Sunday, June 28, 2009

Banning the Burka: Racist, Populist or Just Plain Right?

It wouldn't surprise me at all if Gordon Brown thought that emulating Nicolas Sarkozy and banning the burka was one way of boosting his electoral popularity.

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.


Unknown said...

So Western cultural imperialism seems an apt response?

belial said...

Banning it? Hasn't it just been made Speaker?

Oh sorry, my mistake. I have a feeling that for centuries it's been illegal to wear a mask in public. Could one of your learned readers advise?

matthew said...

just out of interest, what do you think if you altered your final sentence to say 'the day a woman is allowed to go topless on a beach in saudi arabia...'?

it's such a difficult issue.

Acer said...

There are other areas as well. Many shops, banks and other businesses require customers to remove crash helmets for sound security reasons. Why not the burka?

Scattershotter said...

"The message it sends out is clear: I don't want to be part of British society even though I live here [...] But is that enough reason to ban it?"

I would say no. If people aren't hurting others, I don't think they should be compelled to conform. I also worry that legislating against it would spark a campaign of civil disobedience, which would help no one.

I hate it too, personally. You'd never see the dominating class (in this case men) in society voluntarily hide their identity and individuality, only the submissive ones. There is, unfortunately, a lot of things to hate in this world, but far fewer things to legislate on.

Half eyed Scottish idiot said...

Driving should also be banned - there is no way you can drive safely with a burka on

Nick Griffin ate my hamster said...

Christ Almighty.

If Nick Griffin had uttered that load of rubbish you'd go absolutely mad.

Try coming up with a coherent, consistent response to muticulturalism and mass immigration for once in your life.

David Bartlett said...

I worked in Blackburn and wrote the stories about Jack Straw and his comments about veils in 2006. It was a very surreal experience as the country went veil mad for about a week. I think he was right in the manner which he raised it, the truth is veils make a lot of the population feel uneasy. But I'm not sure that banning the burka is the right reaction. It is precisely because we don't ban things like the burka that makes Britain different from Saudi Arabia. Maybe we are too tolerant for our own good, but should we really want it any other way?

jailhouselawyer said...

It should be banned. It sounds to close to Berk Cow...

Chris Paul said...

Make your mind up. There are plenty of bikinis on beaches in Muslim lands already. So do you accept the Burka? Why do you think Gordon's got this in mind? Or are you just at it spreading tribal nonsense again?

Sten Hankewitz said...

I'm afraid that day will never come, however :)

I wanted to say two things. Firstly, Gordon Brown would never ban a burka. Because, considering that about 107% of his electorate are Muslims, he would lose any vote NULAB could get.

Secondly, it would be outrageous to ban a burka if it were a religious symbol. It would be outrageous if, for example, kippahs were banned. Or cross neclaces. But it's not a religious item, as you point out, and you also said, indeed, very eloquently that it symbolizes the feeling that "I don't want to be part of British society even though I live here".

Banning things is, however, never a solution, banning would more likely create defiance. What is beyond me, however, is that some people actually come here, they refuse to learn the language, they want to behave exactly as they did back home, no matter how intolerable it would be in Western society, and they don't even think that there's anything wrong with it. And moreover, they demand to be accepted as such, or else...

And when those people outnumber the ones who actually appreciate Western values, that will be the doomsday.

Doktorb said...

Banning the burqa would certainly bring Gordon Brown entirely in line with those he wanted to attract with "British Jobs for British Workers".

If this is a route he wants to take, may he do so with more thought than the foresight he showed over 10p tax, etc, etc...

Lady Finchley said...

I, too, am not comfortable with 'banning' anything but my God it is tempting. They are not a religious necessity - they are merely subversive, a way of asserting their separateness. I can just about tolerate the headscarf - after all, religious Jewish women have the shetl and you still have a few Catholic nuns who cover their heads but please do not tell me that burkas are anything but a symbol of oppression and 'in your face' separatism. They have no place in Western society.

LM said...

the day Sarkozhy approaches his wife's right to take her clothes off with some women's right to keep their clothes on is when I realise this is not about Racist Hypocrisy

Nikostratos said...

Didn't the English ban the wearing of the Tartan once That wasn't very successful was it.

Suppressing a peoples national or Religious Dress is not going to help bring people together.

But then do you want to?

