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BBC OnePanorama


Last Updated: Friday, 11 June 2004, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
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I found the 'Covering Up' program both enlightening and disturbing. When I see a person on the street covered up in this way I feel threatened. The hijab bears a resemblance to the balaclava that we have seen in Northern Ireland. It begs the question 'Why do you hide your face?'. Britain is a free society that lives under threat of attack by terrorists. If a man walked down the street with just his eyes showing how would you feel lady? The veil is not a necessity so I would ask those Muslim women to think again if they really wish to be accepted in British society.
Leon, Leeds, Yorkshire

Tonight's programme was terribly patronising and was little better than any BNP propaganda that may have been found in letterboxes all over the country this week.
Stuart Johnson, Widnes, UK

I am not a Muslim - indeed I have no religious beliefs at all, but I found tonight's Panorama really excellent, in the way it showed British Muslim women as strong, assertive and self-aware, and who had made a personal choice to adopt the hijab. I've had enough of the stereotypical 'shrinking-violets'....it is always good to see any women making decisions about issues that are important to them, and if the hijab allows Muslim women a freedom that us 'liberated' sisters have forfeited, good luck to them!
Stella, London, UK

Since the programme tonight was about British Muslims deciding to cover up I found the programme was extremely biased towards the Asian British Muslim. Islam crosses racial, cultural and social backgrounds, but this point did not come across very well. I fear that many people in the world think from all the media coverage that Muslims are extremist and mainly have Asian or Middle Eastern origin and this is simply not true.

Nuns from the Christian faith dress very similarly to Muslim women and I can't see anyone ever making an issue about their dress code
Dr Samina Raashid Latif
Islam crosses the world from east to west and pole to pole with a cross section of the world's population, it would have been nice to see this cross section of Muslim women portrayed in the programme. The other point I would like to make is that nuns from the Christian faith dress very similarly to Muslim women and I can't see anyone ever making an issue about their dress code. It is after all a religious dress code for them, which identifies them to a particular religion and sends a very clear message to everyone that they are respectable members of society who are not to be feared or targeted for what they chose to wear.

I think the other side of the coin should be looked at more closely and that is the woman who chose to take off their clothes instead of covering up. They are the ones who are really oppressed by society. The advertisers use them to sell anything from cars to food. Women's bodies have become a very cheap and readily available commodity for anyone to use to make a fast buck. Islam is a religion, which is fundamentally different from other religions in that it teaches you how to live your entire life, from what to wear to how to interact with others to how to raise your children. I believe that people chose to question the outer appearance of a Muslim because this is an easy and visible target.
Dr Samina Raashid Latif, Birmingham

People harp on about integration. But surely the most important thing is that we all live together peacefully, regardless of whether we 'integrate'. That in itself is integration. Do punks, Conservatives, high-income earners, right-wingers, left-wingers, working class folk all socialise together? No. So why do we put conditions on Muslims?
Paul, London

I am only in my 30's but often feel 'sexually assaulted' just walking in my home town by young women who are 'dressed' if that is the word, revealing their breasts and tummies, being as sexy as possible. It's hard to know where to put one's eyes. If this is considered acceptable in today's society why on earth isn't it acceptable for a woman to cover her self in complete modesty? Hooray for Muslim Women, who don't accept the 'western' norms.
Jake Purches, Worthing West Sussex

Why in the 21st century is it necessary for women to only leave their eyes on view? I as a woman find it demeaning that any woman should in the name of modesty cover themselves from head to foot in black. Should not Muslim men be equally modest?
Jayen, Kirkcaldy, Fife

It is a terrible thing that a woman in a hijab is seen as a threat and not a woman in a bikini
l, Isle of Man
I was very pleased to see the issue of hijabs being presented by Panaroma tonight. Such programmes will hopefully educate and integrate us into a British society unaware of Islamic principles and views other than those presented in the media. It is important that such programmes are pursued so that people can judge for themselves what Islam is about instead of being presented with only one version of Islam that of some of the tabloid newspapers, only then will real integration take place.
Nadia, Manchester, UK

I see a lot of comments about how threatened people feel about the veil yet no one complains about skate boarders (and their dress code), punks, Goths etc.. Why the discrepancy?

