Question of the Week – 6/15/2016

Jun 13, 2016

This week’s question comes from Peter B.

Peter asks, “Sitting in an open  office, a few meters away from my desk are a couple people in full burka. They tend to  keep themselves to themselves and will only speak when spoken to, seem polite but uncommunicative. My policy is to be polite and respect the message here, which I interpret as: “leave me alone”. But is this the best I can do? Or should do?”


The winner will receive a  copy of “A Brief Candle in the Dark” by Richard Dawkins.

And please don’t forget to send in your submissions for Question of the Week! You can suggest a question by emailing us at QotW@www.richarddawkins.net. Please remember this is for “Question of the Week” only, and all other comments should go to their respective threads under the Question of the Week itself. Thank you!

81 comments on “Question of the Week – 6/15/2016

  • Just think about the times we live in, those people are probably not alone by choice, they feel rejection, and in turn they will reject contact, it is closed feedback. They are surrounded by other cultural and religious majority, where they do not feel welcome, just as a westerner catholic will feel uncomfortable inside a mosque.
    We have to be rational about this, maybe use the “golden rule” and approach them just to say “hi”. You might be surprised by a favorable response.



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  • I interpreted this question differently. I thought Peter B. was asking whether it behooves us to engage people that would prefer, ostensibly, to be left alone but might benefit, in the long run, from being asked about their beliefs and the religious restrictions that compel them to wear burkas and veils, etc.

    I think we can approach them, if we do so skillfully, with great care, and respectfully. That aside, I don’t think we need to respect the Muslim religion or any religion anymore, and we need to say that without being afraid to be called a bigot or an Islamophobe. This is 2016. Why should we respect Muslims as Muslims? We should look down on it as superstitious, as repressive, a cause of violence, and basically bullshit. There is no Holy Book, there are no prophets (as they disagree amongst themselves!) I respect all individuals, who are the products of forces beyond their control. But that cycle needs to be broken. We need to instill critical thinking in all people, and get them to revolt, at least inwardly. That’s a start.

    As for Christians, I don’t respect them as Christians either. I never met a Christian who I didn’t secretly look down upon as basically lost and deluded, although I have met any number of Christians that I can talk to and who I like and even admire, countless Christians who are educated and enlightened and deluded at one and the same timer. It never occurred to me to even broach the subject of their faith. I had a whole slew of Muslim friends in the 90s. Nice people, for the most part. We never discussed Islam then. It never occurred to me to ask them why they have their beliefs. It still seems futile. But there must be away to – over time– deprogram the religiously deluded. How, is the question.

    I stay away from intensely religious people as I value my life, will not engage them. Religion and homicide are becoming hard to separate in my mind.



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  • My policy is to be polite and respect the message here, which I interpret as: “leave me alone”. But is this the best I can do? Or should do?”

    Respect the message, but do it because you respect the person. That is the best you can and should do. Your policy is good because it will cause no harm. Continue to be polite and respectful. Demonstrate your ability to be tolerant of differences that cause you no harm. If your initial interpretation is inaccurate, that will become clear as time passes and you are able to gather more information and observe possible (likely) changes in “the message”. Seek first to understand.



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  • The differences do cause us harm. Their beliefs cause tremendous harm.
    Leave people alone, yes. Be polite. But why not try to get to know some of them, and then challenge them in a nice way? There might be same latent atheism lurking there that, like a sleeping animal, needs rousing. They need to be exposed to influences and dragged out of their insular, smug world of ignorance and obedience, as opposed to remaining protected. That air of reserve is their armor. They wear it out of habit in many case, presumably.
    If this is a thread merely about what is polite or not it is not an interesting one.



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  • OHooligan #7

    Funny!

    But seriously, if Republicans can’t talk to Democrats there’s no hope for the future of American Democracy. And if we can’t talk, have dialogue, with die-hard believers of the Muslim faith and other deluded people (and it does sees futile at times) what hope is there of reform?

    Someone is going to have to get though to them somehow, as Harris said. He is not a diplomat, to use his own words about himself, and neither am I.

    How can we rely on Muslims, the blind and frightened –and yes, there are exceptions – leading the blind and frightened? I think we should try to engage people as best we can. (In the past, before I ever heard of Dawkins, I never thought it was necessary. I’ve learned a few thing since then. It is. necessary. Religion is a great scourge.)



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  • Hi Dan,

    Your #5 & #7 are pretty close to the perfect answer from my point of view.

    Not so keen on your #3.

    I think we can approach them, if we do so skilfully, with great care, and respectfully

    Asking Peter B. to use skills he may not feel he has is likely to turn people off building bridges.

    Approaching a stranger with great care – does that need to be emphasised? Aren’t most of us a little anxious and reluctant the first (or first few) times we meet someone? What I mean is: We have no need to be shy – and saying so may inhibit some people from trying.

    I agree that the approach be civil, and warm, but there is no need for respect. Respect is earned.

    Why should we respect Muslims as Muslims?

    It is important to separate the person from the ideology. You need to do that rather that than jump in with both feet. Free thinkers don’t, generally speaking, wear burkas – and even though such an in-your-face signal as a burka tells us what the other person is promoting should we make hard and fast assumptions, or should we approach such a person with an open mind?

    How do you know that Islam is not the true path to Allah? I don’t for certain. Perhaps you should discuss that with the person – when the opportunity presents itself – and concentrate on just making them feel comfortable and getting to know them as peope-without-labels first?

    We should look down on it as superstitious, as repressive, a cause of violence, and basically bullshit

    Perhaps we should, but can we please start by talking to the person as an equal first?

    Peace.



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  • S of W 10

    Hi

    “…separate the person from the ideology.”

    That’s why I said Muslims as Muslims.

    “Be civil. No need for respect. Respect is earned.”

    Civility and respect are interchangeable. That is truly splitting hairs.

    “Approaching a stranger.”