From and after the first day of August one thousand, seven hundred and forty-seven, no man or boy within that part of Great Britain called Scotland, other than such as shall be employed as officers and soldiers in His Majesty's forces, shall, on any pretence whatsoever wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland clothes, (that is to say) the plaid, philibeg or little kilt, trowse, shoulder belts, or any part whatsoever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland garb: and that no tartan or partly-coloured plaid or stuff shall be used for great coats, or for upper coats: and that if any such person shall presume, after the said first day of August, to wear or put on the aforesaid garments, or any part of them, every such person so offending, being thereof convicted by the oath of one or more credible witness or witnesses before any court of justiciary, or any one or more justices of the peace for the shire or stewartry, or judge ordinary of the place where such offenses shall he committed, shall suffer imprisonment, without bail, during the space of six months, and no longer: and being convicted for a second offense before a court of justiciary, or at the circuits, shall be liable to be transported to any of His Majesty's plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years.

Ross said...

The Burqa is horrible, but you can't give the government license to decide what people can wear.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

Banning the Burka in public places like court, getting a licence, a bank etc is perfectly apt. No one else can cover their face so why should Muslim women be special?

Rich Tee said...

That wouldn't go down too well in Bradford...

Anonymous said...

its not a question of banning something - its a question of giving people the freedom NOT to wear something.

What should e banned is the brainwashing and intimidation which makes people wear it.

BTS said...

It certainly ought not to be banned as that would be in direct contradiction to the freedoms that democracy is supposed to support, however, there are times, which you mention, when it is wholly inappropriate. Do banks have the same policy for burkas as they do motorcycle helmets?

Morus said...

I think the answer is to tolerate the burqa, but not to go out of our way to accommodate that choice

If you'll forgive what our American cousins call 'diary-pimping' this was my take on the story:

digitaltoast said...

Great minds think alike, Ian!
Just this very afternoon, Pat Condell asked the same question. Good vid - doesn't leave you in any doubt about which side he's on!

But he also asks where are all the feminists on this issue?

Administrator said...

Liam Murray said...

What would you think Iain if you read a sentence like this:

"The message of the bikini is clear: I'm available for sexual activity"

I'm guessing you'd reject it completely, & rightly so. With that in mind are you still comfortable with this:

"The message [the burka] sends out is clear: I don't want to be part of British society even though I live here"

I share the reluctance to ban things but lets get our reasoning straight...

JuliaM said...

Not racist - Islam isn't a race.

Certainly populist - mainly with those who haven't thought it through, or who thnk yet another law is the answer to every problem.

Just plain right? Well, let's see: "We think your menfolk oppress you by telling you what to wear, so we're going to free you by telling you what NOT to wear.."

Yeah, can't see anything wrong with that.


JuliaM said...

Oh, and: "Until the last few years very few muslim women in Britain wore the burka or hijab. Why have they taken to doing so now?"

How many still do? I reckon it's still not many.

Anonymous said...

We should all be wary of banning things and particularly wary of beating up on minorities. However the burka is something that can be - and, in many cases, simply is - imposed upon Muslim women. It is not necessarily a choice. Rather, it is a tool used by extremists to alienate Muslim women from society (thus rendering them more easily controlled) and to alienate the Muslim community in general from integration into the wider British nation.

As I said, I'm very wary of the hysterical bansturbation that's so in fashion nowadays but the burka is one of the few things that probably should be banned. A ban would be the first step towards liberating Muslim women from their status as second-class citizens in this country.

Anonymous said...

How about a man wearing a bikini on a Saudi beach?

Pete B - Pete's Politics Blog said...

"Our liberal values don't require the same in return"

That's precisely because our values are liberal. Saudi Arabia doesn't allow women to dress how they wish to because they are an illiberal state.

someday said...

Stupid burka photo

hatfield girl said...

The nuns at school wore a close-fitting starched white linen cap that hid their hair completely, a black over- veil, long black woollen dress to the feet and a black woollen cape to the waist. No-one complained. It's pretty standard nun-wear. Their faces were bare, but otherwise they wore the upmarket version of a burka.

We had black woollen dresses but no veils except in chapel, and our hair had to be tied back severely and lifted above the collar. Dress is not anyone's concern but the wearer's and if we chose to accept dress disciplines who are others to interfere?

Anonymous said...

Why do we have to continue to apologise? This is England did you know that? Too soft for our own good. I find them extremely distasteful. Any one who wants to ban them gets my vote. We have to accept their customs but they don't bother about accepting ours. We change our laws to accommodate them and when we don't they still go on arranging marriages against their offsrings wishes. Fed up to the back teeth of playing second fiddle to migrants.

Plato said...

I agree with you.

I have no problem with the vast majority of cultural dress traditions - orthodox Jews with curls, Buddhist monks in saffron or Rasta dreadlocks and on and on.

What I don't like is the total separation from our society that the burka brings. The security angle is a complete process red-herring.

As a female, I also really don't like the inference that the only way to be respected/honorable/decent is to be entirely invisible unless in the company of those who deem it acceptable.

I'm sure there are women who like the idea of the burka and what it represents - I am however more concerned about the peer pressure/social acceptability that many others feel they must conform to.