Also to those who point the finger about Muslims not integrating. I went to a school, where it was 50-50 amongst Asians and whites. In two years all the whites left because they didn't want their kids hanging with Asian kids.

It's rich when people here talk about integration when they go to foreign countries like Spain and call everyone 'Manuel; and don't integrate or bother to learn the language. In fact there's a word for that isn't there? Little Britain.
Jallal, London

I found this programme very accurate in showing the struggles of Muslims today. I am not a Muslim and I do not feel threatened in anyway by woman wearing hijabs. I find it very disappointing that some viewers think that the Muslim community is trying to enforce their beliefs on others. They are not trying in anyway to do such a thing and such views are greatly misguided. I feel that those people who say that they are not trying to integrate are ignorant. These Muslims talk English, they follow the law and they wear a veil. They do not enforce it on others. It is a terrible thing that a woman in a hijab is seen as a threat and not a woman in a bikini. I would like to know how more are Muslims meant to integrate. A Muslim woman walking up the street with the hijab is showing her beliefs, but in no way repressing yours.
l, Isle of Man

To build trust you need to be able to see as well as speak to people. Body language is very important. If you see somebody in a veil or a mask, its a natural human reaction to think 'they don't want to bother'.
Dave, Wycombe, UK

I found the programme a bit confusing, patronising and worrying. Your programme showed that multiculturalism is nothing more than a joke and that the longer we pretend that it exists in this country the more intolerant we are all going to become. I am tired of religious/minority groups patronising British society with their views. Who cares what they wear or why they wear it. We all have equal rights in this country and mine is: I don't care!
Raymond Manookian, United Kingdom

I found this programme disturbing in that it portrayed Muslims in the UK as victims. (They are not.) To that end It will reinforce this misconception that Muslims need to oppose the establishment from the Muslim point of view. And that Muslims cannot integrate (which they do) to the non Muslim Population. So thank you BBC. Once again you offer an insight into a problem that does not exist. And in doing so the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims just got bigger after 11 O'clock tonight.
Ahmed Patel, Batley, West Yorkshire.

I did not mind seeing women in the veil but to cover their whole face I perceive as secretive
Paula McGarry, Chester-le-Street
A few weeks ago I attended an 'Any Questions' in Sheffield. A woman in the audience - obviously Muslim - was totally covered, even gloves and only her eyes were visible. My immediate reaction was offence. Analysing my feeling I realised that because I could not see her face I could not size her up. It was as if she was either trying to be invisible or simply hiding behind a sham. Islam does not demand that she cover up completely. I saw it as her choice. I did not mind seeing women in the veil but to cover their whole face I perceive as secretive. No, the average Muslim does not integrate.
Paula McGarry, Chester-le-Street , England

Islam is the religion that worldwide people are trying to understand. Personally I believe that why bother indirectly trying to access something. If you want to understand Shakespeare, read his plays because that's where he is. If you want to know Islam it's totally logical that you read the scripture. I think read the Qur'an and all the misconceptions, curiosities, rumours about Islam will be answered for. Never judge a religion by its people. Judge it by its book.
Noreen, Birmingham

The programme was a big disappointment and will only perpetuate intolerance and racism in the UK. For "Muslim women in the UK" read Asian. Why did you not include any non-Asian person, for example a Caucasian or a black Muslim Somali, Nigerian, or Tanzanian. The lawyer with Ugandan roots should realise that Idi Amin's (a Muslim) excuse for kicking her parents out of Uganda was due to the failure to integrate with the "host" population. The hijab did not feature at all. The "Truth" lies in the heart and not what you wear.
William Ang'awa, Sunderland, England

Ms Arani represents people who think it is acceptable to kill Jews and non-believers. Even if she does not share those views she can hardly be surprised that those of us who fall into those categories are concerned to hear her tell Muslims that there is a war and they should "rise up".
James Hilley, Wembley, Middlesex

While the programme rightly exposed a great deal of ignorance about Islam among the majority population, there seemed little recognition among the Muslim community of the damage being done by fundamentalist Islam or the preachings of Imams such as Abu Hamza or Sheikh Mohammed Bakri of Al-Mujaharoun. The careless language of the lawyer representing Abu Hamza also does not inspire confidence. Surely, a pertinent question must be: would Christians in an Islamic society enjoy the same freedoms which are open to all religions in this country. I am not convinced that the answer is "Yes".
William Lawrence, Surrey, UK

Why do we all continue to criticise our fellow humans' approach to find peace? Maybe it is time for Christians and Muslims alike to accept the likelihood that spiritual enlightenment is attainable through all the religious disciplines. "Real art is religion, a search for the beauty of God deep in all things" Emily Carr.