    I wasn’t focusing on complete strangers necessarily, but on people wearing burkas and veils and keeping to themselves.

    “…start by talking to the person as an equal first?”

    I just talk to people. I don’t think about that.

    Approach them as an equal but without respect? You seem all muddled this morning, frankly.

    Peace.



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  • 12
    Pinball1970 says:

    Is this office in the west?

    How do you interact? form a team? have meetings?

    I don’t want to speak to someone who is wearing that in a professional situation.

    I want to see their expressions, I want to see a person’s reaction to a suggestion I want to know when they are speaking (if there are two people wearing one this would be a problem)

    It is two fingers up to the west, to democracy, to women’s rights, to civilized behavior.

    Respect? No.

    They should be banned in the work place, in work I am not a man I am a professional, respect it and take off the costume.

    If I am in a Saudi office I sit there and keep my mouth shut.



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  • Hi Dan [#11],

    Civility and respect are interchangeable. That is truly splitting hairs

    I could say (A): “Dan, your being a complete idiot and you should go and read a damned dictionary.”

    Or I could say (B): Dan, you clearly don’t know the meanings of civil and respect.

    In A I am both uncivil and I lack respect.

    In B I am civil, while I make clear that I do not respect your opinion.

    Instead I will do C (be civil, and stick to the facts to avoid demonstrating my judgement of your view as it might be confused with my judgement of you):

    Respect: A feeling of deep admiration for some one or some idea due to their abilities, qualities, or achievements

    Civil: Courteous and polite

    Approach them as an equal but without respect? You seem all muddled this morning, frankly

    Some of us are more humble, Dan. I may have self respect – but I know that my judgement of me is sound, I’ve earned my self-respect.

    Peace.



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  • You have no right to know why they are wearing whatever they wear, and no particular reason to try to befriend them, especially if they are not receptive. For all we know they may be wearing burkas because of their horribly deformed faces/bodies. Or perhaps they are dressed that way to please someone important to them. We have no need to speculate on that. You have every right to expect that your colleagues are capable of doing the job for which they are employed. If they just need to enter data in a computer then the burkas should be no problem. If their job were to persuade customers to consider your company’s products, in face to face meetings, then they would probably do best focussing just on the “Muslim market” or perhaps “Muslim-sympathetic market”. You, as well as your colleagues, have every right to expect civility in the workplace, starting with absence of bullying or harassment and working on through civil work interactions to polite exchange of pleasantries.

    If you want to befriend them as people, give it a go and if they are not responsive, forget it. Of course religious differences should be no barrier to friendship. Ironically the only religion I know that contradicts that is Islam.

    Of course the workplace should never be used as a pulpit or soapbox. People are paid to be there to do a job. They are not paid to be forced to listen to views they find objectionable. Wearing a burka or an Atheist symbol is one thing. Insisting people listen to your views is another.

    If you do manage to befriend these people, I hope you get a chance to explain to them why you have left religion out of your life, and also to listen sympathetically to their reasons why their religion is a significant part of theirs. But if you were just looking for someone to whom you could preach Atheism, I suggest the workplace is not the place for that. Good luck – hope to hear how it works out (or doesn’t).



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  • Like Stephen, I will seek to take back this poor use of the word respect. To treat civilly, with due acceptance of the rights of an equal doesn’t warrant (nor should it) to “look again”. Respect as implying that second glance, that admiring regard, has a humbleness to it, the hint of a bow and a ceding of priority.

    The word was degraded to include also mere civility only recently, 1680 in fact. Not too late to undo its current harms.

    Nowadays the word is mostly used when folk demand respect of me. I will not let them get away with this verbal conceit. Civility? I have a bucket load for everyone. Respect, that second look, is for the few…



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  • Be yourself. If you are outgoing; be outgoing. If you are shy; be shy. The default position I always take is that the person I am engaging (or not engaging) is fundamentally a good person. I assume this until they give me reason to think otherwise. Burkas do not make me think otherwise.

    I am a gregarious extrovert who wonders at the world around me and I will be damned if a GARMENT is going to get into my head and make me change who I am. I’d interact with them the same way if they were nudists, wearing yarmulkes, mohawk wearing punks, bikers, nuns or whatever.



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  • Peter, I am currently at my desk, looking at biology news and science articles, minding my own business like those burka people you are obsessed with. You interpret their non-action toward you as: “leave me alone”” as if they are deliberately thinking this about you. They could be simply minding their own business.



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  • 19
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#15
    “For all we know they may be wearing burkas because of their horribly deformed faces/bodies.”

    That is not why women wear them.

    “Or perhaps they are dressed that way to please someone important to them.”

    This is not like your wife wearing a dress you bought her for her birthday either.

    @#17 It has been a while Crooked shoes
    ” I’d interact with them the same way if they were nudists, wearing yarmulkes, mohawk wearing punks, bikers, nuns or whatever.”

    This is not what we are talking about, freedom of expression, having long hair or dressing like a punk or going on a nudist beach is not comparable.

    It is not wearing a crucifix a kippah or wearing a muslim head scarf either.

    I dislike all those things but wearing an outfit where you can only see the eyes is a step back to tribalism.

    Bank robbers wear balaclavas for a reason, it is both intimidating and prevents identification of the person.

    Wearing a burka says, I do not want you to know who I am, I do not want you to be human and interact with me at the most basic level of communication.

    I do not want you to see my emotions or give away any of my thoughts, we evolved these skills over millions of years, this is really nothing to do that much with religion.

    I do not care for the customs of the civilized west is just a bolt on.

    Play at dressing up at home if you want to but in public where there are kids or where you have to interact with normal people at work leave it in the car.

    Oh yes dont wear it in the car either please.



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  • How can I tell you what you should do if I don’t know what you want to accomplish? -ditto what’s best

    Honestly, the question seems underhanded to me. Like I might owe you 100 bucks when we’re done. But I’ll bite, I think the burka is shit. I think the people wearing them are great, just like nearly everyone else, and so I treat them like everyone else.