At the risk of inflaming the subject further - it's like the Wee Free dress code taken to extreme.

Those who wish to live in a burka'd society have plenty of other affluent societies to express themselves such as Saudi.

On a related note - I have travelled extensively in Muslim countries and have been appalled at the misogynistic and lecherous attitude of many men if one wears anything that even hints you have a chest bigger than two fried eggs.

*puts on tin-hat*

Anonymous said...

Such very poitically correct answers how awfully spiffing, don't want to upset any one now would I?

Lola said...

I have absolutely no objection at to the burka at all. Just as I have no objection to Turbans or bowler hats come to that.

But, if the law says you have to wear a crash helmet and you won't because of your turban, tough, you can't have motorbike. Similarly, as facial features are an integral part of ID checking, no UK passport for you if you insist on wearinga burka.

Similarly if the Saudis say you can't wear a bikini (not that it'd suit me you understand) then fair enough, it's the Saudi's country.

When in Rome etc etc

Tom said...

I suspect this is a "bully pulpit" issue rather than a banning one. Although I believe that a business should be entitled to enforce a dress code which may involve asking someone to remove a burka (unless, I suppose, there is some extenuating circumstance such as facial disfigurement...).

They are insulting not only to the women who wear them but also to the society it conceals them from.

Lola said...

Anyway Gordon hasn't got this on his 'mind'. He hasn't got a 'mind'. He's got a tribalist deceit machine that doesn't think or analyse other than on politics.

Cynic said...

The issue for me is one of choice

If a woman chooses to wear a burka she should be free to do so.

On the other hand if someone is seeking to make her do so she should have very support to resist that and refuse.

Bishop Hill said...


Don't ban the burqa, but don't forbid people from discriminating against burqa wearers.

Unfortunately, neither Labour or Conservatives will do this. The issue will be swept under the carpet and the BNP will reap the benefits.

Paul Halsall said...

You seem to mix up the hijab, the burka, and the niqab.

I might not be at all happy about the many messages implied by the use of any of these kinds of veiling. Then again I might not be happy about Orthodox Jewish women shaving their hair off and wearing wigs. Or (admittedly rare these days), Catholic nuns wearing veils. In terms of "message" - all carry implications about the meaning of "modesty", the possession of women's bodies, and the implied attack on general society that I reject.

Yet for any freedom-minded person, this is clearly an area where the state should not intervene.

Veiling, btw, is not mentioned in the Qur'an, but it is in the Hadith, and it really is up to the members of the various Muslim sects how they interpret their own religious texts.

While I agree that veiling is a sign of women's oppression, it is clear many Muslim women subjectively want to wear them. In other words, from my point of view these women (along with their entire families and cultures) may be said to have a "false consciousness".

But the notion that other people have a "false consciousness" that must be changed (conscientisation) strikes me as a Marxist concept which is best not used as basis for government policy.

crewegwyn said...

So if we ban the burkha do we then ban the niqab? Or the hijab? Or nun's wimples? Or hoodies? Or studded leather jackets? Or ......

IntenselyRelaxed said...

Burkas. Terrible things. They mean I have to drink my pint through a straw.

Mark M said...

We shouldn't ban it. We should be asking why they are choosing to wear it, and is there anything we can do change their minds.

We're meant to be a free country and that includes anyone wearing what they want. However, if there are circumstances that mean muslim women choose to wear it when they would prefer not to, then we should look into it.

If we ban the burka, should we not also ban halloween masks? Where would you draw the line on headgear?

Paul Halsall said...

Google ads, by the way, served up "The Hijab Shop" for this post.

Isn't it amazing that the one thing bloggers cannot discuss on their own is "google ads". I suppose all regular readers should know that they should tip the hat to the blogs they read by clicking the ads, but the bloggers just cannot say so!

Max Atkinson said...

I fear you’re on dangerous ground here, but I agree entirely with what you say – even though I’ve recently been involved in a blogosphere debate about some of the more absurd myths about the supposedly overwhelming importance of body language and non-verbal factors in communication (most notably the claim that only 7% is communicated by the words we actually use).

Elsewhere, however, I’ve sought to distinguish between physical facts and fiction – i.e. what does and doesn’t matter when it comes to communicating with others – and I’ve never been in any doubt about the importance of facial expression. Why else, when the cheerful smiling Ronald Reagan was President of the USA, would General Secretary Gorbachev have enrolled for smiling lessons?

On the rare occasions I’ve interacted with women wearing burkas, I’ve felt an uneasy sense of guilt about not paying as full attention to what they are saying as I should be doing in a conversation.

