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Sep 19 2013

Stray thoughts on niqab-related tussles

I don’t care for ‘Islamophobia’: it names a multitude of sins, but more than the odd virtue too, and politics seldom gains from too-broad terms. That said, Daniel Trilling’s latest column at the Rationalist Association site (he’s New Humanist‘s new editor) says excellent things on the recent media storm over niqab-clad women.

A defendant currently on trial in London, if you hadn’t heard about it, has been permitted to wear hers in court while removing it to give evidence, face shielded from public view by a screen but visible to judge, jury and lawyers. (‘The defendant, who cannot be identified,’ BBC News reports mischievously, ‘was present for the hearing.’) A Birmingham Sixth Form college, meanwhile, has revised its dress code after pressure to allow niqab.

Writes Trilling, among other things:

The National Secular Society opposes “a general ban on the wearing of the burka and niqab”, but states that “religious freedom is not absolute” and supports certain requirements to remove a face veil in situations where people need to be identified. Precisely which situations, how these are negotiated, and whether people are being treated fairly and without being stigmatised, seem to me to be the real areas for debate.

It seems on the face of it a sensible line to take. Discussions like this always call for degrees of nuance, so like him, I’ll avoid skindeep demands and outline some instincts that shape my thinking.

  • I’m don’t believe in ‘religious freedom’ as a category unto itself, the ‘right to manifest religion’ being one example. There are no religious rights or freedoms, as such: there are secular rights and freedoms (of thought, speech and assembly, say) which at times find religious expression. One such right, it seems to me, is not having one’s clothing unduly policed.
  • Demands ‘face coverings’ be banned in public, Tory MP Philip Hollobone’s among them, seem clear products of the so-called War on Terror’s Hobbesian domestic politics, obsessed with fatuous ‘security’ concerns. Could you tell a friend in detail, if asked, about the faces of passers-by when last you went to buy milk or strolled to work? Did you even eye them that closely, or feel a burning need to view them? If not, what does this say about the widespread urge to view niqab-wearers’ faces?
  • My general presumption thus would be not to proscribe items of clothing. Certain specific contexts do exist, however, where we justifiably require faces’ visibility – in passport photographs, banks or while taking exams, for instance. (During my university finals, student cards were placed on desks to be compared with owners’ faces by invigilators.) The question then, as Trilling states, is which contexts qualify.
  • Incidentally: should we assume any woman in a niqab considers its removal an unthinkable sacrilege? Many no doubt do; there are also those, I’d imagine, who find it viable enough if unpreferable, or else not a matter of huge importance. Veiled women: not homogenous or undifferentiated.
  • Relatedly: niqabs are not burqas. Here are the former, predominantly Middle Eastern; here are the latter, predominantly South Asian. So-called Muslim cultures from all around the world: not interchangeable.
  • Also: why the media’s constant reference to ‘the niqab’/'the burqa’, as if only one exists? Veils, and women wearing them, are plural.
  • Also: a little over three million Muslims, half of them presumably female, live in France where veils have been publicly banned since 2011. Around 2000 women according to the Independent‘s coverage of the Sixth Form college story, and certainly a very small minority, wear this version of hijab. Why have veil-wearing Muslim women, making up only a tiny, highly conservative fraction of the populace at large, been used so emblematically of Muslims in the West by media there?
  • The question of whether or to what extent niqab (or hijab more broadly) is a ‘choice’ is not binary. ‘Choice’ is complex and has degrees and counter-valances; if you want to read about that, see Marwa Berro’s guest post here on Lady Gaga and veils.
  • This whole discussion is complex, in fact, and needs to involve who are Muslims, ex-Muslims and who’ve worn hijab – as Zakia Uddin argues persuasively here.
  • France’s anti-veil laws have, it seems to me, had penetratingly dire results.
  • All sides in the current British controversy appear to want a ‘definitive answer’ from government on the status of niqab ‘bans’, one way or the other, which seems to hint at legislation on the issue. I am unconvinced, especially in the courtroom and college contexts, that this is a good idea, as I’m often unconvinced demands for new legislation are worthwhile.
  • In educational settings, it seems to me niqab-related issues might best be dealt with case-by-case. It’s conceivable potential risks of students covering their faces might vary strongly between schools (are ‘security’ concerns over covered faces more valid, perhaps, at Birmingham’s inner-city colleges than small-sized grammar schools in leafy Buckinghamshire?), and different teachers might feel differently about veils’ impact on lessons. (Could staff legitimately ask, for example, to see students’ faces for while teaching them? Probably, yes – on the other hand, individuals’ discomfort on being made to remove veils or tense group dynamics as a result might stop that being worth it, or cause teachers to think carefully about whether, or how uncompromisingly, to set down that rule.)
  • In court, as in the classroom if not more so, facial expressions matter greatly. Though we don’t bar the blind or partially sighted from jury service, those who do serve are presumably told as objectively as possible of testifiers’ expressions – certainly, we wouldn’t hold court with the lights out. In the current case, of course, jurors and court officials can still see the defendant’s face, so perhaps the point is moot. While we do let individuals give evidence in silhouette, this presumably requires special circumstances: religious faith alone, as far as I can see, shouldn’t qualify. There may perhaps be issues of comfort here too, since insisting garments held sacred be removed could quite conceivably place witnesses under added stress, thus biasing proceedings – this seems, though, like a reason for the kind of reasonable accommodation currently on offer. (Do members of the public have the same right as the jury to see all participants’ faces? I would say not.)
  • In either case above, existing laws allow over-draconian rulings to be challenged quite sufficiently. My sense is that any case for niqabs’ allowance based specifically on legislation to that effect, and not on any broader principle of human rights or personal autonomy, would deserve dismissal, as does UK Christian groups’ demand for a specific, legally enshrined right to wear crosses.