    Hi, how are you? I’m fine, thanks. Have a nice day.



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  • Phil, Stephen, and others

    Treating someone respectfully is the same as not treating them disrespectfully, i.e., spitting in someone’s goddamned face. That’s all I mean by respect. You treat them as you would like to be treated. You treat them as human beings. If they do something horrible you respond accordingly. But respect just means we should always assume that people have the same feelings of personal dignity as us and some modicum of decency. If they demonstrate that they don’t that’s another matter.
    What’s in a word? What isn’t in a word?
    Some thugs, and manipulative, controlling asses, and patriarchal, overbearing authoritarian parents do overuse the word and demand undue respect from their children and from others; but there is more than one way of using the word. Context, Phil. You defend W and then get hung up on words, as though they have one meaning, and a fixed one.
    Now in all fairness to your point, Stephen, I would not expect or desire someone to respect my ideas or my character too much or too soon, prematurely, that is, without evidence; but I would expect people to recognize that we do ought not to be abused or insulted without provocation, ought not to be treated like we’re loathsome and vile. The benefit of the doubt. Respect should be our default mode (to use an uncharacteristic computer simile), our default mode of conduct when first meeting someone. It’s nothing profound; it’s just a another word for decency and kindness.
    The absence of disrespectfulness is nothing other than civility. Civility is the absence of disrespectful conduct.
    No? Am I wrong?



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  • Regarding the word respect (verb): the sense in which I meant it in my response to Peter’s question was “have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.” (Synonyms: show consideration for, have regard for, observe, be mindful of, be heedful of.) I just want to make it clear to those who pay attention to word definitions that I did not mean “admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” This sense of the word I agree can only be earned. The other sense should be the default setting for human relationships.

    Now, there is that ambiguous word “due” in there, however, which makes me just a little uncomfortable. How does one determine what is due? Does a burka automatically reduce what is due?



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  • Dan

    You defend W and then get hung up on words

    You fail to see I’m fighting the same battle????

    He says the battle is lost for absolute certainty in “might be” concepts. But in, the every day by guarding our speech against polysemy and downright falsity, by making a fuss like now, like using the terms soul or spirit or passing (for died), or free will, or respect (for civility) we may begin a slow turn around in much the errors of thinking and doing that plague us in the real world of what is. The biggest tricks pulled on us are through the word games of the manipulators. Those quiet little tricks to hurry us over actual thinking.

    Don’t want to make this much of a fuss (even though you must surely care about thesethings)??? Then simply use the word and because it is a polysemous(multimeaning) hostage to fortune, note the sense in which you use it….probably a better plan!

    Have you not noticed that most of my complaints are about the words we use and the way we use them? (Islamophobia.) These are the biggest levers controling brains. Most people are too neurally neutered to realise how often the voice in their head isn’t in fact their own. At least you, dear reader…and dear Dan, know perfectly well this current voice in your head is mine not yours. Campaigners know that providing the vocabulary, (Pro-life) is half the battle.



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  • This is a good intro to my complaint about free will and the whole US, Randian, selfserving, hero-self, all you have to do is wish hard enough, I did it my way, cascade of little aphorisms and modes of speech that distract from the spectacular success of mutuality and build to the greatest iniquity in the developed world….

    But…too tired now…. It’ll go in the right thread in a day or so.



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  • Phil,

    I am so glad we are not so far apart on the Free Will issue. (See my latest comment to you on that thread. # 190)

    I agree with you about words too; I just think “respecting others” is an okay expression. That one we can keep, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep a careful eye on it – and on all words, how their being used; all words can be used manipulatively. But pretty soon we’ll have no words left in our vocabularies if we shun them all rather than just employing care when we ourselves use them; every word can be used manipulatively. It’s a multi-headed hydra. If we stop using the word “respect,” and use “civil” instead, then that word too will be appropriated by the manipulators and we’ll have to pick a new one, and so on and so forth.

    Words like Islamophobia can be shunned, as it probably has no useful meaning at all; but “atheist,” to use an example of a perfectly fine word that is used manipulatively, should not be shunned. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be forced to come up with new words all the time.

    Do you see my point?



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  • Dan

    Do you see my point?

    Not the least little bit. There are surprisingly few dangerous words, and many can simply be qualified or expanded. You can respect the rights of others. Rights are respectable. Rights are a humanitarian achievement.

    In asking people to notice the language people use. I am asking people to think and see what they are saying, how it affects kids and builds ideas drip by drip like laying down rock. “Passing” instead of died. The simple fact of death is concealed from children. No wonder they come to fear it as they grow up. The language of Americans is riddled with religion, setting childhood expectations from every mouth.

    Used more thoughtfully language is expanded and made the richer. Yes people will move on to develop other idioms but knowing the games of mind manipulators, because we are better aware of such coinings or new uses (prolife, prochoice) they will not have the chance to grow to such a pernicious size and clout. Islamophobia grew from a moderately well intentioned coining in the late eighties. Its first abuse by kindly folk like Trevor Philips and then later by friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta, will never happen again with those two, who have now stopped to understand the significance of what they were saying.

    There is always a better more telling, more pungent, more poetic phrase. “Anti Muslim Bigot” nails the crime. We have words aplenty. Allowing others to choose our speech, is ceding control of our thinking.



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  • Allowing others to choose our speech, is ceding control of our thinking.

    Double Plus Good, Phil.

    Or should I say, “Awesome post”, Orwell didn’t quite nail it (though he came terrifyingly close).

    Respect, man.



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  • “let the believers not make friends with the infidels in preference to the faithful – he that does this has nothing to hope for from God except in self defense”
    (3:28)
    Believers do not make friends with any but your own people. They will spare no pains to corrupt you. They desire nothing but your ruin. Their hatred is evident from what they utter with their mouths, but greater is their hatred which their breasts conceal.” (3:118)
    This is what their holy books says. You make your own decisions.



