Monday, July 19, 2010

Banning the Burka is Wrong - Do You Agree?

I see the whole issue of banning the burkha has reared its ugly head again. I've written about this twice before, back in January this year, when UKIP adopted the policy and also in June 2009. Having reread both posts I don't take back a word. I don't agree with a ban, and these excerpts from those two posts, hopefully explain why...

Until the last few years very few muslim women in Britain wore the burka or hijab. Why have they taken to doing so now? Feminists believe that they are being enslaved and that it signifies being owned by a male. Others believe it protects female dignity. The one thing we do know is that nowhere in the Koran does it say that women should wear the burka.

I don't like banning things and I want to uphold the right to freedom of expression. Seeing women wearing the full burka may make me feel vaguely uncomfortable but that is not reason enough to ban it. However, it is a symbol of cultural apartheid. The message it sends out is clear: I don't want to be part of British society even though I live here. The burka further ghettoises the women who wear it. But is that enough reason to ban it? We'd never ban a sari, but then saris don't shield a woman's face, do they?


Two further points. Burkas should indeed be banned by employers if they wish. How can you possibly teach wearing a veil covering your face? How could you be a social worker or TV presenter? In addition, the police and airport security must be able to order a woman to show her face if required. Jack Straw was right to feel uncomfortable when he had a burka wearing woman at his surgery. I would have been too.


Western women who go to Saudi Arabia are required to respect the dress code of the country and clothe themselves accordingly. Our liberal values don't require the same in return. Sometimes we may be too tolerant for our own good.


The day a woman can wear a bikini on a beach in Saudi Arabia will be the day I will totally accept the burka.

And from January...

We ban too many things in this country, and to ban someone from self expression is not British. Everyone has the right to dress in their own way. Why not ban punks from wearing safety pins, or goths from wearing eye liner? Go the whole hog and ban nuns from wearing habits! At least UKIP would then be consistent.

Don't get me wrong, I wish muslim women didn't wear the burka. I wish they didn't feel the need to set themselves apart from the rest of society. We should encourage integration into mainstream society, but it is clear that an outright ban on them wearing the burka would not, by itself, achieve this. Indeed, it could achieve the direct opposite. That is not to say that as a society we should treat burka-wearing muslim women from anyone else - airport security is an obvious example. But like Jack Straw, if I were conducting an MP's surgery, I would insist on being able to see the constituent's face.

The question UKIP have yet to answer is how on earth would such a ban be policed? I gather the ban would extend to what you are allowed to wear in your own home! Astonishing!

Feminists argue that the burka is a repressive form of dress and that muslim women are forced to wear it by their menfolk. That may be true in some cases, but I doubt it is any more common than white men forcing their women to slap on the makeup before they go out - which is also a form of repression. The fact is that a growing number of muslim women - even those born and raised here - are wearing the burka, and they are doing it out of choice, not because they are forced to.

Let's carry out a quick poll. Click HERE to vote on whether you think the burka should be banned.

UPDATE: Someone on Twitter just asked what I thought about Tesco banning hoodies. I have no problem with Tesco, or any other private organisation, deciding to ban something. I also have no problem with airports or banks banning anything covering a face. I do, however, have a problem with the state getting involved in freedom of expression.

UPDATE: The poll result is Yes 44%, No 56%. And quite right too.

40 comments:

Paddy Briggs said...

I believe that all of us have the right to dress as we choose - within the boundaries of decency and commonsense. So if women for whatever reason want to dress all in black from head to toe, like Queen Victoria once did, that's fine by me. HOWEVER the issue of the veil, the full covering of the face, is not about dress. The covering of the face is a negation of individuality and it removes that person’s distinctness and personality. I lived in the Middle East for many years and I saw many women who covered their hair and wore traditional Islamic dress but who never covered their faces. I never had a problem with this. The face is the person – it is the principal source of identity and it is with the face that we communicate.

Covering the face is an abomination and the French are 100% right to ban this practice – and we should follow suit.

Dick the Prick said...

Keep a total smoking ban though, eh? Even though the stats when given the 3 options of ban, owner's choice or no ban at all, don't support the ban which is costing jobs and shutting boozers.

Ban the burqa? Cui bono from that?

Caron said...

I've voted no not because I'm a fan of these garments in any way but because the idea of a ban is outrageous.