Those are my thoughts. I might have missed no end of things of course, and my stance here isn’t set in stone, so what are you yours?

16 comments

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  1. 1
    jenny6833a

    Interesting post, but almost totally devoted to rather abstract principles. However, in the real world, laws are made to deal with problems. You clearly weren’t in the French schools, at the gates to the schools, or in the mostly Muslim communities around the schools when the decision was made to ban ostentatious religious symbols in French primary and secondary schools. I was. It had become the Bloods and the Crips all over again. Education had pretty well ceased to happen. The Imans were at the gates trying to force their way in, threatening any girl who cooperated and coaching the boys to turn in any girl who did. Anyone, boy or girl, but mostly girls, who tried to get an education were beaten and sometimes raped as punishment. The Imans were demanding that instruction take place in Arabic with the sole ‘textbook’ being the Koran. The Catholics reacted by having their kids wear larger and larger crosses. It was war.

    What you’re missing, I think, is that the vast majority of the immigrant girls and most of the boys wanted to fit in, to integrate, to become French, to enjoy the benefits of education and the life it could bring. Spme of the older generation and almost all of the religious leaders were dead set against that happening. They wanted to turn France Muslim by any means whatever.

    It appears that Great Britain is on the path to the same sort of situation. I hope the Brits deal with it earlier than the French did.

  2. 2
    Walton

    jenny6833a: Do you have any actual sources for the outlandish claims you’re making?

    ====

    The French ban on face coverings in public places has indeed had terrible results. In large part, because racists have taken it as a convenient excuse to attack Muslim women (verbally and physically) in the streets. Banning niqab- or burqa-wearing women from going out in the streets doesn’t “liberate” them from religious norms, it just confines them to their homes. You can’t “liberate” people by telling them what to wear.

    Unfortunately, the whole discourse about this subject is deeply bound up with xenophobia, and with fear, hatred and misconception about Muslims and Islam. I wish that progressives and atheists who support bans on religious face coverings would look at who they’re siding with: as a general rule, if you find yourself on the same side of an issue as the xenophobic Right, it’s not a good sign.

  3. 3
    Delft

    Maryam writes

    The “right to veil” rapidly becomes the right to beat up those who do not. Yes, certainly there are women who freely choose to wear the niqab or burqa but on a mass social scale, they are impositions.

    I would be happy for women to wear whatever veils they like in almost all contexts – and Maryam points out even e.g. Egypt obliges women to show their face in court. But I don’t think these garments are worn by choice in the overwhelming majority of cases. So the freedom of self-expression becomes the freedom of those in (relative) power to deny self-expression to others.

    Perhaps the solution is to stop worrying about veils per se, and show Muslim men they may not oppress women. Give full murder sentences for so-called “honour”-killings, including sentencing of all accessories. Protect young girls from being “sent home” and married off against their will. Protect ex-muslims who are threatened for speaking out. And of course guarantee the right of any woman not to wear a veil.

