October 14, 2006

"How can you teach English to young children with a veil over your face?"

Firing a teacher for her religious garb. Do we believe the justification?
Aishah Azmi, 24, was asked to take it off in class after pupils said they found English lessons hard to understand because they could not see her lips move....

"The children themselves were complaining. It is about what's best for the children."

47 comments:

George said...

Different sympton, same malady.

Consider the British Airways check-in clerk who’s fighting for what she sees as her right to wear a small crucifix on the job.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=410299&in_page_id=1770&ico=Homepage&icl=TabModule&icc=NEWS&ct=5

According to Friday’s Wall St. J., researchers are finding that when people are...

“Reminded [by terrorism of] the inevitability of their own death…[they] try to quench or at least manage the resulting "existential terror" in several ways. They become more certain of their worldview or faith. They conform more closely to the norms of their society. They show greater reverence for symbols of their society, such as flags and crucifixes….All of these make people feel more secure and, crucially, a part of something larger -- something that will outlive them.”

charlotte said...

George,

There is a difference between a small religious symbol and head to toe garb. My understanding (from several bookcases of ME politics and Islamic studies) is that the Koran doesn't prescribe the hijab and veil and that it's a relatively recent convention gaining in popularity more as a cultural-political statement.

Of course, what woman wouldn't want to spend the majority of her waking hours looking like a mournful ghost or moving bolt of dreary fabric, while breathing poor, de-oxygenated air and being deprived of sunshiny vitamin D?

This woman's insistence at wearing the whole shebang in front of her classroom looks more like she'd rather proselytize through her appearance than teach young children effectively. I feel sorriest for the girls in her class.

charlotte said...

BTW, there are plenty of observant Muslim women who don't feel the need to wear the uniform of religious/ideological/political separateness from the rest of us and solidarity with each other.

I've known Muslims since grade school but, as an adult, am still startled at our international Farmer's Market when I encounter a large black presence with eyes barely showing (if that), leading a group of her children, the girls in black, hair to feet with a bit more face showing, and the boys in regular clothes.

Dave said...

De-oxygenated air? Are you serious? No veil is so finely woven as as to "deoxygenate" air, whatever that means. Molecules of oxygen are simply too small, and thread too thick, for oxygen to be blocked by any type of cloth or textile.

As for the issue of a veiled person being fired for wearing the veil--seems a bit odd. But, on the other hand, what is wrong on insisting on secularism?

Maxine Weiss said...

Impedes communication.

Teaching English to Brits?

I thought Brits came out of the womb speaking high King David vernacular.

Anyway, this Gal needs not only to be fired, but deported, and/or converted, ASAP !

Peace, Maxine

Mark the Pundit said...

If she sounds like Kenny does in South Park, then the firing is absolutely justified!

Freeman Hunt said...

Do we believe the justification?

I do. I can't imagine having taken French and Arabic without being able to see the teacher's mouth.

tiggeril said...

I just read somewhere that the students themselves are mostly Muslim and are therefore used to it. I'm not sure of the veracity of that claim.

charlotte said...

Dave,

You couldn't possibly believe the quality of air to breathe isn't diminished by a piece of fabric over mouth and nose. At the very least, exhaled air doesn't dissipate as quickly and gets re-inhaled. These are not gossamer veils we speak of. It'd be like sleeping with your head completely under your sheets at night. You wouldn't suffocate because they're loose at most edges, but it couldn't be optimal for your body.

Covering the face in a sandstorm makes sense or when walking across a sun-beaten desert. Elsewhere, it doesn't seem healthy. Muslim men don't have any need to cover their faces in the West, except at protest rallies.

Revenant said...

Molecules of oxygen are simply too small, and thread too thick, for oxygen to be blocked by any type of cloth or textile

So it's impossible to smother someone with a blanket, then?

Slim999 said...

Yes, quite shocking.

She should have been in a burka. All Muslim women should be in burkas (it's in the Qur An).

Also, she should have been at home, taking care of her family, instead of mixing with the men and boys in a public school.

Also, she shouldn't be allowed to vote, or drive.

We just shouldn't let Muslim women run around in society like this, doing whatever they please.

I'm quite sure that CAIR is up in arms over this women being allowed to appear in public without the full burka.

Chris said...

"Do we believe the justification"

That English lessons are hard if you can't see the lips? I believe that 100%

I have been teaching English to Taiwanese of all ages for the last 6 years and I am constantly telling my students that people listen with their eyes.