I wrote a post last week in which I basically rewrote a tabloid report about the French ban replacing the word burqa with football top:

http://carons-musings.blogspot.com/2010/07/football-tops-to-be-banned.html

Imagine the outrage if anyone were to suggest that!

Roger Thornhill said...

A law to control womens' clothing to prevent someone controlling womens' clothing is irrational.

Paddy Briggs said...

"I have no problem with Tesco, or any other private organisation, deciding to ban something."

So if Tesco decided to ban Gays from their stores that would be alright?

Mark Wallace said...

I've just written about my opposition to the ban here: http://www.crashbangwallace.com/?p=76

The banning of the burqa would be even more un-British than the wearing of it.

Jabba the Cat said...

Liberal stand up comedian Pat Condell has a very clear and no nonsense take on the burka ban situation here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlkxlzTZc48

It is worth watching all the way through.

Jared Gaites said...

Ban it just out of spite I say. Muslims need to be put on a short leash.

Lady Finchley said...

Bans on anything are indeed a slippery slope but my God, I hate the things and it winds me up to see more and more of them on the street - mostly because it is a political statement. So, I am afraid yes, I support a ban.

Jabba the Cat said...

"I think this notion that somehow this is a religious symbol, a Koranic requirement, is nonsense."

Imam Dr Taj Hargey, Chairman of the Muslim Education Centre

Dr Hargey has just been interviewed on Sky News and offers one of the best condemnations of the burka nonsense that you will ever hear.

Jimmy said...

"Covering the face is an abomination and the French are 100% right to ban this practice – and we should follow suit."

So obviously beards would have to be illegal and hairlines would have to be regulated. Presumably exceptions would be made for glasses if medically necessary but what about sunglasses? I foresee enforcement difficulties. Still it would have the effect of preventing a lot of Muslim women from leaving their homes, which will certainly be one in the eye for those fundamentalists.

How about banning Philip Hollobone instead?

The Purpleline said...

Iain- would you be happy if people started wearing Nazi uniforms in public (Ed Balls)?

Would that be allowed and if it is why?

Why was the UK press and most commentators up in arms when Prince Harry wore a Nazi Uniform to a fancy dress party.

You guys cannot have it all your own way.

My opinion for what it is worth is these wearers of the Burqa are doing so to show their anti British feeling, they have clearly chosen the hard line tough Taliban/Alki Aida approach to us infidels.

It is a silent protect vote, I can understand it, if it is because they want to retain modesty, it is tantamount to calling all English men rapists.

The Purpleline said...

Iain, while here I forgot, lets ban all the face recognition camera's and save a fortune.

We know going into the City of London that we are caught on 300 camera's, no point if we can all wear veils over our faces.

It will save Money as well. But hey do not worry when a terrorist strikes, we saved a minorities youmin rights to travel in disguise

Ian said...

Like many, I am wary of formally banning any form of attire. The precedents are not good, such as the banning of the wearing of the kilt after the 45 Rebeliion (anyone been to an even vaguely Scottish Wedding recently?) although I do find it slightly delicious that a piece of legislation would seriously annoy the Moslem population whose philiosophy and beliefs ,which if I am honest with myself do not welcome into these Islands

However I do take the views that individuals and corporate bodies are right in seeking a dress code in their own property without recourse the the race relations laws.

The Burka is an instrument of control and possession by Moslem men over Moslem Woman and it should be made clear that its wearing meets our strongest disapproval in all facets of our public life.

I would suggest for instance that Education Authorities make it clear that the wearing of such attire would not permitted in our schools or indeed the very stupid Moslem compliant Police Uniform we saw modelled the other month

Roland Deschain said...

Crime doesn't just happen in airports and banks. No-one should go around with their face hidden. Ban motorcycle helmets (except when riding), burqas, Ku Klux Klan outfits, anything that covers the face other than for medical reasons.

But don't single out the burqa. It'll just provide another grievance for those constantly on the lookout for them.

Robert said...

"So if Tesco decided to ban Gays from their stores that would be alright?"

A bit of an extreme example and fairly impractical to enforce, but to answer your question; why wouldn't it be alright?

Consider it this way; would you rather-
A Know an organisation was anti-X (which you object to) so you could take your money elsewhere.
Or B Said Organisation be compelled by law to hide their anti-X beliefs so that you unknowingly endorse said belief by spending your money there?