  4. 4
    lorn

    The state has a vested interest in being able to identify individuals. There is a reason bank robbers and clansmen covert their faces.

    It is also true that the face is an expression of humanity. It is central to our thinking and a considerable part of our brains and thought process involves spotting faces, often when they are not there, and detecting what any face is telling us about the person and our surroundings. Faces are the first thing an infant can recognize by sight.

    The face is the point of contact for agency and interaction. It is, along with hands and feet, uniquely human. Typically in cases of cannibalism people avoid handling the face, hands, and feet. People tend to cover the face of corpses. Even a small bit of cloth across the face tends to mute the emotional content of seeing a dead body. People often cover the condemned’s face before execution.

  5. 5
    jenny6833a

    @ #2 Walton

    My sources are my own eyes with some additional detail added by an Assistant Principal at a middle school in an immigrant area who is a relative of mine.

    My comment had no relationship whatever to anything you said in the remainder of your comment. If you’d read it you’d know that my remarks dealt only with the French ban on ostentatious religious symbols in public elementary and secondary schools.

    I write about what I’ve seen myself. Do you?

  6. 6
    John Horstman

    I disagree that there’s ever a reason to need to see someone’s face. There are contexts where, under our present social and legal systems, establishing identity might actually be important, and while matching someone’s face to a picture of one’s face might be a convenient way to do so, it can be done without viewing a face.

    As to the importance of seeing a face in court, I disagree entirely. I see no reason to expect facial expressions to accurately inform more than they might deceive, and even accurately-read emotion (that also isn’t intentionally misleading on the part of a witness) might well be inaccurately attributed/interpreted by judges, jurors,etc. If I appear uncomfortable and nervous, it might be that I have something to hide, it might be that I’m lying, it might be that I’m extremely uncomfortable being put on the spot in that fashion, it might be that I’m uncomfortable in front of crowds, it might be that I’m generally uncomfortable with the operations of the court system, it might be that I’m having a panic attack unrelated to the context of the courtroom, etc.

    I think I *would* prefer that trials were conducted in the dark to negate potentially-prejudicial interpretations of demeanor.

    @jenny6833a #1:

    The Imans were at the gates trying to force their way in, threatening any girl who cooperated and coaching the boys to turn in any girl who did. Anyone, boy or girl, but mostly girls, who tried to get an education were beaten and sometimes raped as punishment. The Imans were demanding that instruction take place in Arabic with the sole ‘textbook’ being the Koran.

    Those are problems that should be directly addressed. Banning religious symbols might eliminate one trigger or rationalization for problematic behaviors but does nothing to address the underlying problem.

    What you’re missing, I think, is that the vast majority of the immigrant girls and most of the boys wanted to fit in, to integrate, to become French, to enjoy the benefits of education and the life it could bring. Spme of the older generation and almost all of the religious leaders were dead set against that happening. They wanted to turn France Muslim by any means whatever.

    Okay, so then the problem as I see it is a culture and legal system that allows parents or religious leaders or whomever to coerce the behavior of said girls and boys.

    @Delft #3:

    But I don’t think these garments are worn by choice in the overwhelming majority of cases.

    Hoo boy; define “choice”. All actions we take are “choices: in some sense, always bounded by what is possible, what we perceive to be possible, and the anticipated consequences of our actions. If someone is literally holding a gun to my head and telling me to do something, I still have a choice. I can refuse and likely get shot or cooperate and perhaps not get shot (though at the point where someone is credibly threatening to kill me, I don’t see why they’d stop at one request, or let me live after I complete it, so I’m unlikely to comply in the first place). I think “choice” is the wrong focus – we should re-frame as a consideration of the limits and consequences that bound and inflect the choices people make.

    For wearing hijab of whatever kind, there are often coercive social structures, perhaps including threats of physical (including sexual) violence that may actually be carried out, that affect the choice of whether to wear a given garment. By way of analogy, in my city here in USA, we mandate that women cover their chests in most cases, that everyone cover their genitals, and that all patrons of public businesses wear shoes and shirts in addition to the other requirements, etc. all backed by the force of law. There’s less risk of death for violating one of these norms than there is in some areas for women violating the norm to cover, though not substantially less risk of physical violence. Our (again, legally-enforced) chest-covering norm is just as gendered as face-covering norms, though some might (perhaps convincingly) argue that covering one’s chest is generally less restrictive than covering one’s face, so the one norm does less harm than the other.