This is because I find myself being continually distracted by other thoughts, like wondering why they are wearing them, whether I’m missing out on anything because I can only see their eyes and whether the quality of their lives is diminished by the fact that so many of the people they speak to can only see their faces. And, while thinking about such things, I’m presumably not not being as attentive as I ought to

I would be the last person in the world to say that burka wearers are excluding us from 38% of their communication (as perpetrators of the Mehribian myth would have us believe) but I do think Burkas raise some very tricky issues.

Unknown said...

I have also blogged on this today after being appalled at how a woman on the Big Questions was subjected to some pretty horrid bullying.

There are a whole host of different forms of islamic dress, the burka being the most concealing. I would never choose to wear one, but on the other hand nor would I ban it cos I don't think that's the right thing to do. You have to go to where people are if you want to change their behaviour. A woman wearing a burka might make you feel uncomfortable but ultimately does not harm you in the way that someone smoking next to you would.

I remember hearing an account from a woman from an islamic country where there were very strict expectations of dress who had been married off at no age to some geriatric who wasn't very nice to her. Her burka was anonymising enough for her to be able to take some wry pleasure in being able to walk down the street past her husband's shop to meet her lover. I know that she faced horrendous consequences if she got caught so I'm not joking about it. It does go to show that maybe the burka is a symptom rather than the cause of the problem and there are much more serious things to deal with.

JuliaM said...

"A ban would be the first step towards liberating Muslim women from their status as second-class citizens in this country."

News to me. Please point to any UK legislation that defines Muslim women as 'second class citizens'.

The Grim Reaper said...

If Polly Toynbee was forced to wear a burkha at all times, everyone would soon realise just how useful an item it really is.

Rob said...

I'm not really in favour of banning things but no-one should be allowed to cover their face when entering banks, post offices, shops, the dole queue, etc. In these places people need to be identifiable. Wearing a headscarf is fine because at least these women would still be identifiable. It's not a religious requirement of islam so they cannot argue they are being discriminated against because of their religion. Just because generations of Arabs enjoyed oppressing women doesn't mean we should permit it here.

prj45 said...

"Western women who go to Saudi Arabia are required to respect the dress code of the country and clothe themselves accordingly."

Please don't start arguing that this is the right and proper thing to do.

If so maybe you should move to Saudi if you'd be happier with the mono culture there, but don't start wishing it would happen here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Iain,

I wrote about this a few days ago. Sarkozy's statement was an easy attack on a complex issue government has no place in regulating.

RantinRab said...

If I owned a shop or similar, burka wearers would be asked nicely to get the feck out of my shop. Simples.

Greg said...

"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."

Says who?

Have you actually asked any burka-wearing women?

Sir Sven said...

Thing about Ken Livinstone and the Burkha to 25th June - Livinstone was interviewed on Newsnight the other day)

nick said...

Brown would never risk it. It would deny him the multiple votes of "community leaders". Of course some of these votes are cast on behalf of women who are denied the opportunity to take a full part in society by their male-dominated cultural traditions, which is more of an issue.
It's odd that Harriet Harman doesn't seem to have an opinion on this, given that she's not usually too reticent with her feminist views.
If it's compulsory to remove a crash helmet in, for example, a bank or a petrol station the same rules should also apply to concealing your identity in other ways. Other than that, let's not ban things just because we don't approve of them.

Sandy Jamieson said...

Some three months ago I was in the queue at my local HSBC Branch. Two people in front of me was a woman in a Bhurka. I must admit I am always slightly uneasy in this situation. Through the doors came a motorcyclist carrying his helmet. Seeing the woman in a Bhurka, he put his helmet on, only for a member of staff then approaching him to ask to remove it. He quite rightly said, “I’ll agree to your request, if you ask her” Of course the staff member did nothing of the sort.
The question is, has the motorcyclist being racially discredited against?

I am finding myself more and more as seeing the large number of Moslems in Britain as ” the enemy within” Harsh words I accept but with opinion poll after opinion poll of the Moslem population showing outright hostility to British Middle eastern policy in respecting for instance Israel’s right to exist and our involvement in Afghanistan. I would also suggest that there is also a hidden element of support for extremism that does not reveal itself in polls.
What people do in their own communities and homes is their own concern. I am not the only one mildly concerned when I see someone in the Bhurka in our streets. I have similar concern over the masculine equivalent. Others will not doubt find such attire far more offensive and alarming seeing them as potential suicide bombers
As for President Sarkozy’s ideas, “Vive la France”

Weygand said...

You have to wear a helmet, if you ride a motorcycle.

It is illegal to wear a police uniform, if one is not a police officer.

You would be arrested for walking in the street wearing see-through trousers or no trousers at all etc etc.

What clothing one wears is already regulated by law.

Banning the burka is not a question of establishing a new legal principle but deciding how one applies that which already exists.

Alan Hood said...

