Critical Commentary: A Point of View-Behind the Hijab

Posted on November 18, 2013 by



Past United States President, Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed in his inaugural speech, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Author, Will Self, states that we have a fear of cultural influence. The main concern brought up in this article from November 15th, 2013 posted by BBC News is the issue of whether or not Muslim women should be permitted to wear a hijab or type of head covering during court. There is an ongoing debate transpiring in numerous countries, especially Britain, to decide whether veiled women offering evidence are acceptable in court. Self brings up both sides of the conflict, but manages to express his thoughts clearly on this issue. This article places emphasis on fear and how fear can drive us to suspicions and assumptions that may not be entirely fair or accurate.

We are taught from a young age that the way to determine if someone is telling the truth is heavily based on their facial expressions and eye contact. We are so used to everyone in a courtroom having open faces and “a steady gaze” so this idea of having a woman with her face almost entirely covered is new to us and generally not accepted. Self briefly brings up the idea that maybe what makes us nervous about these women’s hijab is the understanding of the religion behind it. In general, when we think of Muslims, we picture them as somewhat unstable as a culture. Muslims are often associated with violence and terrorism, so this understanding that we have may cause us to be weary when it comes to accepting their traditions. For example, in France any Muslim head attire is completely banned in fields involving education, legal, or medical professions. When Self describes the French and their intolerant laws, he describes it as ridiculous and the result of a fear of British values being disturbed.

The author, Will Self, is a professor at Brunel University in London who explains that many of his students celebrate Islamic religion and wear hijabs. He sees no reason why their head covering would in any way affect the engagement of the individual in class. In Self’s opinion, whether a student is wearing a hijab or a hood it’s significance is little in class. Our education systems and society are supposed to be spreading a confident culture that is accepting of other cultures and welcome to change and improvement. We are not meant to think of cultures besides our own as alien. It may be difficult to feel neutral about Muslims because we live in a time where they have acquired a negative image. Self stresses the importance that we are the beginning of what generations will have to come, so we should be open and ready to “adapt” to new cultures and beliefs that exist in this world. Overall, Self thinks many in our society are ignorant of this ever-changing world we live in and are closed off to forward steps leading to accepting non-white cultures. 

Direct link to article:


Self, Will. “A Point of View: Behind the Hijab.” BBC News. BBC, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2013. <;.

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