Occasionally, the topic of the Muslim wear of the niqab comes up in German chat forums. The niqab, for those of you unfamiliar with it.....is the facial covering which allows only the eyes to be seen, which some Islamic women wear.
Twenty years ago, other than in a German airport with people transiting through.....you rarely ever saw the garment. Today? You can walk the shopping district of any German city and probably see at least ten women over a four-hour period wearing it. German business operations now have to deal with customers who walk in and require service. German government operations also are affected. As are schools, libraries, and transportation services.
France has written up a law which affects the wearing in a direct way. You can't wear it in a general public area....like buses, or on streets. Violation involves a 150 Euro fine, and re-education class which teaches you about the law. The only exceptions to the law....are your place of worship, your home, and your private vehicle.
I've done a fair amount of reading over the subject, and have come to observe that there just isn't any written code or Islamic rule from the Quran that dictates you must wear it, or even the gloves that you occasionally see women wearing as well.
So, I come to this odd feature of communications. In the world that we live.....there are verbal and non-verbal communications. Over the past ten thousand years....we've relied upon communications to get ideals, comments, and discussion across a wide spectrum.
One could say that the Age of Enlightenment started in the mid-1600's.....this whole thought process of communications started to bring about a thriving society. Books, knowledge, discussion, logic, philosophy, openness, science, study, the thought process, and contact all mixed to bring in a bold new world that exists in Europe today.
The non-verbal side of this? While glance, eye-contact, volume, diction, vocal nuance, posture, and dress all matter.....the niqab hides the others (facial view, eye brows, etc). Happiness, frustration, emphasis, humor....can all be lost because of the niqab.
Criticism of the situation? It's hard to sit there and have a conversation with someone whose basis of life is heavily influenced by their religious thought process, and what someone told them to believe in. They've bought into the argument, and will defend their position.....acting as though you've challenged their entire religious process by commenting on a nigab problem. If a number of German comedians started to pick up the nigab and wear it as a manly garment.....everyone enthusiastic about the nigab would get all peppy and frustrated by the act. The comedians will come out in the dozen-odd nigabs that are commonly seen.....each with a more revealing look....and eventually ask the women in question which nigab is the only one discussed in the Quran. You can sit and imagine the various answers given on that question.
The German tolerance crowd will have a problem in getting this settled across the non-tolerance crowd.