Tuesday, 17 September 2013
A thinly veiled threat
In the good old, bad old days, Bradford used to be a joke. It was seen as an aberration, not a prototype. We could tell gags about its imported alien culture because we were British and that’s what the British are renowned for. Unaware of words like ‘sharia’ and ‘taqiyya’ the very differentness was ripe for ridicule; now nothing is funny any more. And 'gag' has become a far more appropriate word than 'joke'.
In the great British scheme of things banning isn’t the natural instinct of we liberal (small ‘l’) residents of this formerly happy island yet during the recent reign of the ‘nice’ party the pace of proscription was frightening. So many things are now illegal that you’d think a burka ban would be simply nodded through, but no. No because religious sensitivity – only toward one particular religion, you understand – is a sacred cow. (Are we still allowed to say ‘cow’? It’s always best to check.)
In a world where you can be criminalised for offending somebody you have never met; for mere words which are simple statements of fact or perception; in a world where you must take care that your very existence is not cause for effrontery and people have been jailed for cracking an obvious joke, there is a sector of society which, even as their adherents kill and maim and rape is off-limits. It’s like the kid at school who never gets properly sanctioned because his father is a violent thug and teachers fear for their lives.
Outside Westminster yesterday the press gave air time once again to the burka ninja – with her cardboard signs, with her silent, sack-wearing sisters at her side, she spewed out her well-rehearsed but ill-thought-through rant. Breaking her English-born accent every now and then to break into guttural fake Arabic to pronounce words like kia-ora-an and to render burka as bu-ur-qu’a (for comic effect, presumably) she railed on about empowerment. She claimed that muslim women came to Britain to contribute and to show British women how to live. You want to contribute to an islamic world? Try Saudi Arabia, darling…
At the same time Anjem “Andy” Choudary, the former unstoned apostate now turned islamic nutjob preacher, spent the day tweeting from his iPhone such short-form homilies as “One day the UK will be ruled by Shari'ah law, then ALL women will be obliged to cover themselves properly & Judges will judge by divine law!” Nice to see we still have enough of a sense of humour to pay his smartphone bill.
Their women want to remain covered, cowed and controlled? Fine by me. These people and this behaviour are offensive and intimidating to a majority but the law won’t act; after all, it’s only non-muslims who are being offended. But there are some places and parts of society to which unidentified people really should not be allowed for the sake of others, their sensitivity and their safety:
Border Control. Driving test. Actually driving. Court appearances. Interviews. Welfare claims. Any work which involves customer contact. Staff or students at schools and colleges. Children’s playgrounds. Banks. Shops. These are all places where a covered face is at best uncomfortable for others and at worse pose a perceived if not an actual threat. Given that perception of offense is enough to charge a non-muslim with some sort of hate crime, there is ample precedent to implement not a ban, but simply enforcement of the same rules the rest of us already follow.
For the female and feminist perspective there is this considered view from Sarah Wollaston in the Daily Telegraph where she states, “Campaigners insist that the niqab is 'empowering' for women. Only in the same way perhaps as an invisibility cloak but if that is the case why is it not worn by men? Such nonsense hides the reality that in cultures where it is not a choice but a compulsion, women have no meaningful power whatever.” (By the way, the poll on that page has been hijacked by the islams – earlier in the day there was overwhelming support for choice.)
For those clinging onto libertarian leanings you might just remember that islam means, quite literally, submission. Put the boot on the other foot and the word you’re seeking is oppression. In plenty of actual muslim countries a simple headscarf is considered adequate – the burka is not a religious requirement any more than wearing a cross is mandatory for christians. This issue is being used as a divide and conquer strategy for those who are openly hostile to our hard-won freedoms (such as they remain). The fact that Judge Peter Murphy’s pronouncement on the burka-in-court case is a half-hearted compromise shows they are winning.