It is not so apparent when both speaker and listener are native speakers but if one or both are not then its so easy to see.

If a student is reading to the class and holding his book in front of his face 1/2 of the other students cannot understand him. Drop the book and most of them suddenly do.

Teaching English in a veil would be like teaching ballet in suit of armor.

That being said I think we are starting to finally see the "backlash" Cair has been whining about for 5 years. Kill enough people and even europeans and liberals will start to notice that most of the terrorists are named mohammed.

JohnF said...

First of all, the linked newspaper article says that local muslim leaders said she was not required by Islam to wear the veil among children. It was thus her personal, not religious, choice.

Second, it the veil did impair the kids' learning experience, it's hard to see a reason to complain about her treatment.

Finally, the question Ann asks is not really very easy to answer (do we believe this?). Who knows? It probably depends on how close the veil was to her lips, and whatever the sound deadening properties of the fabric were. Of course, it's possible the kids decided to gang up on her, but the kids were said to be between 7 and 11, and many were from backgrounds where English was not their first language. So this sounds at least plausible to me.

Ann Althouse said...

JohnF: The fact that her group doesn't require it doesn't mean her decision is not religious. A religious practice can be individual. For example, a Christian teacher might choose to wear a cross. If the school were to forbid it, her complaint that it impinged on her religious freedom would be serious.

Cedarford said...

As the Copt with the crucifix being sacked by British Air and the hajib wearer that is supposed to teach English with a masked face and muffled voice aren't enough to wean the UK off MultiCulti and the "virtues" of Balkanization....the latest source of Muslim Anger and Seething Rage is now shaping up to be the Summer Olympics.

It appears that in 2012 Ramadan conflicts with the Summer Games going from July 27th Aug 12, while Ramadan month, slipping each year by 11 days because devout Muslims do not follow the same calender as the rest of humanity - falls right in the middle of summer July 20th to Aug 21st. Muslims in the UK say this is completely unacceptable and would put fasting Muslims at a disadvantage, and demands the UK push the Summer Games to Spring or Fall if becessary so Muslims are not offended.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=410439&in_page_id=1770

Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "They would not have organised this at Christmas. It is equally stupid to organise it at Ramadan.

"It shows a complete lack of awareness and sensitivity."


He is absolutely right, not even oppressor British infidel pig filth would schedule the Summer Olympics for Christmastime.

There you have a real protean mind at work, with Massoud - who hopes to see Dhimmitude in his lifetime in the UK. He is silent about historical Fatwas relaxing Ramadan drinking fasting requirements for the ill, the laborers who must toil unavoidably in mid-day heat, or Muslims busy at war - trying to kill either fellow Muslim brothers or infidel scum.

The arrogance of the UK Muslims is unbelievable. Mainly because after a couple of dozen Olympics, this is the 1st that they feel they have the strength to dictate "Islamic permissions" to grovelling UK liberals, provided they obey the Islamist radicals.

Dave - De-oxygenated air? Are you serious? No veil is so finely woven as as to "deoxygenate" air, whatever that means. Molecules of oxygen are simply too small, and thread too thick, for oxygen to be blocked by any type of cloth or textile.

Sorry Dave, you don't know what you are talking about. Even a bandanna will interfere with replacement of air and removal of CO2 by natural air circulation to prevent rebreathing. Try an experiment - slip a pillowcase over your head, cut two eye slits in it and try running 400M. Let me know how far you make it. Catherine is right about someone surrounding their head in fabric will have lowered blood oxygen levels or higher likelihood of heat stroke or rebreathed CO2 poisoning (carbolic acid acidosis - what really kills in suffocation cases - not oxygen depravation.)

BTW, historically, besides killing with a fabric pillow pushed in the face, high-ranking people were killed by suffocation in the Mongol and Ottoman Empire by rolling them in carpets - or binding, then wrapping robes around the head.

*************
Also news today of another outrage against Muslims that has them on several Jihadi sites not just mad, but frothing at the mouth mad...It seems Apple will insult all of Islam by building Apple Stores as medium-sized cubes...which of course desecrates the cubic Kaaba - the Holiest place in the Holiest City. The Jihadi sites are demanding Apple redesign their stores into an acceptable configuration...and the form of the crescent is also barred.