    I find that most critiques based on “choice” tend to essentialize one’s own cultural norms as ‘correct’ – or perhaps simply ‘freely chosen’, eliding the sturctures that inform those choices – and only attack restrictions on choice that are unfamiliar; this is a hypocrisy born of ethnocentrism. Personally, I think ALL of these clothing norms – including ours – are more harmful than helpful, and so I find criticisms of niqabs, burqas, shaylahs, etc. that fail to likewise critique familiar/local norms hollow.

  7. 7
    cityzenjane

    I think the whole conversation needs to broaden out…. For me religious indoctrination before the age of reason….say 25? given what we know about PFC development – puts parentheses around all these discussions of freedom of choice and the presumption of say Westerners and in particular “Western feminists” around these discussions who need to incorporate critiques of all fundamentalist groupings into addressing the problems of discussions around Islamic dress.

    The push back is fair in this sense – Where is the outrage about the Amish or the fundamentalist Jewish communities who wear special clothes which set them apart and insist on head coverings for women?

    I see all of these as retrograde throw backs riddled with partriachally enforced norms. Thing is they are visible to me because of the clothing….whereas households with violent patriarchs which are not religious exist as well…easily ignored because there are no overt signifiers. (I am by the way not saying all fundamentalists homes are violent) They are however patriarchal and retrograde and built on the indoctrination and control of the young from the very begining of their lives. To reject this is often to be ejected from your entire extended family and be sent “beyond the pale”… without community. Social death is extremely threatening to young people with no means of supporting oneself. Ask any gay kid thinking about coming out to his fundy family.

    So the entire discussion is problematic because no one is bringing these other communities into the discourse…We solely focus on the Islamic version of the same abhorrent practice. And rightly get accused of xenophobia in return…

    All this said…the state should not be insisting on supression of this “choice” – but, I will not let people act as if it IS a choice always made freely. It rarely is, not in the Amish – as total dependence on the community is developed over a lifetime, the fundamentalist Jewish communities – or fundamentalist Islam or ANY other group which indoctrinates its young via repetitive rituals during one’s youth.

    Liberal Western Islam aside….We should be talking about indoctirnation and control rather than going after one small cultural expression of that – which is a much MUCH broader issue.

  8. 8
    jenny6833a

    @ #7 CityzenJane

    Liberal Western Islam aside….We should be talking about indoctirnation and control rather than going after one small cultural expression of that – which is a much MUCH broader issue.

    I agree with everything you said in your comment, but you left out the most important part. You want to go after indoctrination and control worldwide, and that will take a while. A very long while. What should we do in the mean time?

    I think the French have taken appropriate interim measures. When your initiative has eliminated the root causes, I’m sure they’ll be happy to repeal the recent dress-related laws..

  9. 9
    cityzenjane

    I think broadening the discussion as I suggested will make it harder to stuff us over with the outright xenophobic racists of the EDL etc for starters. It’s not simply a problem in Islam – and people need to see that we understand that…

    I don’t have any illusions that this process will take less than a lot of time…perhaps centuries. That said…the arguments could be better.

  10. 10
    Walton

    My comment had no relationship whatever to anything you said in the remainder of your comment.

    I know that, which is why I put a dividing line ===== in order to separate the two different comments I was making. The first was a reply to you. The second was an observation of my own about the ban on head coverings in public places, which is, of course, separate from the ban on religious symbols in schools (although I oppose both laws equally). I thought this was sufficiently clear.

    What would you say to Cennet Doganay, forced to shave her head in order to get an education without violating her personal beliefs?

  11. 11
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Good post that covers many aspects, I think.

    What I find most disturbing is that the conflict is fought on the backs of those they all claim to protect: women.
    There is never any dicussion about how to protect women from abusive family members who force them.
    There are no laws and institutions that offer help to women in such situations, especially not if they’re immigrants and their residence permit is linked to their husbands’ job.
    People act as if a ban would then actually solve the problem. It doesn’t solve anything for a woman who is forced and pressured into wearing a niqab, burqa or hijab. It just puts her into a horrible situation where she faces sanctions either way.
    And for the woman who wears it out of her “choice” (meaning without external pressure): her choice is policed.
    As usually, people on both sides think that the best objects to write their policies on are women’s bodies.