I am British but I live and work in Saudi Arabia and have done for many years. One thing which might be of interest is that there are more and more Saudi women working these days. If their job is a receptionist, for exmaple, where they have to deal with the general public they are often not allowed to cover their faces.

Iain you are right in saying that in the Quran it does not say that women have to be veiled but just to dress modestly and the same goes for men. Western women here do not have to wear a veil but most wear out of ease an abaya which is like a black cloak or coat.

Gordon Brown said...

Say, tomorrow, the Government banned the wearing of the Burqa in public. How would you enforce it? It would be like the fox hunting legislation - it just wouldn't work. Couldn't we strongly discourage the wearing of it and make it difficult and impractical for anyone who tried to?

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

You say "Jack Straw was right to feel uncomfortable when he had a burka wearing woman at his surgery. I would have been too."

Fair enough, but consider I and I am sure many others would feel uncomfortable if in Jack's surgery and he was not burka-ed up himself. This issue is very complex indeed.

BG said...

Yes, you should not wear a face-covering burka if you are a teacher or a nurse. BUT I AM TOTALLY AGAINST BANNING THE BURKA DRESS.

I am not muslim, or asian, I am a white Englishman in my thirties, and who are am I tell someone else what to wear?

It does not bother me one bit, if someone chooses to wear a burka or whatever.

It is NOT AND NEVER WILL BE the government role to dictate to people what clothes they should wear.

What on earth is a difference between a Burka and a Nun's religious dress?

If we value freedom and human rights, then we should oppose any government moves to ban certain clothes.

Anonymous said...

Just plain right! Nuf said!!Next subject!!!

Anonymous said...

Given a choice between banning the Burka and banning the people that wear the Burka, what do you think the average Briton would say?

georgeorwellslittlesister said...

The burka and all face-covering garments are a political statement of otherness - a refusal to mix with the society into which you have CHOSEN to move.
Whether this choice is voluntary on the part of the woman or is inflicted on her by surrounding males, matters not a jot or a tittle to the host nation.
However, with the will and imagination, our British bureaucracy can soon make such political posturings more trouble than they're worth.
'Elf'n'safety cqn have a field day: for starters, restricted vision when driving or escorting kiddies across the road. Constant recycling of breath leading to respiratory infections, which are passed on to children, then to schools and of course their male relations' workmates.
Banks and building societies should refuse them service as they do motor cyclist wearing helmets.
Employers providing jobs where human interaction or high levels of hygiene such as in food production are required could ban such outfits in the contract of employment. Flowing garments are a danger wherever machinery is used.
That puts the ball firmly in the wearer's court. If her religious or political sensibilities are stronger than her desire to obtain services or a job, then there are plenty of other countries that are prepared to accommodate her beliefs.
I must say that I find the deafening silence from feminist rather intriguing.

Fausty said...

The label "racist" is losing its meaning and clout, because it is wheeled out on the slightest, most remote pretext. When comedians are labelled "racist" for making remarks about the French, you know things have gone too far.

We have Labour to thank for that.

And we have Labour to thank for the rise of burkas.

I don't think burkas should be banned, any more than nuns' habits should be banned - except where identification of the individual is vital. That would be a curtailment of our freedoms.

Instead, we should not be letting in so many goddamned muslims - their ways are incompatible with ours. And I'll be someone will call me a racist for saying so!

Anonymous said...

I find bermuda shorts really objectionable, should we ban those too? Hoddies? Fat women who wear leggings? T-shirts with stupid slogans on them?

john miller said...

The berk is a real red herring. Everyone is asking the wrong question.

Question - you have come to England, but you don't speak English. Should the taxpayers support you for the rest of your life?

Question - you have come to England, but you don't speak English. Should the taxpayers print everything in your language so that you can understand our laws, customs, street signs, etc.?

Question - you have come to England, but you don't speak English - should you give your postal vote to your tribal leader to vote on your behalf?

Forget the berk- has anyone in England ever really cared about what women wear (well obviously I was really keen they all wore minis when I was 18)?

We care about many other things hidden behind the smokescreen of the berk.

Devshirme said...

The burka and hijab are only required in the Hanbali school of Islam - generally described as being the most extreme, although all the schools are actually extremist by Western standards. The increasing frequency of the burka/hijab is a symptom of the spread of this less 'moderate' variety of Islam, as a result of the Saudi-funded campaign of da'wa (proselytism) across the West.

Burkas are a useful warning sign of an urgent problem arising, and definitely shouldn't be banned. Instead, we need to take immediate action in communities where they appear to address the rise of extremism, isolationism, and hidden cultural hostility they are the visible symptom of.