I'm NO on banning Burqas but with the caveat that private organisations should be free to ban or allow it as they see fit.
This should also apply to smoking btw

Unsworth said...

@ Paddy Briggs

"So if Tesco decided to ban Gays from their stores that would be alright?"


And the external manifestation of Gays is what, exactly?

heritage listed said...

I am sorry but wearing the full burka is totally alien to English tradition and culture. We take our cue about whether to trust someone from watching the expression on their face.

There is already a ban on the wearing of certain clothing in shopping centres such as hoodies, so if it is required for us to obey that, then they should too. If they are not comfortable in conforming to our culture then perhaps they would be more comfortable in a purely islamic state. And we are not that ... yet!

caradog said...

Freedom is a shared thing - if you remove somebody's freedom to do what they want (in reason), somebody will ban something you want to do.

Dave said...

When visiting a friend in prison recently, there was a woman in the queue in front of us. She was a muslim, dressed from head to foot in black, with a full face veil and just a slit for her eyes.
I saw her prison visitor's ID. Her photo was of a person in a burka. It could have been anybody. The prison contained terrorists and yet the Prison Authorities allowed this person (male or female? Who knows?)to enter the prison.
If a white male tried to enter the prison wearing a hoodie and scarf he'd have been given short shrift.
Ban the burka now.
How can we have one rule for us and another for muslim women?
Allow the wearing burkas and you destroy any argument for security cameras.
You can't have it both ways.
Either the burka is banned or CCTV must go.
They can't have it both ways.

Dr Kevin said...

But its not about freedom of expression - i have no problem with someone wearing a black sack over their head if they want to

But we all know this is not about the freedom to express yourself - it's about misogynistic Islamic men FORCING women to cover up

And going along with this misogyny just gives these men leave to carry on repressing women

My wife is a doctor - and on several occasions she has had to deal with Muslim women covered from head to foot in black. During one incident my wife had to carry out an intimate examination - the husband not only insisted he stay and watch ( in close up detail) but also that my wife had to carry out the examination without the muslim women lifting her veil.

At one point this husband went out to talk to his wife's brother (who came along too !!!) and the woman was in floods of tears - but my wife was forbidden to talk to her unless her husband was present

I have great respect for you Iain but i am very sad that you really think this is about freedom of expression. Its about forcing women to be chattels and i am gob smacked that a someone who i thought valued freedom should go along with such misogyny

i just wish our politicians would get a bit of backbone. whittering on about the British way as damian green did yesterday is code for allowing discrimination to continue

Paul Halsall said...

I think the default position should be not to ban anything. And I certainly don't think women walking down the street in a full veil should be banned. That being said, I can see a reason to ban a teacher and many other professionals from wearing a full veil at work. The are also reasons to insist on openness at exams and in banks.

My views would change, however, if the full veils became a cover for the commission of terrorist of criminal offences.

OTOH, I can see no reason at all to ban the hijab (the much more common form of veil).

Davieboy said...

Definitely ban wearing it in public; it's threatening, intimidating and those wearing it are saying "screw you" to non-Muslims in a totally malevolent and sinister fashion.

Gallimaufry said...

I propose a compromise. Let them wear niqab face veils or burkas just as motorcyclists wear full face helmets in the street. But also make it a right to refuse service or admission unless the face covering is removed.
If women still want to wear things for religious/cultural reasons then couldn't they be microchipped like dogs and horses so their identity can be confirmed?

The Purpleline said...

As the new coalition government does not have a problem I have started a campaign to have a national burqa day suggesting 25th September where we can all wear a veil with pride.

Twitter campaign starts here
@purpleline #Natonalveilday

As X said in the Great Escape I plan to create chaos all over the UK to hav ethe goons runing around after us all. Or words to that effect.

SO even ugly people will wear a veil with pride and might even pull. It will be fun and the government will get the message when we all wear a veil and a sheet over us and take photo's of government buildings go into banks public places you name it, we wear the veil. I might even start the march from Maida Veil (vale)

For those who twitter get teh twitter campaign up and running

Jabba the Cat said...

Following on from my earlier posting, here is a segment from Sky interviewing Iman Dr Taj Hargey on the subject of the burka ban.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nql1eTMRRA8

digitaltoast said...