    BTW, if you speak Spanish, I found this short film rather good

  12. 12
    jenny6833a

    @ #10 Walton

    What would you say to Cennet Doganay, forced to shave her head in order to get an education without violating her personal beliefs?

    ROTFLM6833AO

    I’d say several things: a) “Cute. You’re on your way to becoming a fashion icon.” b) “You’ll need to shave your head every day. That’s a lot of time away from your studies.” c) “You’re on the school grounds about 20% of your time each week. Are you happy with your choice during the other 80%?” d) “Will you attend swimming class and learn to swim?” e) “Was this really-really-really your idea and your choice?” f) Or were you really-really ‘forced’ as Walton claims? If so, by whom?”

    And I’d ask YOU (Walton) a few questions: That article was written during the first month of the new French policy. Did Cennet Doganay continue to shave her head throughout the school year? Did she continue to shave it until graduation? Was she better accepted by her French-French peers? Was she better accepted by her Muslim-French peers on and off the school grounds? Or was she shunned, beaten, or perhaps raped? Did other girls at her school follow her lead? Did she start a national trend?

    Oh, yeah, a couple other questions for you: “Were there follow up articles that answered the questions I’ve asked? Or was the article just a one-shot sob story?

    And, finally, nine years later, have the hoopla and the protests died out? Are the students safer and their education more successful than before September 2004?

  13. 13
    Ysanne

    I think this point is extremely important:

    Banning niqab- or burqa-wearing women from going out in the streets doesn’t “liberate” them from religious norms, it just confines them to their homes.

    and I do miss it a lot of the time in such debates, especially when they are about schoolgirls wearing some kind of Islam-motivated form of covering.
    The few women who cover up out of their own free will and could choose to do otherwise tomorrow without any repercussions are not the problem here. It’s the fact that women’s religious clothing is usually demanded and enforced by their communities, and it’s a really simple choice:
    No covering, no going outside.
    Girl not allowed to cover up at school? Then she’s not allowed to go to school. If there’s no way to prevent her from going, it’s made sure she’s put back in her place upon return.
    Banning the garment just hurts the women one is claiming to “liberate”. Actual help should imho focus on protecting women (people in general, really) from being oppressed by their communities, by offering support services, providing contacts and giving them safe places to go.

    Also, John Horstmann makes a good point about the arbitrariness of the “appropriate and acceptable as free-will” level of coverage. “Western” cultures readily accept that covering my chest in public is my duty as a woman, and going topless would get me in legal trouble (indeed even wearing a T-Shirt but no bra attracts open disapproval), while a man not wearing a shirt is only potentially underdressed for the occasion. How is this not oppressive and even sexist, especially taking the point of view of some traditional cultures where women going topless is normal? Same (just without the sexism) goes for having to cover genitals.
    I think “appropriate” is not a sufficient reason to regulate someone’s dress; “relevant for an important practical purpose” is.

  14. 14
    Avicenna

    The way I explained it is this.

    Any Muslim family strict enough to enforce a Niqab or a Burkha and thinks it is a positive influence on their daughters probably doesn’t care much about whether their daughter gets an education.

    No bans on the Niqab or Burkha, no enforcement either.

    Yes, the Niqab and Burkha may simply be cultural and not be truly Islamic. However the colours red and blue are purely cultural too. Ask a Manchester United fan to dress in Sky Blue and you will see some very odd looks on Match Day. If we go back just 20 years and ask that same fan to dress in Sky Blue you would see nothing but fear. Fear of what could happen to a Sky Blue caught among Reds. And Vice Versa, fear of a Red wearing Sky Blue caught among other Sky Blues.

    But to us dressing in t-shirts is a choice. It’s a choice to the football fan too. As is the Niqab. But if you are in that situation the choice is a no-brainer. Wear the Niqab or at best face ostracisation from a social and family setup based on large inter-familial interactions or worse, face injury and pain and even death.

    If we were willing to bottle each other over a stupid sport (and I say this as someone who LOVES football) and the colours of the team then imagine how bad it is for religion?

    Banning T-Shirts and Colours didn’t solve hooliganism and extremist fans. Throwing Them Out Did. We cannot throw out fundie Muslims because fundamentalism is a Spectrum.