And even more important, to check that the women really are free to choose, and not threatened with ostracism or worse should they go against the demands of their community. Remember, those born Muslim who decide they don't want to be are some of the most pitiable and vulnerable victims of Islam. Either living a miserable lie all their life, or facing the punishment for apostasy. They desperately need our support.

And can we end once and for all the myth that criticising religion is "racist"? Religions are belief systems, like Socialism or, yes, like Racism. There's no inherent reason why a religion cannot be genuinely worthy of criticism. And there are people of all races who are Muslims.

Anonymous said...

I think we should spread the benefits of burka-wearing more widely. It should go by households. If anyone in a household wears a burka, then all the adults in the family should wear one. For children, if a girl wears a niqab, then all her older brothers must wear one. Seems quite fair and reasonable to me.

Anonymous said...

The burka is now a symbol of islamic fundamentalism.You did not see it years ago in the UK,not till the hate preachers started.
It has nothing to do with religion or modesty and everything to do with hatred of the UK.It is not even a muslim invention as christians wore it before islam was born.

Javelin said...

I think the real target should be domestic violence against women. If women are being bullied into this then lets find out.

Anonymous said...

When you come across someone totally covered by a burka how can you be certain it is not a man?

Anonymous said...

Vive la France!

Anonymous said...

Mr Sarkozy said: "The issue of the burka is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women's dignity. The burka is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women. I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on our territory,"

Don't be fooled by this argument about women's rights and freedom as there is a lot more at stake than that. Politicians know that widespread appearance of the burka will increase the abhorrence of Islam amongst other cultural/religious groups. The proposed ban is simply a reflex action to defuse growing discontent about advancing Islamisation in western society.

Anonymous said...

"any more than nuns' habits should be banned"

Not sure how many nuns there are these days, never mind how many who actually wear habits , which do not hide identity in any case, when compared with burka wearers.

The point is nuns organise their own rules and their own hierarchy. Next time you look at the footage of Iranian muslims screaming 'Death to Britain' at their local mosque, just check out how many women there are. None. There is no place for women in Islam save for subjection.

Mike Law said...

Having been a councillor in Newham, I've had women in burkas turn up at my surgery and it didn't get in the way of my being able to help them.

I wouldn't ban the burka, but I do agree that there are circumstances when it's perfectly okay to request the wearer to remove it; and I don't think anyone should be allowed to wear one when driving.

Furthermore, what's going to happen when the country is policed by facial recognition CCTV?

I think it takes living somewhere like Newham to fully get a picture of what "multiculturalism" is really like: there are people from all backgrounds here, some want to communicate with the wider community, some just cannot be arsed and are happy to create their own tiny ghettos.

The most sickening aspect is that it's all a dream scenario for the Labour administration. By making overtures to each and every ethnic group and nationality (and passing on the myth that Tories hate anyone who doesn't happen to white and middle-class) they secure votes from the ill-informed.

Anonymous said...

"Instead, we should not be letting in so many goddamned muslims - their ways are incompatible with ours."

wtf?! That's so stupid it beggars belief.

Have pliers, will travel said...

I would rather stand next to someone wearing a burka than next to someone who fills their face, lips, & tongues with pins, needles, and other assorted junk. Ugghh!

Anonymous said...

Actually there is a clear case for making the burka compulsory for some Western chav women, who insist of showing off their immense (often tastelessly tattoed) gut between their crop top and ill fitting sweatpants.

In any case when our inevitable islamification completes in roughly 50 or so years then this will probably happen. And is a much bigger threat to our nation than global warming.

Tom said...

Grim Reaper, the Burka would only be useful on Polly Toynbee if she wore it inside her mouth, along with a straightjacket underneath to prevent her from writing anything.

Karl Marx fan said...

We are going down a very dangerous the road of bashing an already much-maligned minoirty - Muslims.

I wonder if this is a reaction to the success of the British national party. What we are basically saying is 'If we can't beat them, let's join them.'

We know where racist, minority bashing xenophobic you must speak English mentality leads to - the gas chambers in concentration camps.

BeenThereAndDunnit said...

Spot on Iain. It should be banned. There is no place for it in our society any more than there is for the fiction of multiculturalism. The hypocrisy of fully burqa'd up personnage (the sex of which being indeterminate) shopping at (Jewish) Marks and Spencer on Oxford Street always gives me a chuckle though.

Tony Blare said...

Tough on Burkas. Tough on the causes of Burkas.

Philipa said...

Yes wearing helmets etc. that obscure the face is already banned and there is legislation regarding dress so I'm against the Burqa for those reasons.

The religious reasons don't hold up, as you say, Iain.

For social reasons of er 'empowerment' well I don't understnad how hiding empowers someone. And they feel safe because men could be inflamed with passions apparently. And the world would be a much better place if we all wanted the same thing and - THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT - if women were told what to do all the time and could only leave the house with the permission of the landlord they were forced to have sex with, sorry, I meant her husband.

