Lady Gaga, as she is globally known, slithers on to the stage wearing an ethereal creation of lace and net, throws back her head and begins to sing. The audience is enthralled and no one thinks, even for a fleeting moment, that she must remove the mask she habitually hides behind. HRH Queen Elizabeth takes her corgis for a stroll. It's not a very pleasant day at Balmoral so she wears a warm jacket, tying a headscarf securely in place for decorum. Who on earth is going to object? Some Christian orders of nuns wear head veils, not allowing a single strand of hair to show and this is viewed as normal. Arab men, particularly those belonging to the Gulf States, proudly wear their distinctive head gear wherever they happen to be and no one, at least that I am aware of, instigates laws to ban them. Likewise with Eskimo's enveloping parkas, American Indian headdresses and Australian Aboriginal painted face masks, the latter, when taken in conjunction with African tribal masks and face paint, surely being the origin of the face painting rage that has run amok in the west in recent years and, when someone's face is really painted, it is next to impossible to figure out their identity. The subject of who can and who can't cover their heads or faces in western public places has just about been 'done' to death and yet aside from pure, unadulterated sensationalism, there remain serious angles which, so far, have not been adequately covered. (No pun intended) If wearing of the burqa is completely banned throughout Europe for example, how will this affect the extremely small percentage of women who, for their own or their husband's reasons, prefer this mode of dress? Will they suddenly find themselves housebound, psychologically or physically unable to go about the daily business of a life they used to lead? Will they feel 'secure' enough to pick up their children from school as usual? Will they dare to venture anywhere at all showing a face that was previously hidden? Have the people pushing for this 'liberation' given any thought to the consequences for those it ultimately affects? How would the politicians, women's groups' et al, react if laws were passed banning them from wearing something they accept and take for granted as part and parcel of ordinary life? Then there is the issue of facial masks as customarily worn by desert dwelling Bedouin women: Western women's movements, when running short of missiles, often point fingers towards these nomads, vociferously decrying the 'torture' these 'poor women' are forced to endure in the name of Islam. Wrong ladies Very wrong indeed I once had the pleasure of sitting around a campfire with Bedouin ladies in the Sultanate of Oman where we shared tea, dates and feminine gossip. All five of them wore indigo coloured leather masks as their 'foremothers' had before them and so on back through the sands of time. The masks, with a strong central support over the nose and narrow eye slits through which their black, kohl lined, eyes danced, looked incredibly hot and suffocating to me until, that is, I was invited to try one on. Under the blazing desert sun, a drying, grit laden breeze, ruffling the fronds of the oasis palm trees, I found the mask had its uses. Uses known and understood for thousands of years and way before the birth of Islam. Desert life is harsh at the best of times, the sun and wind more so and these masks, the design of which differs slightly from tribe to tribe and region to region, protect the wearers face and eyes from the inhospitable climate. The design, evolved over thousands of years, is, largely, practical, although some long-term wearers do develop abrasions underneath. The Bedouin mask has nothing to do with Islamic practices and all to do with survival in extreme conditions. Members of western women's movements obviously have no conception of traditional Bedouin lifestyles which brings me to another 'overlooked' point. The oft quoted maxim: "When in Rome do as the Romans do" is casually applied to Muslim women residing in, or visiting, the western world. The reverse, surely, also applies. When female politicians, negotiators, aid workers and so on through the list to the few tourists still brave enough to visit our fascinating shores, set foot in 'The Land of the Pure' shouldn't they promptly don local garb in deference to local customs? Some do, admittedly, but most don't and female politicians think nothing of blatantly displaying naked legs whilst 'gracing' government functions and the like but, hospitality and broadmindedness being the names of the game....we do not raise a public hue and cry, nor do we demand them to cover up to hide our embarrassment. 'We' it appears, are far more tolerant than 'Them' The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist.