It’s only a very small percentage of people who feel the need or requirement to be continually dressed in a uniform or outfit. It’s an even smaller group who demand to walk around publicly in it. Personally I just don’t get it. The trend in Westerns society has been to move away from suits and dresses and into more casual comfortable sports clothing. Shorts or jeans and a t-shirt is my uniform. I also don’t wear a “onsie” to an office, or a tuxedo on the football pitch. It’s just not appropriate dress.

 

I can accept that this clothing is “part of their religious expression” as an argument and we can all stand up and agree that every person has the right to express themselves. Here we firmly agree.

 

Where we must also agree… but where Western society needs to be more clear about is, is the right to practice what you want but can never compromise or reduce the enjoyment of others by it’s activity.

That’s the total deal.

 

 

 

“Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”

UN General Assembly Declaration 1981

 

We often forget about this last part.

 

 

 

 

 

In Western society cultural rules are expressed through media, public opinion and then finally if required by the courts. Perhaps it’s not been formally put down into laws, but more importantly the polite and proper mainstream society accepts these things as the way forward. Some examples are…

Woman’s suffrage – 19th Amendment to the Constitution, USA 1920

Freedom of Religion – “Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief”, UN 1981

Gay Marriage – Obergefell v. Hodges, USA 2015

Where our stance on the Freedom of Religion gets grey is when the activity or practice reduces the “…safety, order, health or morals…” or otherwise enjoyment of other people. The controversy around “Burkini in France” is a situation that raises a subtle aspect of religious clothing in a multi-cultural society.

 

 

When you look at the pictures it doesn’t look like a bad idea. A sort of scuba suit. Think about it further and add the idea that a group of women finally feel free to go to a public beach, it actually seems like a fantastic idea. This fashion item is manufactured by a number of companies with many styles and color options.

 

In reality it is more likely to look something like this.

 

 

Not so beautiful but also not a calling card to militant action either. Happy faces enjoying the beach, we shouldn’t have a problem with it. Might seem a bit silly, but I know some people who are allergic to the sun, so we should all let this one pass. Let the strong heat of the sun sort this one out.

What is “NOT OK” is the wearing of the full face burqa or “niqab” in public places. It’s not a religious issue, but a security issue and we should be careful in separating the two. Many countries have or are making laws prohibiting the specific use of the burka and niqab.

 

More on Niqab and Arabic dress.

My key point is that people wearing masks covering in public places in Western society is simply not acceptable. We associate this with criminal behavior, and yes, fear.

Point Break 1991

By the way… Here’s my list of things that make me nervous in public places. It’s not an extensive list and it’s not in any order.

 

People covering their face with masks. (bank robbers, and gangsters etc.)

People wearing or holding weapons. (guns, knives etc.)

People wearing religious or ceremonial hats. (KK Clan etc.)

People with large attack dogs, chomping at the bit.

People with gang colors on. (street games and criminal motorcycle clubs)

 

That we are requested or required to erect laws around public dress is insulting to Western culture. We have sophisticated systems and traditions for attire during special events and a rich tradition of dress up occasions such as Carnival, Halloween, formal dress and other special events. These are NOT daily everyday events and last a week at most.

 

So despite the insult of the question we are forced to examine the effects and reactions resulting from the wearing of religious dress and funny hats in public. An early personal experience has shaped my perspective on human behavior.

I was a young karate and college student and I had dressed in my Gi, the traditional garb for martial art practitioners, BEFORE going to the “dogo” (a local community center gym) to train. I figured this would save me time as I preferred to shower at home.

I jumped into my little Mazda and as I had some errands to do on the way dropped in at the local market. As soon as I stepped out onto the busy parking lot I knew that I had made a mistake. People took special notice of me in the strange dress combination of karate uniform, grubby sneakers and the splash of an orange belt.

I paused and thought, “What an idiot move”, but pushed on not wishing to undress and change in public. With my new mini celebrity status I went about shopping for my needs and I was repeatedly approached by people. Cool! I’m the man! Well kinda, as today I had dressed for what I thought was speed. I was running late and today’s errands were taking way too much time.

Initially some people were slightly intimidated, then came the funny comments and remarks. Some people actually wanted to show me their moves. I did my best to be polite and accommodating to each person, but in the end it was just easier to ignore and push on with the tasks at hand.

As I walked out of the market one random guy, much older and bigger than me called out “Hey ninja boy, you wanna fight!!” I don’t think he was serious and I moved quickly into the parking lot. As I ignored him I’m guessing he felt insulted, so he chased after me and yelled some more.

 

 

Now you’d anticipate some story about how I destroyed him some slick Rolling Thunder type move… but that’s not the case. I’m not a confrontation/argument in the parking lot kind of guy. Powered by expediency and a bit of fear, I scrambled into my little car and locked the door. He continued to scream after me as I drove away.

A bit cowardly, but I expect a fairly typical reaction and what must be a common experience for people in religious clothing and karate gi’s.

 

The lesson learned:

 

Keep your gear, outfit, hat or costume in your bag and change at your gym, church or party, or you’re inviting people to communicate.

 

As a sports coach I can see the need to have colored uniforms so we can quickly identify teams but that’s on a sports field. Am I missing something? Did World teams get picked and I’m the last to know? If we don’t learn to respect each others ways and ceremonies we may be required to default to something like this…

 

to protect against our fear of this…

 

 

 

 

 

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