Does the Hijab Matter?
    In all the coverage of the French decision to ban the display of religious symbols, particularly the wearing of the hijab by Muslim women and girls, little or nothing has been said about why it is so important to the religions that they maintain these practices.
    The overt signs and symbols of religious affiliation may appear to most people to be of little importance, Many would take the view that keeping a woman's beautiful hair covered to prevent inflaming man's passion is trivial compared to the divisiveness of banning it in state schools, but this is not the only or even the most important issue.
    The daily rituals of dress, diet and prayer are crucial to the maintenance of beliefs built on superstition. They are part and parcel of the conditioning and reinforcement process, necessary to keep otherwise rational people believing in the irrational and supernatural even when it is against their own best interests. They are the same psychological techniques that are used in hypnosis to bypass the rational mind, that bases learning and thinking on knowledge of facts, science, experience and observation. The triggers they use are essential to keeping people believing in their particular set of beliefs.
    What else explains the apparent willingness of intelligent, educated, otherwise rational human beings, to ignore the lessons of history, the conflicts, torture and killing and the suppression and exclusion of women, and current cruel and violent effects of religious sects throughout the world?
    And the explanation is not too difficult to see.
    Like the team shirt, songs, and chants going to matches and following the stories, legends, gossip and iconic figures, the books and paraphernalia of football, the religions keep their teams 'on-side' using the same devices. Dress codes, the wearing of the hijab, turban, or skull cap; dietary or culinary stipulations against the eating of pork, or mixing foods; and the ever present visual displays of icons, pictures or symbols are daily 'triggers' reminding them regularly of the beliefs systems to which they 'belong'. Football, music, pop culture may use the techniques as part of the entertainment industry, but when they are used by religions, fanatical political regimes, charismatic preachers, political tyrants and military leaders, the effects can be far from entertaining.
    Religions use the same powerful induction techniques that are used in hypnosis, in which 'authority', 'parent' or 'shepherd' figures introduce the concepts, myths and legends to vulnerable, insecure and trusting individuals. Loving parents instil beliefs into their children, they are helped by family and friends, authority figures of their church, the faith communities in which they may live, and later in the schools they go to, their teachers and the dominant religions, sects and cults of the wider society. This is why the religions will never voluntarily give up their efforts to maintain their own schools and religious teaching in all schools, on the pretext that it is 'good'.
    We are social beings and need the security of society at some level. The religions use this need and threaten to punish, physically still in some countries, but more often by exclusion to those who reject their message and the power it has over them.
    The strength of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and cults that have what they call a 'rich tradition' (of 'triggers') lies in their constant attention to keeping the religion at the top of the personal agenda. The individual attention to the daily requirements of dress, food and prayer, reinforced with visual, sounds and smells, not to mention their family relationships and social support, make it all but impossible for many people to leave their religions. That so many do is a testament to what the human mind is capable of. Though it is often some traumatic event in their lives that disrupts the carefully built up pattern of trance-like religious observance