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  • Hi Dan [#21],

    Now in all fairness to your point, Stephen …

    Is that the same passive-aggressive language as ‘with all due respect’ … I think it is.

    I would not expect or desire someone to respect my ideas or my character too much or too soon, prematurely, that is, without evidence; but I would expect people to recognize that we do ought not to be abused or insulted without provocation, ought not to be treated like we’re loathsome and vile

    Yes, you would expect them to be civil and to treat you as an equal – a fellow citizen. You have every right to expect this whether you wear an outlandish and self-segregating badge such as a burka, or not.

    The benefit of the doubt

    Exactly so.

    Respect should be our default mode …

    I refer you to your earlier statement: “What’s in a word? What isn’t in a word?”

    Respect, and the meaning of respect, means trying to communicate too strong an emotional attachment to the other person’s idea(s), it is too committed to acceptance without due diligence, it is trust without verify, it leans too far in the direction of automatic verification and justification of ideas and ideals [#13: A feeling of deep admiration … etc.].

    This may be your default mode when meeting someone new, Dan, but it is not mine for the reasons stated above – I do not grant anyone I first meet with automatic respect and that is my “default” mode. But I rub along with pretty much everyone I meet, and make friends with people of highly varied political, social and religious persuasions – because I’m civil (decent, kindly) and friendly.

    Respect I reserve for those whose critical and rational thinking – whose use of trivium skills, and who have demonstrated trivium skills – have led them to their beliefs.

    The absence of disrespectfulness is nothing other than civility. Civility is the absence of disrespectful conduct.
    No? Am I wrong?

    You are wrong, as above.

    Peace.



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  • @ Pinball et al
    While all of your points are salient and spot on, and the verses from their holy book are unassailably hateful, I refuse to allow “anyone’s anything” dictate who I am. So, let them be uncomfortable as I lean towards them, smile, and “spread my culture at them”!!! (I was going to go very vulgar, here, but rewrote the sentence repeatedly).

    I will not stand there and stifle. I will not allow any symbol of any depravity stop me from enjoying my world. There are burkas, there are swastikas, there are burning crosses, there is hate, greed, misogyny, bigotry. you name it. I am in the practice of being a giant “fuck you” to all of them and I do it with my personality and words.



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  • Dan #25
    Jun 15, 2016 at 12:21 am

    But pretty soon we’ll have no words left in our vocabularies if we shun them all rather than just employing care when we ourselves use them; every word can be used manipulatively. It’s a multi-headed hydra. If we stop using the word “respect,” and use “civil” instead, then that word too will be appropriated by the manipulators and we’ll have to pick a new one, and so on and so forth.

    Civility should be the norm when opening conversations.
    Respect for ideas, views, and conduct, has to be earned!



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  • Hi Phil [#16],

    Like Stephen, I will seek to take back this poor use of the word respect … The word was degraded to include also mere civility only recently, 1680 in fact

    I would just like to point out that my formal education was just a wee bit more recent than that.

    Peace.



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  • Stephen #34

    [1680]…..my formal education was just a wee bit more recent…

    lol

    I thought of you more as the receptacle of the wisdom of ages.

    Actually its even before the start of my education being 1580 and attested to only by 1680, to whit-

    Respectful…full of outward civility.

    Rather implying a necessary show rather than a heartfelt expression.



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  • I’ve no idea what the questioner should do, but he could try the following.

    Ask them if they enjoy living in America.

    If they say yes, then ask them why they’re so gloomy.

    If they say no, have a whip round and buy them airline tickets to the Muslim theocracy of their choice.

    Then they can really have fun.



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  • Gendarme or Barm?

    My prayer is an apology
    for the brethren who embarrass me
    by neglecting what’s so plain to see:
    that it’s we who are the prayer of thee!

    Room for us has cost you untold charms
    (for our niche and to avoid some harms)
    in the hope that we’d be earth’s gendarme
    and instead we’re but it’s toxic barm!

    Even ancients saw the role we play
    and recorded prose in hopes to say:
    “We’ll be called upon to serve one day
    and must face the task to find the way.”

    But before our tongues grew so adept
    our finest thoughts could not be kept
    outside the minds from whence they leapt
    and thus old truths have long since crept.

    Till now they form a web of tomes
    (that mirrors life when lineage shown!)
    and hinders truth from being known
    by casting us ’mong umpteen zones.

    When beneath them all there’s but one cry:
    that we exist to serve and had better try
    or we risk demise—to eternally die—
    our species lost from beneath earth’s sky.

    And that is why I’ve come to pray
    that those who care enough to say:
    “I love you god and will obey”
    are mindful enough to see the way!



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  • My thoughts need no apology
    nor the brothers who embarrass me
    by neglecting what’s so plain to see:
    that it’s prayer that is our pain from thee!

    Room for you has cost us untold charms
    (for your spread and for your many harms)
    in your post as Earth’s gendarme
    there’s no limit to our alarm!

    More ancients saw the role you play
    and recorded prose in hopes to say:
    “Your duty is to spend each day
    in laboriously showing way.”

    But before our skills could grow adept
    our finest thoughts could not be kept
    within the minds to which they leapt
    and thus old truths have long since slept.

    And now they form a web of tomes
    (those truths that sleep, their lineage known)
    as faith’s cinders keep from being known
    by casting us in smoke-filled zones.

    When beneath them all there’s but one cry:
    that we exist to live and die
    seek now demise – to cast away –
    our superstitious earth and sky.

    And that is why I here gainsay
    your ersatz care, and what you say:
    “I love life and live by truth”
    I urge still to see the way!



