The niqab debate is really about gender equality, and allowing women to make their own choices

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Saturday 13 October 2018 15:46 BST
What non-Muslim people think about hijabs, burqas, and niqabs should hold absolutely no weight in deciding if they are sold in shops or not
What non-Muslim people think about hijabs, burqas, and niqabs should hold absolutely no weight in deciding if they are sold in shops or not (Getty)

The disconnect between understanding faith and understanding culture is bizarre in this country. Many seem to be under the impression that this is still a “Christian country” despite less than one million of our 65 million-strong population attending church services as of January 2016. There are dozens of different faiths in Britain and a hundred different ways to live by each of those faiths. As such, not all Jewish women cut off their hair, not all Christian women wear “modest attire”, and not all Muslim women wear coverings.

It’s true that there are some countries in which women are shamed for not being covered, but this is not one of them. The shame comes from those countries’ culture, not religion, and shouldn’t be attributed to Islam. If two Christians approached you and one was disgusted by your immodest clothes and another complimented your style, would you attribute either of those comments to their religion, their culture or their upbringing?

What non-Muslim people think about hijabs, burqas and niqabs should hold absolutely no weight in deciding if they are sold in stores or not. It is up to the Muslim population – whether covered or not – to decide what is appropriate for themselves and their familes. I for one live in a city with a large Muslim population and see many women with head and face coverings out and about each day, usually dropping off or picking up their children from school. If a mother wishes that her daughter cover her hair to feel closer to God, the absence of an M&S brand hijab isn’t going to stop them, as hijabs can be easily and fashionably made or purchased in local stores.

This is just another element of a country that allows women the freedom to choose.

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Wrongs can be made right in the next Budget

I’ve read many times that the true test of the wellbeing of a nation’s citizens is how that nation treats its most disadvantaged members. On this test, we are clearly failing miserably.

I understand the need for us to have sustainable levels of debt, but when that is so obviously prioritised over the welfare of the citizenry, I think we lose the claim to us being a fair and just society. The chancellor needs to begin to address this imbalance in his next Budget.

Steve Mumby

A second referendum is the only option

We surely now accept that however people voted in the referendum, it was in ignorance on all sides as to the potential consequences of the vote. Even reasonably sophisticated political commentators offered a wide variety of predictions as to what the outcome might be, whatever the result. We now have a much clearer view of the complexities facing negotiators and of possible outcomes and the risks for this country if mistakes are made. We can lose the U from UK and the B from GB. We must be given a chance to vote again.

B Perrett​
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More of us need to stand up and speak out

If you were going to replace the known with an alternative, you’d expect those advocating that alternative to have a very clear and detailed idea of what it was and how it worked. Johnson and the rest were winging it. And their alternative turns out to be to leave the country very much worse off than it is now so that vulture capitalists can pick it clean. A small cadre of extremist Tory MPs has been allowed to drive the country to the brink of catastrophe, because no leader was prepared to face it down.

Now May, in thrall to the European Research Group and the DUP, risks the future of the young because she puts party and political issues before national interest. Is it only odd members of the public who are incensed by this? Do any politicians care enough to take decisive action? It can’t all be left to Kenneth Clarke and Anna Soubry.

Michael Rosenthal

More funding for rural schools, please

I write in full support of the headteacher at Holme on Spalding Moor Primary School.

I have been a governor of rural primary schools for several years and now govern at a rural secondary which serves many of those primaries.

Mr Woodhouse is entirely correct to state that funding has fallen in real terms for several years. Report after report confirms this, the most recent of which is on 16-19 education where funding is reported as falling by 22 per cent in the last few years.

This is simply unsustainable.

The Department for Education is likely to respond one more time with the banal and totally pointless comment that they “are spending more on education than ever before”. If it isn’t enough to educate our children properly then I simply don’t bloody care how much they are spending – IT’S NOT ENOUGH!

John Sinclair

Don’t demonise the Ashers bakery supporters

Homosexuality is accepted in society now because of enlightened laws and rights which allow freedom of expression – long may it remain so – but please don’t portray those who voice criticism as misguided or evil people.

The hard-fought LGBT+ rights have taken too long to be enshrined in British law; however, being lawful doesn’t necessarily make it any more acceptable to people whose religion or community feel it is not normal. My advice is stop trying to change their views by force or intimidation: instead continue to make homosexuality work in the community. Many organisations, including the church, are working towards the acceptance of homosexuality, which is only right and proper, but it takes time.

One of the greatest reforms in my lifetime is the right of women to be considered equal to men in the workplace, in relationship to property, voting, inheritance, armed forces, finance, etc. There is still a long way to go before it could be said that women are treated equal to men – but quietly it is happening. It has taken several generations to achieve the gains women have today.

The acceptance of gay people is borne out, in part, by the fact that my children and their friends absolutely don’t consider homosexuality as a hindrance or a barrier to jobs, social events, friendships, etc. It has vastly improved over the last two generations, and with care and constructive discussion the rate of change will accelerate for the better – I feel sure.

Keith Poole

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