So far no word on a death Fatwa on that guy Rubik, a ban on infidels eating salt crystals, or a demand that infidel museums remove all Kabaa slurring Cubist paintings. But if the damand comes -be sure certain "sensitive" liberals will feel it is their duty to comply and remove those "root causes" of Muslim offense with our civilization...

Dave said...

Catherine: If wearing a veil "deoxygenated" the air, as you assert, then no woman would voluntarily wear a veil. Your argument asserts that women choose to do something which interferes with their ability to breathe. Is that what you really think of women--that they're so stupid as to do something which inhibits breathing?

charlotte said...

Yes. And many also "willingly" subject their daughters to mutilating female circumcision and teach them they're inferior to men and should serve them as their lot in life. Some women understand "honor" killings of their sisters and daughters, or at least don't stop them.

You think cultural and religious practices are always rational? What about throwing widows on burning pyres of their husbands? That was an accepted tradition until recently.

Spend the next month under your sheet at night, Dave.

JohnF said...

"The fact that her group doesn't require it doesn't mean her decision is not religious. A religious practice can be individual. For example, a Christian teacher might choose to wear a cross. If the school were to forbid it, her complaint that it impinged on her religious freedom would be serious."

Well, this is of course true. However, where a religion does not require a practice I think any argument that the practice ought to be allowed, despite its interfering with the job of the practitioner, is quite weak. If the cross you talk about was being worn by some one operating a lathe, I'd be surprised if the law did not allow an employer to ban it on the grounds that it could get caught in the machinery.

On the other hand, if a religion required a practice--e.g., afternoon prayers--I can see the law being more "understanding"--though I still think the test should be interference with the job (cf. the muslim taxi drivers who reject fares for a variety of reasons compelled by their religion).

Of course, I have no idea what the English law is on all this (and not too much of an idea what the U.S. law is).

Freeman Hunt said...

Is that what you really think of women--that they're so stupid as to do something which inhibits breathing?

No, of course not.

reader_iam said...

Freeman Hunt: That's flat-out brilliant.

I like the way your minds works.

Donald Douglas said...

Hey, I'm a lip-reader! The teacher needs to take that darned thing off -- let those kids learn!

Burkean Reflections

no1special said...

wow...u guys really get carried away don't you? u need to c the lips move when learning a language. May be she would b a better yoga instructor....

downtownlad said...

Why don't they just require a uniform for the teachers or something like that? Or a simple dress code. The decision to wear a crucifix or a burka is a choice. If they don't like it - then get another job.

Elizabeth said...

Bravo, Freeman.

LoafingOaf said...

On the other hand, if a religion required a practice--e.g., afternoon prayers--I can see the law being more "understanding"--though I still think the test should be interference with the job

If non-religious people can't wear goofball outfits that interfere and distract in the classroom, then religious people shouldn't be able to either.

That students did say she was hindering their learning is all that needs to be said - take off the veil while in the classroom or go work somewhere else.

But even if the kids hadn't said the teacher was hindering their learning, I'd still not think schools should have teachers dressed like that. She looks insane. She's making a fight of it because she wants to push the twisted cult views she's been brainwashed by on little kids when all she's supposed to be doing is teaching English. A school allowing her to look like that would be impliedly teaching kids that those veils and everything they stand for are respectable.

altoids1306 said...

they found English lessons hard to understand because they could not see her lips move....

I believe it. I find it easier to listen to slurred/indistinct speech if I'm also watching the lips.

This is common sense, really. More sensory information will always help comprehension.

Ann Althouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

Dave: "Is that what you really think of women--that they're so stupid as to do something which inhibits breathing?"

Women wore corsets that made it hard to breathe. It's not proof of stupidity, but a sign that something is valued more highly than ease of breathing. Why does anyone ever run? That makes it harder to breathe. Is running proof of stupidity? People do all sorts of things for religion that make ordinary life harder, and demonstrating a willingness to take on the difficulty is one reason for doing it. To call this "stupid" is to fail to understand religious thinking. Even if you think religion is wrong, you should understand how wrong thinking can still be intelligent.

Ann Althouse said...

Freeman Hunt: I'm just seeing your Wikipedia link.

AllenS said...

Very good, Freeman.

"For men, corsets are more customarily used to slim the figure"

I don't own a corset, so, I guess that explains the beer belly.

WV: ktclyrzs
Meaning: The sound one makes when the corset is pulled tight.

George said...

Catherine--

I would suspect that In the mind of the Muslim woman wearing the veil, there would be no difference. She would say that she would feel naked without it, both physically and spiritually, just as a Christian might feel vulnerable if she were not wearing a necklace with a crucifix on it.

