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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ban on Asian symbols: A Westside story of bias?

Does the wearing a burkha, nose rings or a mangalsutra undermine a modern secular society?

In England, a woman who worked at a catering services firm at Heathrow airport, was sacked for wearing a nose ring. London's Mayor Ken Livingstone says this is an attack on her right to express her religion.

Other western countries have gone a step further. France has banned the wearing of headscarves and turbans in school whereas in England a teacher was sacked for wearing a veil.

So, does the West overreact to Asian cultural symbols?....

From nose-pins to crucifixes to turbans and the burqa, across many western countries there seems to be a suspicion of the overt display of religious identity. A crack down on cultural and religious symbols has been brewing in the West for a long time.

A law banning Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols from French schools came into effect in 2004. The normally tolerant government of the Netherlands also banned the all-covering veil worn by fewer than hundred Muslim women in the entire country in 2006.

The same year Italy put forward legislation to ban-the naqab and the burka-the Islamic veil that covers the face.

Some German states have banned teachers in public schools from wearing headscarves.

In fact in October 2006, a British Muslim teacher, Aisha Azmi was sacked for refusing to remove her veil in class.

And the recent policy of US airports to screen Sikh turbans also led to a huge uproar among Sikhs in the US and in India.

Why is Western Europe banning symbols, which represent a "conspicuous" sign of religious affiliation? Be it the Islamic scarves, the Sikh turbans or the Jewish skullcaps?

For some it is a clash of civilizations. But considering the fact that British airways suspended an employee for wearing a crucifix in 2006 it seems to be part of a difficult drive towards secularization, in an increasingly multicultural Europe.

However you take it, wearing religious symbols in public is a burning issue across Europe. [Link]

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