Yes, enslave half the population (or is it more?) and the world would be a much better place wouldn't it?

Ok so lets enslave men, let them all wear the burka and not leave the house until we women say so. No more wars, see?

Lady Finchley said...

For all those bringing nuns into it you will be interested to know that the Vatican many years ago encouraged nuns to dress modestly but not to wear habits so that they could fit in easily into the community and not alienate it by trying to be separate. Perhaps Muslims need to take a leaf out of that book. When in Rome...

No Society said...

I lived in Kuala Lumpur recently for over a year. Most breakfast days (Bandar Sunway) i mixed with females wearing the Burkha. But i noticed their attendances rather inconsistent, almost random. Many weeks past and i befriended most of the staff gaining trust and respect; i asked this question. "What is it this Burkha attire?" "Oh these people are not from around here. They are from Mid East mostly. In our country, Malaysia, wearing this dress is illegal for locals.”

Joe Public said...

Would shopping centres ban hoodies if the wearers were Muslim?

As they do ban hoodies; they have an obligation to also ban burkas.

The Jackson Four said...

yes, get rid of it

it's 2009 and we now know that there isn't an imaginary man in the sky keeping an eye on us telling us that women's evidence in court is worth half that of a man's etc.

It's time to evolve and leave all those religious muppets behind.

all that stoning of women and hanging of gays for fucks sake.

Cneifiwr said...

A few months ago I listened to a very PC programme on Radio 4 in which young Muslim women were talking about wearing the burka. Most of them seemed to parrot stuff along the lines of "it's a part of my identity". What nobody pointed out was that in the vast majority of cases their mothers and grandmothers had never worn one.

And one girl reported in tones of horror going on holiday to Morocco and being jeered at by the locals, who shouted "Al Qaeda", etc.

Good to know that it's not just the West that has a problem with this garb, and I suspect that if most of the British burka wearers had to live for a spell in Saudi, they would be happily burning their shrouds when they landed back at Heathrow.

Solution: don't ban it (except for driving), but give people the right to refuse to serve or employ burka wearers.

peter_dtm said...

we are an open face society.

Any one wishing to wear the burka should of course be allowed to.


They mus understand that being a non-sexist society they will NOT be given any special treatment when entering areas (banks classrooms etc) where wearing a full face covering is inappropriate.

This is the correct answer - wear what you want; but do not expect the country to in any way kowtow to YOUR freedoms at the expense of ours. Society is opem faced; if you don't like that & wish to wear a burka accept you will NOT be allowed in many places and will not be welcome in many others - your freedom should not impinge on societies freedoms

Anonymous said...

can you imagine for an instant a newly formed religious sect who have as their ceremonial dress merely a balaclava/knitted ski hat (eyes and lips only). Acceptance or outrage? The answer is rather straightforward

Uncle Albert said...

You don't need to ban it - just pass a law forbidding going out in a public place with your face covered. There would be exemptions for protective coverings of course (motorcycle helmets, surgical masks, industrial protection etc)but otherwise no arguments.

A similar law already exists in the US - ironically it was anti-racist in origin, being designed to prevent people marching about in white hoods.

strapworld said...

Well, I have felt as uneasy, as you iain, when I have been in area's where large numbers of orthadox jews live.

I certainly do not like the burka. I have read many letters and articles, in the press and on line, written by emminent muslim scholars who inform me that the Burka is not part of the Koran. BUT if we ban this dress - we must ban all other dress which makes the general public feel 'uneasy'

Black people wearing sunglasses all the time could be construed as threatening.

Grown men wearing football shirts could be construed as threatening and make one feel 'uneasy'

It is a mine field and we should just leave well alone.

Personally I would far rather have comedians make fun of the burka, sunglasses and football shirts on overweight men. THAT would stop people wearing them- when they become objects of derision!

Let us bring back the sarcism the British are great at! Throw out the anti democratic 'race relations legislation'

Anonymous said...

The bercow is a sad bit of gear and should not be tolerated lightly.

Iain Dale is my father said...

You're missing the point Iain.

For me this is about public policy. Ignore the religious angle - in my view a person's desire to do what they want in the name of their religion comes secondary to public policy - that's also the law btw, as evidenced by the cases concerning animal sacrifice etc....

So break it down. What's the Burka? It's an item of clothing that hides your identity by covering you from head to toe in cloth with only the slits of your eyes visible.

As it stands, the right to wear this is respected, and allowances are made.

Right then, if I want to walk around a shopping centre in a ski mask will I be challenged? You bet your arse I will! Why? Because people hiding their identity in a public place is against public policy.

So in order to treat everyone equally - as the left love to promote - the burka MUST be banned.