The point is that cultural violence is driving people to more strongly embrface the artifacts that give them solace which, in turn, creates a vicious circle, driving members of the two warring groups further from each other.

tjl said...

"cultural violence is driving people to more strongly embrface the artifacts that give them solace."

Isn't this missing the point? Should we be more concerned about
1) whether the teacher feels sufficiently consoled by her religious garb, or
2) whether she can effectively perform as a language teacher.

Her students say she can't. That should settle the question, unless the school is ready to abandon its educational role and redefine itself as a sort of cultural support and consolation center.
Maybe that's what Ms. Azmi is actually trying to accomplish.

Old Dad said...

I think the standard usually applied in the states is "reasonable accomodation." Assuming a religious practice is legal, employers are asked to make reasonable accomodation, assuming that the practice does not interfere with job performance.

By this standard, the teacher should be fired. There is no question that a veil disrupts learning. The psychology is indisputable.

Let's say that you are buying a used car. Would you be more comfortable if you could see his face as he made his pitch? We collect huge amounts of data from facial expressions, eye movement, tone of voice.

The veil would need to come off in my school.

Shanna said...

If wearing the veil really does impede the childrens ability to learn, and therefore her ability to do her job then she needs to seek employment elsewhere. Especially since this is her religious decision, she is with children so she could just remove the veil and still have a hair covering. I have no problem with her school telling her she has to remove the veil, at least during language lessons. She is free to quit.

The crucifix one is different to me, because I don't see how wearing a crucifix (particularly if it were under the shirt) could impede your ability to check people in. If the crucifix woman worked with machines or in surgery she would need to take it off.

If there is something you have to do for your religion and it makes it impossible to do a job, then you should maybe do a different type of job. This is, of course, only if it really does make it impossible to work. Someone in a burka would not try to be a bikini model, would she? If you can't eat pork, don't take a job that requires you to do so and then claim religious sensibilities. If you can't perform abortions due to your religious beliefs, don't take a job at planned parenthood. Problems solved.

Ann Althouse said...

Shanna: I'm not saying the woman needs to be allowed to cover her face during class, only refuting the statement made by a commenter that her decision to do so was only "personal" and not "religious." I think it is not fair to children not to be able to see the teacher's face. Whether it makes learning language harder or not, it is important for children to be able to see a human face in the classroom. It's not just about the ease of learning specific things, it's about the emotional atmosphere of a classroom and the deprivation of human warmth if the face is hidden.

charlotte said...

George,

I haven't noticed more cross-wearing recently in these uncertain times, in fact quite the opposite over the years, but I have noticed a sharp increase in Muslim women wearing black robes, scarves and veils since the Iranian Revolution of '79. This extreme covering of females is part renewed fundamentalism (and a horror for modern women) and another part political-cultural identity group garb, like boys in the hood wearing colors and certain kinds of clothes.

Many of us wouldn't object to teachers or flight attendants wearing small religious symbols, such as crosses, Stars of David, Crescents (not really their symbol) or pentagrams, since the discreet jewelry wouldn't functionally interfere with their jobs. But it's reasonable to see how employers would construe such a practice as inappropriate proselytizing when engaged with kids and clients.

It's also eminently understandable to see how a veil inhibits adequate teaching any subject. I, myself, watch lips even when English is spoken (swimmer's ear every summer of my youth--). Also, many people are more visually inclined than aural when learning, even during acquisition of language. As others here have noted, body language and non-verbal cues are critical to good communication between people. Ann makes a terrific point about the emotional component in presenting face to other people, especially to children.

Should an extra-observant Talibani Muslim teacher be allowed to wear the complete headgear with only a netted eye opening, if that makes her religiously "comfortable"? Should she be forced to touch the hand of a hurt little boy who needs immediate assistance, if he's an unrelated male? Should we be comfortable with a Wiccan conducting her classroom in flamboyant black satin and cap or in the nude because of her religious beliefs?

What about the children's level of religious "comfort"? Should a girl from an extremely orthodox and sexually repressed Christian sect be allowed to wear a cumbersome chastity belt that interferes with her PE activities? This idea of religious "comfort" in western culture has regressed from a common sense accommodation that fits in with our fairly secular way of life to inconvenient, unsettling weirdness.

