Safety or Freedom: Face Coverings at a Massachusetts College
Wearing a face covering is an integral part of the Muslim religion for women. It is a sign of respect for religion and culture, and many Muslim women are not comfortable going into public without their niqab, or face veils.
According to CNN, one Massachusetts college banned the wearing of any head coverings that obscured a student’s face last week. The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences banned face coverings so that students would be identifiable “for reasons of safety and security.” However, the ban was met with such outcry from Muslim students that the school changed the policy to allow for exceptions concerning medical and religious reasons.
Aisha Bajwa is the Muslim Students Association president at The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Bajwa said the policy was “unjustified and unconstitutional.” Bajwa suggested students wear nametags or student IDs at all times as a means of identification for safety reasons.
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was also pleased with the amendment to the original policy. He said “that the religious rights of all students and staff will now be protected. This is a victory for religious freedom and tolerance.”
However, some are concerned that by allowing students to wear face coverings such as the niqab will decrease the level of security at the college.
Daniel Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum. Pipes is sensitive to the cultural implications and significance of face coverings for Muslims, but he is more concerned with the safety of students on campus.
“I have documented dozens and dozens of cases about criminality and terrorism that have been abetted by burqas and niqab,” Pipes said. “It is sensible to ban these, and there are a number of these bans in institutions such as banks or jewelry stores. In Turkey, the traditional face covering has been banned from government offices, so this is not something that is just an American concern.”
I guess it goes back to the debate of whether safety or freedom is more important. Personally, I have to think the safety of the masses is more important than the freedom of one individual.
What’s your opinion?
Correction: On January 18, 2010, we attributed the above quote by Ibrahim Hooper to George Humphrey. We apologize for the mistake and have made the correction.