In anthropological terms, our facial recognition of each other is at the heart of our social structure. We don't sniff each others' urine marks, or listen for each others' calls. Our ability to recognise facial features in crowded public places, to stop and greet, to recognise and to acknowledge, is at the very fundament of social cohesion and social structure. So important is this, and so anthropologically ingrained, that even when we know there is no cogent threat, talking to someone with black sunglasses or a mirrored visor brings out involuntary threat reactions, and we must overcome urges driving us to fight or flee.
Most importantly, as a society and culture, both men and women are full members of our society and this right is indivisible. Even women such as nuns, whose uniform signals unambiguously that they are sexually unavailable, leave their faces exposed to signal that at the same time they are fellow members of the tribe.
Pearson's proposals in the Times are sensible. He is proposing to outlaw covering the face in all public buildings and places, and the right of owners and operators of private buildings to insist on uncovered faces. Motorbike helmets with visors, hoodies with scarves wound around the face, Niqabs, burkas and and all other non-transparent disguises would have to be removed before the wearer entered a post office, government or council office, NHS surgery or hospital, school, railway station, bus, tube, MP's or councillor's surgery. Airport and port operators, pub landlords, restaurant proprietors, retailers, supermarkets would have the right to refuse to serve, and to remove from the premises, anyone so covered.
Libertarians may regard as anathema a law that regulates how people look or dress, but I would suggest that in this they are mistaken; an exposed face, clear from brow to chin and from ear to ear, is so fundamental to the way in which we as the cultural subset of a species interact that flouting it is to defile us as if pissing in public were a 'faith matter'.
The Niqab and Burqa are not articles of Moslem faith, but in many cases a provocation, a deliberate attempt to defile our society. They disguise the signs of beatings and violence and offer an insult to all women. They promote not only terrorism but fraud and crime. They threaten us on our own streets and public places.
Pearson is right. They must go.