What I find really interesting is how some would have us slide back to tolerating "separate but equal" when it comes to Muslim women in the West. Many Muslim girls have no choice other than to follow the physically and emotionally hobbling dictates of their father and culture. I've worked with young girls from Africa in a public school, and they are often one-handed, in the sense they are always holding onto their headscarves lest they fall off. Apparently, scarf clips are not allowed for some of these devouts. Also, they can't participate in PE very well when they're constantly worried about any skin or hair showing.

Why do our tax dollars go to this accommodation of female as so different that her full functioning in a curriculum, physical movement, and social interaction is hampered? Is the answer that this is a "voluntary" practice as opposed to The System putting blacks in the back of the class? I submit there's not a great deal of difference, especially since a young girl doesn't have the wherewithal to refuse her family's restrictions placed upon her. I certainly feel the same about Hassidic Jew, Mormon, and fundie Christian kids in public schools.

rightwingprof said...

I fail to see what religion has to do with this. She was hired to teach English. The students have trouble understanding her because of her veil. The administration requested that she not wear it, and she refused.

She placed the veil above her students. She shouldn't be allowed to teach in any classroom for that reason.

Slac said...

If only they listened to the children more often. There'd be a whole lot fired teachers.

George said...

Catherine--

Please don't misunderstand me. I too think it would be quite bizarre for my American child to have such a teacher, either here or in the U.K.

My comments were intended to explain her motives. I think she's afraid of the scary Western culture that surrounds her, just as a lot of Westerners are weirded out by, say, life in Saudi Arabia.

And, of course, in most, if not all, Arab and predominately Muslim countries, it would be most inappropriate for a woman to teach 11-year-old boys, as this woman is doing. She would be in a public school for girls only and none of them would be veiled behind its walls.

Slocum said...

Spokesman Dr Reefat Drabu said that in the presence of young children Muslim women were not even required to wear a headscarf, let alone a veil.

This is the bizarre part -- even the most radical islamists don't expect women to cover themselves when they are with children or other women. This woman is more radical in her covering than the friggin' Taliban.

George said...

Slocum--

She is teaching in a "public" school--an adult male (another teacher, the principal, a parent) who is not a close blood relative could walk by the classroom, look in the window, and see her face, if she is not veiled.

She is also teaching boys who may or may not be in puberty who are not her close blood relatives.

She must protect her spiritual and physical privacy and dignity from the sinful prying eyes of males who are not her family members.

I'm playing devil's advocate, of course, but that's the way life is for millions of Muslim women in places like Saudi Arabia.

tjl said...

"She must protect her spiritual and physical privacy and dignity from the sinful prying eyes of males who are not her family members."

This is the lesson that the veiled teacher conveys to her students. (What she is NOT conveying is, apparently, effective instruction in English).

Daryl Herbert said...

The Burqa is not required by the Koran, but this lady knows no secular court is going to try that issue on its merits. What are they going to do, bring in Koranical scholars as expert witnesses? So any time a Muslim wants anything, they will say the Koran demands it.

George said...

Shanna--

Perhaps the solution would be for British public schools to create schools segregated by gender. I'll bet many, many non-Muslim parents would like that. A lot! That way the nice Muslim teacher would be able to continue teaching without having to fear that men are going to be staring at her.

Daryl--
The Muslim lady won't say the veil is required by the Qu'ran, just that it is her cultural tradition to be veiled, just as it is a Western cultural tradition to wear sculptures depicting the execution of Jesus, the Christ, around our necks.

As an aside, imagine If you come from a civilization that rightly or wrongly bans the depiction of religious figures. How baffling and shocking it would be to see a sculpture of a prophet presented in a sexually-provocative way (i.e. in a woman's cleavage)!

tjl said...

"That way the nice Muslim teacher would be able to continue teaching without having to fear that men are going to be staring at her."

"Nice" is hardly the word to describe someone who believes that teaching language skills is of lesser value than demonstrating female submission to gender apartheid.

Shanna said...

Perhaps the solution would be for British public schools to create schools segregated by gender. I'll bet many, many non-Muslim parents would like that.

I was actually thinking maybe she should try to work at an all female school. I'm sure there are private ones in the UK. But what if a male parent walked in the building to pick up his child, horror of horrors.

I stick to what I said, if your religion or culture impedes your ability to do a certain type of job, you should make a change or pick another profession.

Mick in the UK said...

A little late here but listen to her speaking here...

http://www.solpics.com/muslimteacher.mp3