This comment came to me from Maria Gellert, a Swedish reader, in response to The Problem with Putting Veils on Little Girls.
I also found this article from Scientific American outlining the issues surrounding autism and Vitamin D (link no longer active). If the theory that lack of Vitamin is related to a rise in autism among populations who cover, I want to emphasize that the issue is Vitamin D deficiency during the mother’s pregnancy, not in childhood.
Muslim girls in Sweden usually don’t cover their faces. When it has happened, the social authorities ALWAYS intervene. What I wanted to point out was that when girls dress according to strict modesty, and cover everything except their hands (which are sometimes covered as well) and face. Neck and arms are always covered. Of course the are not allowed to go sunbathing in the summer, even though I’ve seen some do it with a burkini. But of course a burkini also covers the body very well from the sun’s rays.
I can see this for myself because I work in a primary school. Because Sweden strictly follows principles of religious freedom, this has never been a subject of controversy. But the last two years has seen debate in the newspapers. In Sweden a doctor and nurse follow every pupil throughout their school years, and recent studies have shown an alarming rate in different diseases related to the lack of vitamin D. Studies have also shown that grown women who cover have the same diseases, but in a milder version. Rheumatoid arthritis is one, and there is also an epidemic in autism and other diseases among the children of this community. All of this is now being linked to lack of vitamin D, and sun exposure.
In Iran the authorities are giving advice about how much young girls should be exposed to the sun to prevent this kind of problem, so this issue is well known there too. Now Sweden is a country which lies in darkness four months of the year, and this of course makes things much worse. This is not the case in Israel. If you follow regular tzniut customs, and only cover to the elbow and stay outside in the sun for some time every day you probably won’t be affected at all. But if you, like the cults you have been reporting about, cover every inch of the body whenever you are outdoors the medical consequences must be disastrous. I’m amazed that social workers have not confronted the parents who are doing this. And the adult women have a responsibility for the children they give birth to.