This is one of the most favoured photos I have on flickr and it is a photo of a woman tourist at Ba'albek in the Hezbollah controlled part of Lebanon.
In the UK at the moment there is a debate ongoing about the veil and whether or not it contributes to a feeling of separateness between people and communities. It is a very difficult discussion and one which in which many stupid things will be said, but I think it is a good idea to have a discussion rather than ignore the issue. It obviously IS an issue and I think it is better to have an open debate rather than having it kept as a politically correct taboo. Kept as a taboo, people become suspicious and open to nasty suggestions from right-wing racist organisations.
I think there is something to besaid for the fact that wearing a veil DOES encourage feelings of separateness and this is not altogether good. I am also aware that the veil tends to be more of a cultural thing rather than a religious/Muslim thing... certainly when one compares Yemen to Somaliland or Malaysia, for example.
Anyway, some good and some bad news on the religious debate in the UK. The good news is that 'faith' schools are being told that they should accept at least 25% of their intake from families from outside that faith. I'd have rather there were not any faith schools myself as I think this can lead to brain washing of young impressionable children. An example of this would be Fred's niece "K" who is 11 years old and goes to a Christian school (because this is much better than the local non-religious school). All of a sudden, she wants prayers to be said before and after dinner, despite not coming from a religious background.
However, at the risk that such children might be indoctrinated towards the religion of the 'faith' school, as seems to be the case with "K", maybe the intake of 25% of outsiders may do something to temper religious extremism in such schools.
The bad news is that a Catholic Minister in the UK is seemingly trying to get an exemption for religions to a law which bans discrimination on basis of sexual orientation. This Minister, Ruth Kelly, also a member of the infamous Opus Dei sect, has taken over responsibility for having this Bill drafted and passed by Parliament and she is now delaying the introduction of the Bill in order to atke on objections from religious organisations. So, a Catholic school for example is allowed to teach that homosexuality is a sin (one of their very many strange and inhuman dogmas) and evn get funding from the taxpayer for teaching such utter nonsense.
Not only that, but then they also wants to deny the right of say, a local gay/lesbian organisation to use the school facilities after school hours, deny employment to a gay teacher or caretaker and so on and so forth. The same would go for one of the UK's new Islamic schools, unless this very important law is passed as it is, without any exemptions.
It will be interesting to see how strong the resolve is of the Government in the face of opposition from the Minister responsible and the religious groups claiming the right to carry on discriminating.