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  • 43
    Michael says:

    I’m not sure there’s a “should” here except to treat these women as you treat any other coworker. I’m with crooked shoes – be who you are. If you’re friendly, be friendly. If you normally hunker down in your area, do that. I know the burka brings up all sorts of emotional response. But you’re in a workplace. So that actually helps clarify what behavior you can use.

    I think you should guard against assumptions. First, that these women want to be left “alone” – they probably want to be engaged with in regard to work but maybe notsocially/personally. The way to find out is to be friendly – hey I’m going for tea do you want me to bring you some? A few rejections probably confirms that they are just there to work. An occasional yes means you might make a work friend.

    Second. Don’t assume they don’t understand what wearing a burka means to the people around them or that they are passively wearing it. Its a pretty strong statement.

    Last, clothing communicates. So you are definitely getting the message that these are devoutly religious Muslim women. You are wondering if that is a slammed shut door to friendship. Probably. But you can make civil overtures to be certain.

    Please don’t screw up any potential friendships by inquiring if they know anything about burkas, etc. Don’t be the guy in Olgun’s video.

    P.S. Long ago I met a new guy at work. I stuck out my hand to shake his and he ignored my hand and was not friendly. I was offended. I learned later he “doesn’t shake hands with women because of his religion”. I remained offended because I felt shaking hands and common courtesy is a workplace requirement in our society. I made no further effort to interact with him and luckily didn’t have to.



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  • Stephen, Phil, OHooligan:
    You all like to argue don’t you? I said that “respect” is a fine word and a fine thing and that we are all entitled to receive some modicum of it, and you find fault with that?
    I don’t have time to discuss nonsense.



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  • Phil 26

    Instead of fixating on words like respect, you should think about the harm that is done by parents who treat their kids horribly, suppress them and indoctrinate them, control them and are outright cruel.

    Stephen, I don’t walk around with the word “respect” in my head; I am just saying that I don’t think it’s worthwhile to go out of one’s way not to think it or say it or even exhibit it. Again, it just means show some consideration for people’s feelings.

    No, you say. Wrong again. Fine, we’ll just listen to you and you can guide us all.



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  • @ Phil, S of W, Alan, others

    respect

    from Oxford (the best) Dictionary

    (Multiple uses, like all words!)

    to feel or show honor or esteem for; hold in high regard
    to consider or treat with deference or dutiful regard
    to show consideration for; avoid intruding upon or interfering with: to respect others’ privacy

    Stephen and Phil,

    I actually agree with you, but just don’t share your concern about one word, which I am using in a very specific sense. I think we can all agree, however, that “trust” is a word, like “respect”, that can be used to manipulate. “Don’t you trust me?” asks a man or woman on a first date. Uh, no, I don’t actually. Trust has to be earned!

    Peace.



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  • Dan #46

    Instead of fixating on words like respect, you should think about the harm that is done by parents who treat their kids horribly, suppress them and indoctrinate them, control them and are outright cruel.

    You know this is falacious reasoning. We all do very many things.

    I actually agree with you, but just don’t share your concern about one word

    For me the point is utterly general and the specific an illustrative example. Semantics is a powerful aspect of philosophy. We here are in the job of getting others to give up erroneous thinking. Mind manipulators live off polysemous (multi-meaning) speech. Nonsense eloborates itself out of inadequately rooted and detailed terminology. It is not just philosophers who will benefit from the uber crisp terminological exactitude of maths and science it is also those that use philosophers subsequent aphoristic wisdom.

    PC speech in the seventies, simply getting people to notice the secific effect of words on other people, swept away much sexist and racist thinking along with its sexist and racist speech.

    Your private understandings of your own speech are absolutely not the issue. It is its communicated value only that concerns.

    Semantics matters when wrangling with reason to reveal or conceal it. Rhetoric matters when selling the stuff. Every word matters.



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  • 49
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#crookedshoes “I refuse to allow “anyone’s anything” dictate who I am.”

    What if your work place does? What if your library does or your kids school? Your MP your cashier at the bank your Dr? Your lawyer? Your government.

    If we sit back and do nothing it will become the norm.

    If we wore a swastika or hateful speech regarding race or LGBT on a T-shirt in public we could be reported and prosecuted.

    Not only are we being asked to tolerate this but we are being asked not to question it and even to respect it.

    This is the situation in the UK, France has banned it and RD has made it clear he disagrees with this.

    I am not sure what his view is regarding school teachers and other public servants.

    We have sharia courts in the UK – these should be banned along with their jewish equivalents.

    Halal meat (without stunning) ban it

    FGM/MGM – It is banned but many kids still at risk

    Burka? Does it hurt anyone? Besides my sense of human decency? No. But being asked to interact with another human being in the work place is a step too far.

    A full ban on it in the UK? Everywhere except the Mosque?

    Right now for me I think yes.

    Below from the Koran- I suppose they who wear the Burka are ok with owning other human beings also? “right hand rules” =slaves

    ” say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their head coverings to cover their bosoms, and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule , or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments. And turn in repentance to Allah together, O you the faithful, in order that you are successful”
    —Koran, Surah 24 Vs 31



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  • Phil,

    PC swept away nothing except a little bit of the old American liberty to make up one’s own mind and – God forbid – proceed to change it. Political Correctness is totalitarian. Yes, it has been appropriated by the Republicans. But that doesn’t mean it was ever a good thing. Conversely, the misuse of a good word (like Atheism) doesn’t nullify its value as a way of thinking or as a word. I tried and failed to make that point above (25).

    And W. (who you love) is a huge proponent of polysemous speech. I am not.

    (I don’t want Orwell’s Newspeak or Doublespeak either, you know. W’s Duckrabbit seems to be leading us in that direction.)

    I just think you get carried away with this fixation with words – like “ideology” and now “respect.” Respect is a fine word and a fine thing, but the word can be misused. My conception of respect is sensible, and I don’t think that respect has to be earned. May I treat people, strangers, with respect, please? Is that okay with you?

