It’s time we discussed the niqab seriously

For once in his life Ken Clarke has said something sensible.

Muslim women giving evidence in court shouldn’t be allowed to wear ‘a kind of bag’, Ken explained, because that makes it ‘impossible to have a proper trial’.

You see, jurors often judge testimony on the basis of facial expressions and body language, both of which remain hidden under the veil. Since before he became a rotten politician Ken was a good criminal barrister, he knows what he’s talking about.

The rest of the time Muslim women can wear ‘what the devil they want’, added Ken and I agree wholeheartedly. Provided of course we can be sure that the person inside the niqab is indeed a demure Muslim woman rather than an escaping male terrorist – something that apparently has happened a few times.

Ken insisted that his comments ‘had no trace of Islamophobia’, and I for one am happy to hear that. There’s nothing worse in the world today than anything described by a word ending in ‘-phobia’.

The first part of the word doesn’t really matter. It may be ‘Islamo-’, ‘homo-’, ‘negro-’ – whatever it is, whoever evinces it should be, as a minimum, drawn and quartered.

But I do think it’s unfair to Islamic womanhood to restrict this sartorial issue strictly to utilitarian considerations. Call me a misogynist (or femalophobe, if you’d rather), but I don’t think a woman’s dress should be assessed without applying aesthetic criteria.

Now at first glance you may say that the shapeless black garment leaving only the woman’s eyes visible has no aesthetic argument going for it. So who’s being the misogynist now?

First, what’s the most beautiful part of a woman? No, it’s not what you’re suggesting with that scabrous smirk on your face (you ought to be ashamed of yourself). It’s her soul, that immanent link to God, however God is defined.

And as we all know, the eyes really are a window to the soul. Scientists concur: their research shows that patterns in the iris can give an indication of whether a woman is warm and trusting or neurotic and impulsive.

You have to agree that by veiling the woman’s more jutting attractions, along with the rest of her face, the niqab focuses our attention on the most beautiful part of her – her soul. What more would anyone wish to see?

I mean, once you’ve seen Chelsea, would you want to see Elephant & Castle? Of course not.

Let’s also not forget the practical considerations, those bordering on moral ones. We all agree that our wishy-washy blondes pale by comparison to the exotic beauty of Muslim women, especially after a little electrolysis.

Surely you can understand the desire of Muslim men to keep at bay swarms of panting males inflamed by the sultry, depilated beauty of an Aisha, a Soraya or a Fatima? If you were married to a raving beauty, or four of them, wouldn’t you like to keep all those lechers at arm’s length?

The niqab also has many other advantages we shouldn’t ignore. For example, and this is an important consideration during this season, it’s a natural Halloween costume. There’s no need to paint skull and bones on a woman’s dress – the niqab will do nicely all on its own.

Nor should we ignore other interesting avenues worth exploring. For example, now that I’ve mentioned the possibility of painting things on garments, it’s possible to treat the niqab as a broad canvas.

Not that it’s necessary, considering that we can still see Soraya’s most beautiful part. But suppose some men are less spiritual in their demands. Those sorry individuals may want to see more than just a woman’s eyes.

Well, then, how can this be reconciled with the Muslim men’s well-justified fear of competition for their women’s charms? Simple.

Why not silkscreen the face and body of a film star onto the niqab? Let’s say Kelly Brook, Marylin Monroe in her prime or Rachael Weiss? No, forget Rachael. She’s Jewish and we don’t want to offend the keenly felt sensibilities of Muslim men. But you get the idea.

Just imagine a semi-clad or, ideally, nude Kelly smiling at you from every niqab. How good is that? Wouldn’t it make a stroll through central London a more pleasurable experience? Of course it will.

It’s time we rehabilitated the niqab, at least this side of a courtroom. If you’re against the veil, you’re against diversity. That’s worse than any -phobia I know, for being all-encompassing. And let’s not forget the strongest argument in favour of the niqab: the French are against it.

All I’m saying is give veils a chance. All together now: All we’re saying…




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