Ian, I can't tell you how disappointed I am in you.

In fact, I was going to illustrate my points with much the same as what has been posted in the comments. I'll quickly re-iterate them anyway:

The only requirement that they be worn is by bullying men.

Women who don't wear them often suffer beatings.

Women who do wear them often suffer mental and physical problems, including rickets.

Are you OK with people walking down the street, perhaps in front of a school, naked?

Are you OK with people walking around in Nazi uniforms?
Both are symbols of a form of fascism (yes, they are, look it up).

And as someone else asked, so would it be OK for Tesco to ban gays?

Someone else posted a link to a Pat Condell video - I'm with him all the way.

Ian, I strongly urge you to seek out some Woman's Hour podcasts from Radio 4, and also a recent edition of The Moral Maze, and listen to women who have suffered with this medieval symbol of subjugation and separateness.

I don't know what's happened to Conservatives since the election.

Gove slagging the BBC, Lansley slagging Jamie Oliver, the lunacy of ringfencing aid to India with its nuclear, space and even it's own aid programmes, rapidly expanding economy and high number of millionaires.

I feel badly let down by all of you.

john in cheshire said...

Should the burkha be banned? Yes, yes, yes.
And all other alien attire that the influx chooses to wear; and doing so, demonstrates their contempt for us, the indigenous population.

Wallenstein said...

February in the Lake District. Barely above freezing, wind howling in off the fells, proper brass monkeys weather.

I put on my woolly hat, pulled right down to my eyebrows, lift the collar of my jacket to cover my ears, and wrap a scarf around my mouth and nose.

Only my eyes are visible, but I'm warm and cosy.

I wander along a public footpath through a hamlet - i.e. a "public place" - but according to some commentators I am now engaged in an anti-british "abomination" by not showing my entire face.

I meet a fellow walker on the way - we exchange greetings, somewhat muffled but easily heard, yet I'm somehow being offensive to my fellow wanderer.

The whole "ban the burkha" argument is utterly insane... there may be circumstances where I need to remove my scarf so that I can be identified, but the idea that I should be banned from walking down the road with just my eyes showing is just bizarre.

Ban the burkha, ban my anorak.. what's the difference?

digitaltoast said...

I should probably clarify in my earlier post I wasn't equating nudity with fascism! That was just badly worded.

Wallenstein wrote:
February in the Lake District. Barely above freezing, wind howling in off the fells, proper brass monkeys weather.

I put on my woolly hat, pulled right down to my eyebrows, lift the collar of my jacket to cover my ears, and wrap a scarf around my mouth and nose.
.

Er, yes. You wear it because it's cold. Not because you've been bullied into it. If you walked around in it all summer, people would thing you were a bit mental but that would be your choice.

The difference is your scarf isn't being used as an in-your-face political statement of separation, and you're not beaten for not wearing your scarf. More to the point, you can choose whether or not you wear your scarf.

Yeah, great. I'm alright, Jack.

David said...