    You have the “I must be right” syndrome, as do many of us – although you are not a hopelessly close-minded man. (You didn’t reply to the definition I presented, which appears in the Oxford dictionary. It totally supports my defense of a particular use of this word.)

    Yes, words matter; that is why I am calling you on this.



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  • PC speech in the seventies is not PC speech now. I complain bitterly over its current fascism. It had a simple job to do then with antique terms from a more abusive age.

    I do not love W. (This projection thing you do really pisses me off. You have to stop it. It feels like, “You and Ludwig sitting in a tree,…”) I approve strongly of one achievement. The rest was interesting but a failure. Duckrabbit’s were analytic games. We’re not going to pick out curtains or anything. Spinoza’s more my type.

    Ideology is a perfectly formed word with a perfectly good definition. I use it more than most people to illustrate its frequent, unrecognised presence and implications.

    Of course I’m aware of dictionary definitions. I noted the evolution of the term into this outward display of civility. I seek to take it back and ask people to consider so doing themselves.

    Its problem isn’t obvious in the encounter you propose, but you have to ask yourself if you equally respect a group of fundamentalist parents? Do you respect them until you find out about their indoctrinating and medically abusive ways? Why not just respect folks’ rights and any obvious humanity until you actually know that they are respectable?

    You are defending a habit of speech.



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  • Phil,

    Okay, point about W well taken, my valued e-friend. I am sorry. I had the wrong impression.

    Funny. I don’t hear you sometimes and you don’t hear me sometimes. You’re as bad as me!

    “Its problem isn’t obvious in the encounter you propose, but you have to ask yourself if you equally respect a group of fundamentalist parents? Do you respect them until you find out about their indoctrinating and medically abusive ways? Why not just respect folks’ rights and any obvious humanity until you actually know that they are respectable?” P. Rimmer

    That’s what I said! (21): “Treating someone respectfully is the same as not treating them disrespectfully, i.e., spitting in someone’s goddamned face. That’s all I mean by respect. You treat them as you would like to be treated. You treat them as human beings. If they do something horrible you respond accordingly.”

    I am defending a particular usage of a word, and I am well aware of how this word and others can be misused.



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  • PB 49

    We have sharia courts in the UK – these should be banned along with
    their jewish equivalents.

    From the moment the first Rabi or Imam landed, I can imagine religious “law” was used to satisfy disputes. They have been at it for a hundred years or so. Apart from some people yelling that they want Sharia law for all Brits (i.e…Idiots) what impact has any of it had on your life, with the jewish version as that has been going longer?

    Marriage counselling, business disputes, family disputes etc…..The state law always there to protect…..The parish priest still does a lot of this and more so what exactly is your fear?

    The veil is a problem I admit but the hijab? Ban it? Perhaps we can start a new religion where males tell woman how to dress???? Wait……………………….



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  • Hi OHooligan [#44],

    I am not a fat, hairy, monstrous, tone deaf, simple-minded … oh, wait … I am a Womble [Gasp!]
    I was answering Ananias in kind, and I was offering a counterpoint to his prayers.

    You appear to be objecting, which I don’t understand.

    It’s not like it took a lot of effort, it only took me about 20 minutes.

    Peace.



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  • Hi Dan [#50],

    And W. (who you love) is a huge proponent of polysemous speech

    How the blue blazes did you work that out! – I specifically gave you a monosemous definition of a polysemous word? Because: Context (introducing oneself to strangers with the object of ending their isolation).

    Phil Rimmer, #51:

    I do not love W. (This projection thing you do … You have to stop it)

    I agree with Phil often, not always. We have, perhaps, a mutual respect thing going on but that’s it.

    We’re not going to pick out curtains or anything

    Quite.

    Peace.



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  • 56
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#53
    “what impact has any of it had on your life, with the jewish version as that has been going longer?”

    None. The bombing in Orlando and the 65,000 girls who at risk from FGM has no direct impact on me either.

    “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”

    Also we have laws and courts UK citizens should be obliged to use them, if you cannot afford it you get legal aid paid for by the tax payer, we don’t need another sytem.

    “The veil is a problem I admit but the hijab? Ban it? Perhaps we can start a new religion where males tell woman how to dress???? Wait…”

    The article is talking about a “full” Burka- can we assume that is what it is what we are talking about? Eyes showing only?

    The burka IS men telling women how to dress, from the Koran and probably hadith too.

    I mentioned the head scarf kippah and crucifix in a previous post not being an issue. Why?

    1/Identification and subjugation of the person is not an issue in this case.

    2/Respect for personal interaction in the work place is not an issue.

    The only comparison I can think of is coming to work in a balaclava or crash helmet.

    The person would be asked to remove it because you would not be able to see the face.

    A person would be asked to remove a football shirt baseball cap or shorts too, every sensible person knows what respectful kit to wear in the work place and what not to.



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  • PB 56

    None.[….]

    Banning something that has no teeth seems an over reaction. Bombing and FGM are against the real law.

    Also we have laws and courts UK citizens should be obliged to use
    them, if you cannot afford it you get legal aid paid for by the tax
    payer, we don’t need another system.

    We haven’t got another system and no-one should be obliged to use the courts. Should we ban all marriage councillors and out of court settlements? All other violent or unconstitutional acts are against the law (.)

    Whatever the dress (burka or not) you have to ask is it within the law. It seems it is. What the OP writer has a problem with is how to approach his co-workers. As with some TV adverts, for professionals, that boast the ability to teach people about other cultures so that they don’t unintentionally insult a potential customer, perhaps knowing that it might feel uncomfortable speaking with a male when you are that religious and that person has no ill feeling towards you but wants to get on with her work and go home, would go a long way. Not touching the person or shaking hands. Shouting “this is the way we do it in this country”, in a friendly but firm manner just seems a little “Carry On..[….]” to me. If you want to change the law to ban these things in the work place then that does not include hating the person under the robe. Hate the drug!!!

