As Alexandra Shulman and co take their seats on the front row another group of women seem to have taken over the headlines. London is in the midst of our spectacular fashion week, preparing us for what I'll call our perfectly poised pretty English garden spring (with a dash of eccentricity - the Mad Hatter?). It's in this same week that we've seen bombs in Iraq, Basher Al Assad continue in his stampede and drone attacks in Pakistan but of course our politicians seem to have found something much more engaging for them to talk about.
So very much concerned about our attire, Home office minister Jeremy Browne wants a debate and a couple of others seem ready to let loose(at least they're not playing poker right?). Not quite talking Peter Pilotto or Erdem (my favorites) but rather the hot topic in Europe the niqab. It's not only the politicians but also fellow journalists.
Ms Alibhai-Brown (you know, the other Yasmin) seems to think she knows all the ins and outs of the hijab let alone the niqab, writing much about what myself and my fellow hijab wearing or niqab wearing Muslim female Brits think and how we feel.
"brainwashed by proselytizers"she says in her piece in The IndependentFully veiled Women hinder progressive Islam and believe me she gets far more excited, talking about job opportunities, Iran, guerilla armies and a whole load more. I find her piece offensive and entirely objectionable. But it's ok, that's how she feels and be this Great liberal Britain she's entitled to express that, she may have offended my sensibilities but really I'm glad to know what she thinks of me. I myself wear a hijab and on occasion wear the niqab too. I've worn my niqab to present on television, I've worn it to teach and guess what I've even worn it whilst driving. Yes, that is something I might not be able to do in Saudi Arabia but we're not talking about Saudi Arabia here, we're talking about Britain.
From Sahar al-Faifi a molecular geneticist , Naima B Roberts the author and magazine editor to Monsurah Arowosekila a nursery teacher in north London, all women who wear the niqab and are massively successful in their chosen fields. They have chosen to wear the niqab and good for them, there are lots of debates to be had about our attire, including cotton production, garment workers, meat wearing singers and a whole list more, but this constant barrage on the dress of Muslim women gets a little tiring and the line on this debate needs to be entirely re-phrased.
Do we need to oppress and squash our differences in order to be British? When stars step up to the stage in barely nothing gyrating on a praised platform and we have placards posted on shop fronts with men and women literally wearing nothing, I find it distasteful and offensive. When I see piercings which equate to holes the size of bangles I wonder about the pain involved and that's all ok, I can think that and I can ask. If you are fearful of a niqab wearing women know that the deficiency is within yourself, she has done nothing to you nor is she asking anything of you, I cannot comprehend a situation where a Muslim woman would object to being identified for security reasons nor can I envisage a situation where it would not be possible to have a female officer do the identification. MP Phillip Hollobone refuses to see constituents who do not lift their niqab and it really does make me shake my head. Members of parliament represent their constituents and if he has niqab wearing women in his constituency he should be doing his utmost to represent them and listen to them in situations that are comfortable for them.
We're not always going to understand everything straight away and we don't always need to, celebrate difference and appreciate the fact that it exists in Britain. To live in a tolerant society is not to stamp down but it's to be able to accept those exact things when they're not harming you.
Muslim women who wear a 'veil' be it a hijab, jilbab or niqab may have to work a lot harder but that's entirely up to them. Ms Alibhai Brown neither "political action" or a
"testing of the state"wearing the niqab is one interpretation of the hijab Muslim women are prescribed to wear, not simply
"manmade injuctions"whatever anyone wants to make of the niqab that's up to you but for all of my sisters who choose to wear one I whole heartedly salute you.