Zamora Cabot on the Islamic Veil
Prof. Zamora Cabot (University of Castellón, España) has just published an article on multiculturalism, entitled “Europa entre las corrientes de la multiculturalidad: incidencia del velo islámico en el Reino Unido” (Papeles en el tiempo de los derechos, num. 14, 2011. ISBN: 1989-8797)
This paper addresses the topic of the Islamic veil, one of the most significant ones in the area of multiculturalism in Europe, with reference to the example of the United Kingdom. Its first section highlights the values which should frame the issue, namely tolerance and legal pluralism, singularly at the current time: a time in which the events in the Arab world force Europeans to an exercise of empathy, and towards finding a way to match discourse and real practice of these values.
The second section focuses in the UK, exploring the social and political substrate and milestones that must be taken into account to understand the legal response given in that country to the Islamic way of dressing. Some general observations are made on these clothes, also aiming to provide the reader with a better understanding of the English legal response; and the well known decision of the House of Lords in the Begum case is analyzed from a critical point of view. In this regard, the important efforts made by the various courts, crowned by that decision, are neither ignored nor underestimated; nevertheless, they deserve a negative assessment, as it seems that formal considerations and the will to maintain the status quo have prevailed at the expense of an analysis based on pluralism, that should have led to a different outcome.
The burqa or full veil is discussed in section four, through a variety of scenarios based on different practices in different contexts. Pragmatism and respect for religious convictions are remarkable in all of them: for example, when facing the delicate question of the use of the burqa in proceedings before the courts.
The concluding section praises the liberal spirit of British society where, unlike several European countries, these matters have not been addressed through a repressive apparatus. That is why the UK is considered in this work as a remarkable example that ought to be emulated.