    A person would be asked to remove a football shirt baseball cap or
    shorts too, every sensible person knows what respectful kit to wear in
    the work place and what not to.

    There is no sense in religion and we live in a world that makes special dispensations for it.

    Dreadlocks in an office in London in the 60’s??? ‘Respect’ needs to be earned in many ways…. and the right.

    The veil is a problem, as I have said, but if these people have been hired in spite of what they are wearing then it must be within the law. Issues with how a person might interact with them is another thing. Bow, curtsy, rub noses or stay a respectful distance all amount to the same ‘civil’ behaviour and must not be confused with religious madness.

    We have many prejudices PB. I see no difference with my wifes nan running across the street to rub the head of a black man, for luck, than some of the responses these days.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZwbWMw_3AA



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  • 59
    Pinball1970 says:

    @57 I have no idea what those videos have to do with this thread
    Are suggesting I am just prejudiced? It’s as simple as that?
    I have been clear with my reasons I think and I disagree with RD on the banning part.



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  • Nothing aimed at you PB. The videos were to do with the OP and how we misunderstand each other’s cultures and how sometimes they are incompatible to some extent.



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  • @stephen

    Sorry, I can never resist throwing a limerick in whenever I get the hint of an opportunity. No offence meant.

    It’s published so it has to stand, but I’d rather had the last line go “To something he doesn’t believe in”.

    And yes, it can’t have taken anything like as much effort as your response. I just thought maybe we’ve moved on to a new standard, posts got to be in verse from here on.

    Actually, that might be a good idea. The RD Foundation for Rhyme and Reason.



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  • 62
    fadeordraw says:

    Great question! 1stly, my experience with women in burkas has been in grocery stores, and sometimes I say “you must be a bandit”, the only folks in my neck of the woods who hide their face are bandits. I get no response and figure the woman doesn’t have much English. But the long legged teen on our street covers her hair and I’ve wanted to ask her why. My impression is that Muslims have a thing about hair. It’s a sexual thing. The burka is like trying to remove the sexual thing totally off the table. To be explicit, they don’t wanna be the cause of any male erection and lust by hiding that inducing body. The Muslim males, BTW, seem also apprehensive about sex; like Jews they have segregated rituals. So those burkas in the office are all about not wanting to be sexually attractive to males. BTW, in photos many burka wearing women have incredibly mysterious and inviting made-up eyes. In our recent Canadian federal election, Islam women’s face coving was an issue. My take, mostly ridiculed, but based upon personal, empirical evidence, was that it’s a mug’s game to mess with women’s fashion. So what do you do with two burka wearing women in your office? The naughty boy in me says you ask them to show what they’re hiding. The regular diplomatic me says you say nothing. The Canadian me says you should offer to buy them a coffee and broach the matter of the burkas.



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  • Stephen 55

    Hi,

    To be quite honest, I didn’t understand Phil’s point about polysemous speech, and W confuses me to no end – so you can disregard what I said in response to that point.

    Sorry if I made little sense.



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  • S of W, Phil,

    “Mind manipulators live off polysemous (multi-meaning) speech.” -Phil

    I am confused. Isn’t W a strong advocate of multi-meaning speech?



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  • Dan

    I am confused. Isn’t W a strong advocate of multi-meaning speech?

    No!!!!!!

    His language games warn us of the quick sand. His central caveat to the use of metaphysics is the imprecision of language in defining a might-be. Uncertainty in language is a bad thing….How could it ever be good?



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  • Phil,

    I thought he said that words have no one meaning, are defined by their usage, have no essential common feature. What else could that be but polysemy?



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  • Phil…Oh Phil…

    “His central caveat to the use of metaphysics is the imprecision of language in defining a might-be.”

    Science and philosophy and the imaginative mind deals with might-bes. Might-bes are good. W will – a prediction here – be exposed as a charlatan, a purveyor of deepity, at some future time!!!

    Let him employ precise language and prove that the physical world is absolute!!! That’s actually a “might-be” too!!!

    Tired now. Have a good day.



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  • Dan, have you forgotten the discussion about Popper already? Did you listen? How W attacked Popper with a poker?

    How Popper rebuilt metaphysics in the service of science after W’s destruct job????

    Its not about loving or hating people, whether they bring good news or bad news. Its about whether they are right and when they are right and when they are wrong.

    What windmills are you tilting at?



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  • It is probably the best you can do, honor their lack of communication.
    There are two immediate non-communicative mountains to climb: First, likely since earliest childhood, they have been taught to believe and to resist any form of critical thought (Same for Christian fundamentalists, children are taught to believe long before being (and even if) taught to think: Second, there is the very real phenomenon of cognitive dissonance — if tested, you will arouse one of three emotions, intense anger or fear or withdrawal.



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  • Interesting question. If I personally feel that my advance would be unwelcome, I simply wouldn’t bother. Respect is two way traffic. If I lived in Spain, I would go out of my way to interact with the local people to enable me to settle and fit in. The reason that most of us would hesitate though is the incredibly stupid political correctness wave that has swept through this country. People today are afraid of saying anything even mildly controversial for fear of being labelled racist, sexist or homophobic. How does this country tackle discrimination? With discrimination.

    An excellent example would be parliament where a seat with a female MP can only be replaced by another female candidate. Is this not discrimination? If I attend a job interview and the successful candidate is better qualified than I for the position in question, I would be the first to congratulate that individual, regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation. However, tell me that the successful candidate was indeed successful to hit an ethnic quota and I will be less than pleased. I personally couldn’t care less if every MP in the UK were female provided that they were the best candidates for the job.

    It doesn’t take a genius to realise that you cannot tackle any form of discrimination with discrimination as it causes more tension for the above reasons. The way to tackle discrimination is by education.