Muslim countries are very conservative. Muslim men dominate their culture & don’t tolerate the debasement of their women in various media while they feel less obliged to proscribe against our women in this way, feeling that if we wish to tolerate what they would regard as an affront to the dignity of their women & culture then that is our problem. Some Muslim men do enjoy such ‘services’ if it’s on offer & let’s face it, it is. There’s an issue here of hypocrisy & the question of why such men find it necessary to proscribe against their women when they should be practising self-restraint in accordance with their holy book.
Some of the original members of the Women’s’ Lib movement now speak out against the loose & lewd behaviour of modern women, arguing they are effectively prostituting themselves for men’s gratification without any input from men at all & that this is not what they were aiming for. I think it is the opposite of true liberation which by its nature requires self knowledge but also self-restraint. How difficult it must be for some fathers, brothers, husbands & boyfriends to seek to defend their women’s ‘honour’ when some of their women show no interest in preserving it themselves!
Anyway, the Burka. I will tolerate the loose body-covering (‘ jilbāb’) & the head-covering (‘ḥijāb’). The real issue for me concerns the face-veil or ‘niqāb’, which leaves nothing but the eyes for a person to see and relate to on a human level & in the case of women from NW Pakistan/Afghanistan is a fine cotton grid rather than a gap through which the woman looks.
I agree that it’s generally 'un-British' to ban things. Nonetheless we do: murder is banned and rightly so, as are many other unacceptable forms of behaviour. For me the issue is that the veil or niqab is completely foreign to the British way of life: it is un-British & obviously hails from & belongs to a different culture & religion. Is it not generally true that western women are subject to Islamic law regarding appearance & behaviour whilst visiting Muslim countries?
The price of our freedom & democracy is that sometimes we must defend the right of others with whom we disagree if to do otherwise would undermine it. I don’t believe there exists due reciprocation of our values from Islamic countries & as such I don’t believe this principle applies here, not least because I don’t think we should take lessons in our own land from cultures where intolerance and cruelty are rife, with common practices we would never accept here, such as the practice of so-called holy men inciting crowds to murder by stoning adulterous women to death. It’s medieval and barbaric. Why then should we, in our own country, bend over backwards to be so much more accommodating and allow this ‘niqāb’, so alien to our culture, when clearly many of us find it extreme, anti-social & threatening...and never mentioned in the Qur’an either?
I believe the vast majority of people native to Britain, especially England, now feel so put-upon, their rights & interests so side-lined in comparison to some new immigrants, that a real tide of anger & frustration is taking root & at its core is the overwhelming impression that some of those that choose to settle in our country view our culture & language as base & immoral, below theirs & that as such it should & will be ignored & if necessary debased as & when they see fit. If we choose to allow this then more fool us. It’s our choice, it’s our culture and one that for years to our cost we’ve failed to protect & nurture. Hence we’re within our rights to set certain rules for guests who wish to avail themselves of our hospitality & our liberal and generally tolerant values (by comparison with most cultures, for all our faults). It is with regret therefore that I favour the banning of a small constituent part of the burka only, the face-veil, or ‘niqāb’.

ranter said...

what a load of handwringing nonsense e.g Wallenstein's comment. No similarity at all between a person out walking in freezing weather conditions and female muslimist wearing a mobile tent. The differences are clear. The message from the latter is also clear. I agree with Paddy Briggs - and I never thought I'd say that!

Houdini said...

You like most others have went rantinglng overboard in supporting your own haven't you?

There is no question of the burka being banned as you have have tried to announce has there?

Giving others the simple courtesy of allowing them to ascertain identity is the point.

Unsworth said...

So if it's OK for some people to wear Burkas, is it OK for others to wander around the streets naked?

Nick said...

I'm not a fan of burka's but I wouldn't ban them. There seems to be a presumption that Muslim women would ultimately take them off. I doubt it, rather than integrating them into the communities I think they would continue to hide their faces, but now it would be by staying at home. That would make them even more isolated.

Jimmy said...

"is it OK for others to wander around the streets naked?"

If it's that important to you, but a decent warning would be nice.

Paddy Briggs said...

Final Comment:

More heat that light on this one. Iain and others have confused Islamic dress with the veil. Few, including me, would have problems with the former. Many, certainly including me, think that the latter is an abomination.

There are millions of devoutly Muslim women in the world who dress modestly in line with their beliefs but never wear the veil . The veil is the problem not Islamic clothing - why can't people see the distinction?

comradepowell said...

I have no strong feelings on the veil either way, and am of a broadly libertarian persuasion, but I even I accept that a society has the right to insist on basic rules of attire, or lack of it, in public. After all, I am not allowed to walk down the street naked (not that I'd want to, but some people do), because my individual right to freedom of expression is outweighed by the individual rights of others who would be upset by it. I would apply the same criteria to the veil; if it really offends so many people, stop people doing it.
By the way Paddy Briggs what the hell are the "boundaries of decency and commonsense"? Sounds like a euphemism for "whatever I think is appropriate"?!

Jeff999 said...

"I have no problem with Tesco, or any other private organisation, deciding to ban something"

Daft comment.

If they wanted to ban gays, you would of course be against it. This is why we have anti-discrimination laws.

Your statement implies that you do not believe that discrimination by style of dress should be covered by anti-discrimination laws, not that you believe a private organisation can ban any 'something' it does not like.

So where do you draw the line, when it comes to dress codes? I rather suspect that you can't and the rules will be arbitary and unfair, and therefore likely to be challenged by human rights legislation.

joe.erber said...

Describing makeup as oppressive in ways to the Burkha is lazy equivalence and intellectual dishonesty Iain.