There are times when I feel like laughing about the growing religious intolerance in the UK, but this is too serious a matter to laugh about. If you think that there is no religious intolerance in this part of the world, just read the newspapers.

The latest incident is about a Muslim woman who was not allowed to attend a parent’s evening at her son’s Catholic school because she was wearing a full-face niqab veil.

The school rules required the removal of crash helmets, hoodies and full-face veils. The initial rule was amended to include full-face veils, because the school was aware that the woman was a parent and they wanted to prevent incidents such as these after the first incident two years ago with the same woman.

The woman was aware of the amended rule but decided to wear a full-face veil anyway.

Who was right and who was wrong here? Let us take a step back and ask different questions.

What did the woman want to achieve by wearing the full-face veil when she knew that the school would object? On the surface she wanted to simply discuss the progress of her child with the teachers, and it should not have mattered how she was dressed when this was her objective.

However, at the same time the woman probably wanted people to notice her veil and the flaunting of the school rules. For what purpose? Because she believed that wearing a full-face veil was an expression of her dedication? Because she wanted to confirm that there is freedom of religion and freedom of self-expression, or because she wanted to challenge the lack of freedom in that particular environment? Or maybe because her aim was simply to get people to respect her beliefs rather than challenge them?

Let us look at the other side of the situation. Why did the school insist on people showing their faces? If they were concerned about a security threat, surely a solution would have been to allow people to show their faces, give them security clearance and then give them access to the areas that they needed to visit? Was the aim of the school authorities also to get people to respect their beliefs rather than challenge them?

Either way, it is quite possible that both sides wanted to get their way at all costs, and of course conflict would be inevitable.

If it is so important for these parties to preserve their own identities, then both parties are equally guilty in this situation.

The Catholic school allowed a Muslim child into the school. The school then expected the child and its family to fit in with the school and the rules with very little consideration for the inevitable cultural clashes, especially with the child’s family who did not need to obey the school rules. Surely it would be far more reasonable for the school authorities to assume that the woman is an adult with the right to freedom of expression, and that it would be reasonable to expect the child, but not the parents, to obey school rules. The head mistress apparently also insisted on applying the rule of no full-face veils to one person in case a number of women wearing full-face veils simultaneously arrive at the school. Talk about creating a mountain out of a mole hill!

The Muslim woman sent her child to a Catholic school. As an adult she surely knew that there would be a huge potential for cultural and religious conflict by doing so. Should she have been far more willing to compromise so that she would make life easier for her child and for herself? She had the option of wearing a hijab or head scarf, but chose to create conflict.

From what I can gather wearing the niqab as opposed to the hijab is a matter of personal choice. Surely it would not be asking too much to change this personal choice for a limited period of time simply to support another choice that she had already made, namely to send her child to a school that supports a different culture and different religious practices.

It seems to me that both parties insist that the other bend to their will. Do they both want to achieve the objective of showing their Love of God by excluding other expressions of this Love? Is that religious tolerance? Is that Love of a fellow human being? Is that common sense and good judgement?

My personal view is that my every thought, word and action is an expression of my communication with God. For me, faith is not only expressed in what I wear or in the man-made rules that I choose to follow or in how I spend parts of a Sunday. My faith is expressed in my dreams at night and in my thoughts during the day. My faith is expressed in the clothes I wear as well as in my naked body, which only represents the container for my soul.

My faith is also expressed in observing but not judging how others express their faith. In this case both the school authorities and the Muslim woman have particular lessons to learn from the incident. I also have a lesson to learn from both sides, namely that the way people judge one another without Love is often much harsher than any judgement God would express.

I am sending Love to both parties and wish them clarity in resolving this conflict.

Author's Bio: 

Elsabe Smit is the author of for downloadable guided meditations, and of the blog, Spiritual interpretations of everyday life.