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Secular and Religious Head Scarves and Coverings Issues

Susan Helene Kramer

The issue in schools and societies over banning certain types of head coverings, veils and scarves has actually been going on at least 40 years. Let me recount my own experiences in school in the early 1960s.
photo credit Jane Kaspar
In high school I was walking down the hall between classes, when a school staff member came up behind me and plucked the embroidered bow off the top of the braids wrapped across my head. (The irony was, this person was also wearing a bow as in bowtie.)

Imagine my horror to have this happen, as I can assure you, even in my teens I was considered a "goody-goody." The senior yearbook quote to describe me was 'friend to all'. Explaining that wearing bows in my hair was a lifelong adornment, and that I had in fact been wearing bows in my hair for all my 16 years was to no avail.

I was very sad and humiliated by the event. Though a 3rd generation American, part of my roots were Czech and from early on my mother braided my hair and tied embroidered ribbons over the bands of the braids for school each day.

So, I have first hand experience knowing what it feels like to have another try to control what adorns my head.

In contrast, I was raised in the Catholic Church and as a child and young adult in America the rule was for females to wear a head covering in church. As a child I wore a scarf every time I walked into church. I remember a particular Donald Duck cotton scarf that I loved to wear in church. And, did anyone rip that scarf off my head? No. Wearing a headscarf was totally accepted in my community.

Head coverings today

Coming forward to the present day, I've noticed that the issue of head coverings is more in the news with instant media attention.
2 Catholic nuns in America
In my opinion, the reasons given for separating religion and state as far as bodily coverings are concerned come out of fear that wearing head coverings and veils is more than signs of religious respect, that it might have some influence in secular life; school, work, society.

To people in power through appointment or election in the secular world, consider giving those you serve the respect they deserve for dressing modestly and in line with their religious beliefs or ethnic traditions, even if they differ from yours, even if you can't see their eyes.

For in the broadest way, people are identifiable by body shape, height, postures and movement,  just as we recognize one approaching us from afar, or even just seeing their back.

Consider that the people on our planet may dress and adorn themselves differently coming from diverse ethnic roots and religions. And, practice meditation and prayer by sitting, kneeling or dancing. But, looking from above, we are all living in a wonderfully diverse world family, with individual skills and talents, to contribute to the entire functioning family and society of humanity.

Now, wouldn't each country's people as a whole look boring if everyone dressed in a similarly uniform way? Come to think of it, complaints about women's head coverings are coming from many adhering to the tradition of shirts and ties, de riqeur.

Article by Susan Helene Kramer; photos from the collection of Susan Helene Kramer

Secular and Religious Head Scarves and Coverings Issues
Copyright 2011 Susan Helene Kramer