem peculiar to it’s inhabitants. The hijab is bound with so much symbolism that it’s interpretation can be a bit fraught. Many people assume that the act of veiling is an act of repression rather than a commitment to a faith. For many it is a requirement and for few a choice.
You make a link, perhaps unintentionally, to the girls veiling and her stress levels. Girls usually veil after they have gad their first period and are declared women, so perhaps the added onset of puberty heightened the change in her demeanour. Your reader above seems to think that this girl is experiencing enforced veiling and we don’t quite know the individual situation. the veil is usually introduced at a stage where biologically the girls have become women but are still to young to understand the symbolism of it’s use.
Many parents don’t give their girls the option but it’s so fundamental to their religious
beliefs that we should not pity them but hope than when she’s older she can fully appreciate the act of veiling or that she can make the choice not to veil.
Scottish Mum says
There may be a link, there may not be. All we know is how the kids perceive it. Its a difficult one for me, and hard to understand, but I am trying to.
Suz yadallee says
I was married to a Muslim for 25 years. The Koran urges men and woman to dress modestly it doesn’t say women should cover themselves from top to toe.Yes it is supposed to be voluntary and I hate to see little girls of 5 or 6 in headscarves totally inappropriate! My daughter Leila was in Bradford recently and went into a Sweet shop Ambala the women serving wore burkas. she was dressed in her office wear and because she looks Asian they presumed she was Muslim and decided to completely ignore her because in their eyes she was dressed inappropriately. She stood for several minutes as they served other customers and then spoke up and said “IS anyone going to serve me”? Don’t get me wrong I have friends of all nationalities and cultures but I was very cross when I heard this it’s a ” reverse racism” Suz
Scottish Mum says
I would be cross with that as well.
I have always been under the impression the wearing the veil/scarf was voluntary and also depending on the sect of Islam/culture of the home country. I am sure however that sometimes it is enforced or cajoled by some families (as sometimes Christian beliefs are enforced on children). I can only imagine the shame/embarrassment that girl felt when her scarf slipped. She trying to be modest and her clothes not cooperating. Poor dear.
Scottish Mum says
She is very uncomfortable with her scarf on. Perhaps that diminishes with time, but I have sympathy for her at the moment.