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  • @Michael #43

    I agree with most of your post: there is no reason to go out of one’s way to engage a co-worker who hasn’t shown any willingness to reciprocate. I lean strongly toward introversion, so leaving me alone is something with which I am the most comfortable. But that doesn’t mean I can’t/shouldn’t engage once in a while. For me, it is easiest to pick a work-related subject rather than something generic like the weather. For example, I might broach the invisible wall with a question such as, “Have you noticed any changes in our system that I should know about since they upgraded?”

    @Dan and Phil

    It sounds to me like the word you are trying make work for “respect” and “civility” is, in fact, “courtesy.”



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  • @ Pinball….
    i hadn’t processed the issue as you’ve presented it. I definitely see clearly what you are saying and agree that public places and situations can impose “anybody’s anything” on me and cause me to modify my behavior. Like being quiet and respectful in a library or a mosque. The thing is, I am quiet and respectful and abide those modifications because that IS who i am.
    While your strong points and logical discourse have challenged me to think and allowed me to become aware of the issue from a different perspective, I maintain that “I am who am”…. and will not allow others to dictate who i am.



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  • Vicki!

    Long time no see.

    Courtesy! Not bad!

    I still think that we are quibbling. It is not a misuse of the word Respect when I say that we should treat people with respect. I give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are not monsters, and I expect people to approach me with that way too. I wouldn’t say I admire them or that I respect, say, their erudition or nobility of character. Respect just means: you are a person like me, have feelings, and hopefully not a son-of-a-bitch; so I understand your desire not to be treated cruelly, understand your desire to be treated with, as you say, courtesy. That IS being respectful. In this context respect and courtesy are virtually synonymous. Courtesy, if it is feigned, is not respect. Real courtesy is nothing other than a form of respect, as is civility.

    This is giving me a headache. All this hair-splitting.

    (Are you the Iceman Cometh Vicki? LOL)



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  • @Dan #74

    I am!

    “Courtesy, if it is feigned, is not respect. Real courtesy is nothing other than a form of respect, as is civility.”

    I probably give more weight to the definitions of ‘respect’ and ‘courtesy’. While I think the one is earned, the other is taught, and moves us a few rungs up on the food-chain ladder.



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  • I am not sure I fully understand the question. Your focus on religious clothing suggests you may be confused as to the etiquette of communicating with Muslims. If this is the case I have no knowledge to impart. If your query is concerning whether or not there is a moral onus on your part to try and make these coworkers feel accepted due to the ongoing Muslim political fallout, I would suggest that being yourself is the best that you can hope to do. Being disingenuous would be easily detected and nobody wants to be pitied. So your normal polite communication style would be in order. If you are indicating that you feel badly that you do not relate to these people the same as you relate to others in your office, then you must decide why you feel the way you do and whether or not you feel strongly enough about these people to make the necessary changes to be more inclusive. Remember, under the Burkas these are just female primates with the exact same genetic propensities and needs as any other. I find most people let down their behavioral protocols and inhibitions when someone genuinely cares and connects with them. Rise above the dogma and fashion and look at them as human beings. Any primatologist will tell you that in the gestural world of communications, nothing is more powerful than a smile. And in this world anything you can do to make someone smile, makes you a hero. I hope you find this useful. Good luck!



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  • Craig, you have my vote for best answer. (The winner will receive a copy of “A Brief Candle in the Dark” by Richard Dawkins.)
    (I didn’t understand the question either.)
    Right now, my opinion of religion is at an all-time low. I agree with you, but at this point I might want to just say: “why are you wearing that? What would happen to you if you took it off? Tell me!” Of course I would never do that, as I value my life, and I am also exceedingly polite by nature.



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  • 79
    petermetric says:

    Is PB’s question about addressing the primary problem: people at work/public spaces wearing total covering due to religious doctrine, or the secondary problem of the reaction to this of others outside that doctrine? Many of the answers above (most?) address the second problem (the easy one): the ones addressing the primary problem seem stumped, but please correct me if you find a workable one. The idea of inviting someone in a full burka for a cup of tea to get to know them hardly works when later in the afternoon you can walk by them without recognising them (but while they recognise you, of course).

    Is wearing a full burka a threat? No. But I am drawn to a parallel with smoking in public places before it was banned here. Smoking was ostensibly banned due to the risk to health of passive smoking. But why, I ask, not consider banning it simply because it is unpleasant? Ban the burka then? No, that is too heavy handed, but tacit permission to challenge its wearing in public spaces, yes. I do not think we have that permission, and for a very good reason: these women are, in most cases, victims.

    Even though I also liked Craig’s #76 the essential issue, not addressed, is contained in his penultimate sentence ” And in this world anything you can do to make someone smile, makes you a hero”. To which I would add: what is the point of a smile if no one sees it?



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  • Ban the burka.
    I can’t understand the pussy-footing that goes on around this.
    Forget any comparison with yarmulkas and whatnot, the difference is that the burka is a symbol of oppression, it’s practically the national dress for women in a long list of countries that oppress women, stone gays and conduct other insalubrious practices.

    It’s about as welcome in my workplace (or any public space) as Nazi regalia.

    I cannot begin to fathom the contradictions, the cognitive dissonance that the PC brigade have to handle. Pinup of a swimsuit model in the workplace: wholly unacceptable, makes the females among us feel oppressed and used by association. Fair enough. Female present in full burka, quite alright, nothing here to see. Not being oppressed, it’s personal choice.

    Ladies, speak up: this is what you or your daughters will be wearing in 25 years, if the demographics keep going the way they are now. Would you feel oppressed if you had to wear one in that possible future? How then can you not see these colleagues are being oppressed, here and now?



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  • 81
    bonnie2 says:

    @ # 80

    […] nothing to see here

    En pointe.
    A crude (sort of) analogy > u.s. breast-feeding mothers are shamed into covering up, or better yet, be out of sight.



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