Stop this religious apartheid.
Grant Morrison, Reigate, Surrey

I thought this evening's programme was just the type of thing that our society needs to accept Muslim women for who they are and what they believe. I have a huge amount of respect for the four women who took part and who expressed their views articulately and honestly.
Felicity, London, England

I have never watched such a one-sided, biased programme in my life. This was a BBC whitewash job on Islam
David Logan, London
I have never watched such a one-sided, biased programme in my life. This was a BBC whitewash job on Islam. No mention was made of the negative side of Islam - the British were portrayed as oppressive bigots while the Muslim women were shown as all sweetness and light. Interesting too that a car flying the Cross Of St. George was used as a menacing symbol. It makes me sick that my licence fee paid for this Islamic propaganda. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
David Logan, London, UK

Having lived and worked overseas and respected the traditions of the countries I have lived in, I feel or expect visitors to my country to respect my country's traditions. I was never aware that I had any prejudices but I am now feeling I have and that makes me feel extremely unhappy. It is a completely new feeling for me, and one that dose not sit very easily with my total ease with all nationalities religions etc.
Carole Davies, Manchester, UK

The biggest problem is that people have come to judge Muslims simply by the clothing that they themselves 'choose' to wear as a symbol of their religious conviction. They are in no way promoting the cause of the terrorist, as some would say. If clothing is to be the yardstick by which we measure individuals, then why is it young women who wear, for instance, mini skirts, and black knee high leather boots aren't branded prostitutes... traditionally such a dress code is identified with the women of the night...
Maz, Leeds

It should be a matter of choice. When you are not accepted because of the colour of your skin, you still need an identity. You are British so can't take on the identity of the country your parents came from. So you take the identity of your religion. It's the only thing left. This does not mean that you do not integrate. It means you integrate fully but still have an identity.
R Jumma, Yorkshire, England

I have worked in N.I. and it is not acceptable to wear a mask or balaclava because of the unknown behind the eyes and the "veil". I feel threatened when the face is veiled. Today's Panorama is the worst ever. The producer gave 95% time to Muslims. Where was the balance? I have worked in Blackburn. Why was it not possible to ask the views of indigenous Lancastrians? Nearly everyone on camera was Asian. This Panorama was a political con - those on camera had their own political agenda and were allowed total BBC access with minimal balance (BNP and clergyman). The producer needs to be questioned on his personal agenda. The BBC is being hijacked and standards no longer exist. Tonight's experience casts doubt on Panorama as a clear and impartial view on local and world situations. I will never trust Panorama again.
Peter Masting, Perth - Scotland

I am disappointed that the programme only gave one side of the argument. That the Muslim faith in my eyes is wanting English people to comply with their religion and play by their rules.
Gary, Sheffield, England

I am an Irish Catholic... I empathise with the struggle/conflict that faces young British Muslims
Sean Patrick Fitzsimons, Wakefield
I was happy to see young Muslims forging an identity for themselves which is for the most part stronger than the identity of young white British people. I am an Irish Catholic, born in the north of Ireland, yet have grown up here in England. I empathise with the struggle/conflict that faces young British Muslims, I feel that the same conflict of loyalty between faith and society has affected my community in many of the same ways as that of the Muslim community.

