Teachers who wear a full face veil have been quietly barred from their jobs by the Syrian government in a move the authorities say is necessary to protect secularism and ensure children receive an objective education.
Civil society organisations believe that 1,200 women have been affected by the measure, with all of them moved from their teaching positions and given jobs in local municipal authority offices.
In response to queries made during a teachers’ syndicate meeting, chaired by a member of the ruling Ba’ath Party, Mr Saad said: “Education in Syrian schools follows an objective, secular methodology and this is undermined by wearing the face veil.”
I support this decision in its entirety. As an operator of public education, and a guardian of the upbringing of children, the state has the right to dictate the quality of the message and the messenger alike.
Teachers are not only vehicles of delivery. They are role-models and they have a significant impact on impressionable kids. The face veil (aka the Niqab) is at the end of the day an extreme interpretation of Islam. It indicates that the person who follow the practice had chosen to adopt the most rigid of choices.
Don't get me wrong, I realize there are wonderful and intelligent Niqabi women out there who manage to overcome the difficulties the Niqab imposes. And for what it is worth I do not call for banning the face veil altogether. But when it comes to national curricula and public education, we must be realistic and acknowledge that if we were to serve secularism as an objective, then certain guidelines must be observed. (and yes, I believe the ban is correct even if teachers tended to remove their face veil inside the classroom).
As for my personal view of the face veil: as I said many times before in my endless arguments with friends and colleagues: there are two ways to look at it: one is from an entirely Islamic Sharia based point of view (which I'm not going to wade into because even the most accomplished and loud scholars of Islam haven't reached a consensus), and second is from the secular point of view that respects and protects social liberties.
The latter approach, which I tend to adopt, maintains that wearing face veil is a personal choice as long as it doesn't project harm unto others in the society. To my knowledge, there hasn't been any demonstrable evidence that face veil is harmful to those who wear it and the people surrounding them. Thus, I rule that Belgium and France ban of the Niqab is hypocritical and myopic.
It's a different case with teachers, for the reasons I've mentioned above. Even though the face veil must be tolerated and accepted, its spread is not something I look at with pleasure. The Niqab, in my humble opinion, is itself a form of a ban. Men are banned from seeing the face of the woman in question, and the woman is banned from showing it to them. And if my simplified interpretation bothers you, I'm not going to go as far as to say that banning the ban is akin to correcting a wrong, but I'm not going to praise the Niqab either.
I once toyed with the idea that, if ever I'm to go settle back home, I will not settle in Aleppo, my freaking home town. Here's what worries me the most: the article says out of the 1200 teachers subject to the ban, 600 were from Aleppo (my freaking home town). Keeping in mind that Aleppo plays host to only 20 % of the population; the rate of wearing the face veil, in my freaking home town, is 4 times the national average.
My dear Abu Fares, how is Tartous looking these days? :-)