    Ysanne is correct but not correct enough. We must also stamp out the Niqab through encouraging it’s “non-use”. By education of women and men and empowerment of women to realise that the Niqab is just a way for separating them from polite society and make it awkward to socialise. It is a social hobbling post designed to break your leg.

    It then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The be-niqabed woman gets discriminated against either due to public perception or the failings of the niqab itself and then despondent goes back to assuming that “it’s a man’s world outside”. And then they waggle their hands and say “discrimination” and the cycle continues of fearing conversation.

    But what of those Muslim women who don’t?

    Well the Niqab sorts them out too. These women are not “Real” Muslim women, their outfits are slutty and they tantalise men! Clearly they are horrible sluts! You wouldn’t want to be one of them would you? Never mind the fact that they are rich, free and have a better relationship with men. Wear the Niqab, be a “real” Muslim.

    I think one of the best attitudes to that sort of thinking comes from the book Thud. Where it discusses “real” Dwarf and how the attitudes change and how fear of change makes you think clinging to old ideas are the best and so oppose real changes. So you end up with a culture that abhors destroying words which invented the movable type.

    So you end up with a culture that once did the most sublime science of the age now more worried about the existence of djinn and how shapeless their women look like. The Muslims of the UK were pretty progressive, but then they thought about the old days and brought their priests from the old country. Their radicalised priests who fought that war in Afghanistan. And who turned out to have imported their bad ideas and packaged them as “True Islam”. And the youth bought into that.

    To beat them? You need a counter culture. You need a “Jihad” over the soul of Islam and wrench it from the hands of short sighted bearded men who only care about immediate power and give it to those who realise that Islam has stagnated and change is needed. But no one will make that stand. You need to be a man with a good head on your shoulders.

    And such men tend to want to keep things that way. So you will not see any Rebellion. The rebels?

    They aren’t real Muslims after all and no Muslim wants that now do they?

  15. 15
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    It then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The be-niqabed woman gets discriminated against either due to public perception or the failings of the niqab itself and then despondent goes back to assuming that “it’s a man’s world outside”. And then they waggle their hands and say “discrimination” and the cycle continues of fearing conversation.

    But what of those Muslim women who don’t?

    Well the Niqab sorts them out too. These women are not “Real” Muslim women, their outfits are slutty and they tantalise men! Clearly they are horrible sluts! You wouldn’t want to be one of them would you? Never mind the fact that they are rich, free and have a better relationship with men. Wear the Niqab, be a “real” Muslim.

    You know, I utterly dislike the dichotomies this is often discussed in.
    Yesterday at my kids school fair there were a number of women in a hijab (or a different variety of headscarf). Current discourse allows me two alternatives:
    1. Those women are horribly oppressed victims of islam and we have to liberate them! White saviour anybody?
    2. Those women are horrible islamists who are against western freedom! Civilized westerner vs. uncivilzed savages anybody?

    And really, another point is the general usefulness of prohibitions in that area. I know about the schoolgirls who have a second set of clothes a friend brings school for them.
    Should we ban longs-sleeved shirts and trousers because those girls are forced to wear them when they’d rather wear a t-shirt and a short skirt?

    And could we please ban pink and purple stuff decorated with flowers, fairies, butterflies, crowns, the word princess and cute kittens for girls under 12?
    Because there currently isn’t much choice. Because even though it’s perfectly legal to wear something blue with an airplane design there are social consequneces for a girl to do so. I perfectly understand the factors that make my daughters like pink best. But I damn well understand that forcing them into non-gendered or opposite gendered clothes would do them more harm than anything else.

  16. 16
    kylecarruthers

    I’m someone who generally thinks that people should be able to wear whatever religious garb they so choose and who is against “force them to be ‘equal’” arguments (i.e. we should ban the hijab because its a symbol of male oppression. But I think there is some merit to the security argument against the burqa and niqab. Facial recognition is fundamental to the criminal justice system and there is a reason why “do you see that person in the courtroom today” is a common question asked by lawyers in legal proceedings. Often an entire criminal prosecution will hang on whether the person who stands accused is the person who ‘dunnit’. I think we deprive the criminal justice system of a very important tool by normalizing the wearing of facial coverings in public and that warrants recognition. A debate can be had as to whether the need for that tool outweighs the freedom issue but wholly dismissing the importance of facial recognition is misguided.

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