Nevertheless it is heartening to see that the prejudice and discrimination of a minority of white British people only serves to drive young Muslims and others such as my self to strive for more.
Sean Patrick Fitzsimons, Wakefield, England

The hijab being worn by Muslim women means submission to Muslim men, and acceptance of themselves as Muslim women being less worthy than Muslim men ("a degree above women" according to the Koran).
Brian Andrews , Doncaster, UK

I found this programme interesting as it shows the way British Muslims reacted to public opinion after the events of September 11. However, I would like to point out my experiences after September 11 - I had to pass through a Muslim part of Luton on my way to and from work and I felt very threatened by the Muslims there. No one ever said anything to me but the men in particular, glared at me and made me feel very uncomfortable. Unfortunately I had no alternative route to work so I made a hijab out of a pashmina my boyfriend gave me. Only then, when I looked like a Muslim woman, did I feel safe in that part of Luton.
Yvonne, Luton, Bedfordshire

When I go into banks I am asked to remove my motorbike helmet or they wont serve me... so they aren't the only ones who have problems
Chris, England
I generally have no problem with the veil except when driving how can witnesses to incidents tell who is driving? Also when I go into banks I am asked to remove my motorbike helmet or they wont serve me and at some petrol stations they wont even switch on the pumps till i have removed the helmet so they aren't the only ones who have problems. They aren't being treated any different to anyone else who covers their face in public. Try it with a balaclava and see how you get on.
Chris, England

The repeated shots of cars bearing England flags for the Euro 2004 is emotive and irrelevant to the point being presented. At best it is absolutely pointless. At worst it is inflammatory to those perhaps not understanding the importance of the freedom of an integrated society. Totally irresponsible.
Helen Fowler, Camberley, Surrey

I would like to comment that of all the current affairs going on in Britain at the moment why Panorama has spent time on "clothes worn by some Muslims". This really is disappointing and very boring, how many British people want to know about this. I think the producers need to choose more important topics when making future programmes.
Garry Macphee, Scotland

I find religious clothing offensive. The priest's collar and the hijab alike. Maybe they should all grow up, face reality and admit that there is no god. The world would be a better, more moral place, if they did.
Tim Wood, London, UK

A thoughtful and intelligent insight into Muslim values and cultures: a pleasant change from the usual stereotypes.
Elizabeth Penny, Wigston

This was an excellent programme which was very effective in trying to put its messages across. It is a shame it was not broadcast before the elections.
Nicky, London

I find it worrying that the Muslims featured in tonight's programme are so determined to impose their views in British society. The wearing of such a veil is a separatist action which should not be encouraged in educational establishments. If such an act is required in order to conform to a particular belief or religion, it should take place elsewhere. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, all visitors must conform to the laws of the land and such an equal amount of cultural respect should occur in this country.
Caroline Davies, Manchester, UK

Nobody but nobody should be allowed to wear masks, veils or anything else covering their faces in public places, schools etc.
J. Hoff, Haarlem, the Netherlands

Congratulations Panorama for successfully highlighting the reasons behind the veil. The British public needed to know Islam didn't oppress its women, nor are Muslims all fundamentalists. It also highlighted very well why Islam is the fastest growing religion. Keep up the good work!
Mohammed Lambat, Leeds

I liked the way the programme showed how Muslims can do things which make them confident about having a Muslim identity, but at the same time appreciate that they are part of a wider community.
Rory O'Connor, Staines, England

Why is it that Muslims don't seem to be able to, or want to integrate themselves into the society in which they live in? The Sikh and Hindu communities seem to be able to manage it whilst still retaining their identities and culture.
Darren Mountford, Rugby, UK

Thanks for showing your programme about four Muslim women. It was good to see the other perspective. Thanks
Saara, London, UK

I was very happy to see a documentary put on about such a subject as I feel that it allows the society to understand Muslims better.
Sumaiya Patel, London

The media is making such a big issue regarding the hijab. Inwardly is has deep spiritual meanings, while outwardly, it is simply clothing. In the Sun newspaper during any week, you can go from a picture of a Muslim lady in hijab, to a topless lady from Newcastle. Clearly, its a matter of choice (whether religious or social), and has nothing to do with integration.

Having travelled to the Middle East often, and particularly to Dubai, I have never seen any UK ex-pats make an effort to 'integrate' with local culture and values. Why then are Muslims who live in the UK, and choose to wear the hijab, labelled as people unwilling to integrate?

We should respect the choice people make. This principle is embodied in UK law, but sadly fails to make its way to the streets of this country.
Ahmed, London, UK

Covering up
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