Hawkeye said...

Two things

One - I resent the implication that if I encounter a non-burqua-clad women, I will be so overcome with s*xual lust that I will lose all self control and foist myself on her. Maybe that is true in societies were men and women are kept apart, but it is not true here.

Second - There have been a few female suicide bombers in the Middle East that have hidden the bombs under these all covering clothes. If we had a "burqua bomb" would it still be OK to wear it?

JMB said...

"If I owned a shop or similar, burka wearers would be asked nicely to get the feck out of my shop. Simples."

Similarly if I went into a shop and the shop assistant was wearing one then I would leave and go elsewhere. If one of the supermarket checkouts had someone wearing one then I would go to the next checkout.

Anonymous said...

I thought Joanna Lumley had this sorted?

Adrian said...

I object to the burka. As you say, the Coran doesn't demand it, despite what the woman on Any Answers was claiming. Although my instinct is to say that people should be allowed to wear whatever they like, it's that attitude that has allowed Muslim men to increase the subjugation of Muslim women in this country.

My wife teaches many Muslim women and it's clear from her discussions with them that most of them wouldn't have started wearing the burka if it wasn't for pressure from their husbands, who come under a lot of peer pressure to get their wives covered up.

The most ridiculous example of burka-wearing is a staff member in a 95%-Muslim girls' comprehensive school here in Birmingham. She is clearly disrespecting the male members of staff by wearing the burka in the school.

And respect is an important word in the discussion. That women are showing disrespect by wearing the burka is a stronger argument against it than any supposed religious argument for it.

JPT said...

I saw a photo the other day of a family swimming at the beach, dad and kids in swimming costumes and mum wearing a burkha and black gloves.
It is definately oppression of women (who the bloody hell on a red hot beach would swim in a hood veil and gloves) and it makes me as a father of three girls very angry and even quite sad.

Unknown said...

We cannot simply ban the burka that would be totally counterproductive and simply increase the divide between British Muslims and the rest of society.
All British citizens should be treated the same and certain assumptions should be made with regard to how they conform socially.
For example we should expect that everyone speaks English and remove translation services from public services.

haddock said...

In my English culture the wearing of a mask to hide the face marks the wearer as having criminal intent.
There was an advert that ran on TV ( HSBC ?) that showed how keen they were to respect local customs/taboos around the world. It would be good if others would respect ours. I would remove my shoes before entering religious places if that was the custom of the place..... but if anyone enters my house they would be expected to remove their hat or head covering.... that is my custom/culture and I would expect it to be respected..... or they would stay outside.
I was talking to a friend who is in the Met, he reckons that as a shoplifting outfit the Burka is hard to fault....hide your hands and face, have voluminous folds to conceal and put any security guard/policeman at risk from someone screaming racism if he dares to confront the person. Man or woman, who is to know under that disguise.

Anonymous said...

"Feminists believe that they are being enslaved and that it signifies being owned by a male."

This feminist believes that's a very sweeping statement and that it really isn't as simple as that. While it may well be true in many cases, it's not always a husband/brother/father forcing women to wear a burka - there are plenty of women who've made the decision independently to start wearing one.

Alex said...

We've had trash TV, now we hae trash blogging masquerading as political comment.

Maria said...

Mr. Mxyzptlk: The English never attempted to ban the tartan - the British may have done. That would include those Brit Scots who quickly adopted the "Northern Britain" address for Scotland. An Englishman invented the modern kilt!

I always find it really amusing when examples of "English" unreasonable behaviour are dragged (thoroughly warped) from the distant past. Especially when one considers just how little immigration there is into Scotland and just how bigoted the Scots can be towards the English. Lucy Newman springs to mind. She had her face re-organised simply for sounding English last year.

Duncan Cookson said...

I almost didn't want to look at this comments thread for fear of what I'd find but I'm heartened to see the mostly reasonable contributions on here.

I would say don't ban it. I think if Britain hadn't waged the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there might have been a place for a discussion about wearing it in certain places like the underground for example but not now. It's as much a symbol of solidarity and defiance in the face of British foreign policy as anything else, one I sympathise with. I think the government should stay out of it. Sarkozy is pursueing it almost entirely out of populism in my opinion.

Nun's habits aren't a religious requirement and symbolise a disengagement with society. And if you're banning something on the grounds that it demeans women you're opening a whole can of worms. You'd have to ban The Sun for a start. Maybe it's not such a bad idea after all :)

And I agree with someone who pointed out that muslims aren't a race. We've got to be more careful about how we use that term. Not liking Andy Murray because he's Scottish isn't racist it's nationalist. In this case I think the term would probably be prejudice.

Anonymous said...

oooh listen to her!

HAving a bad day of the month Iain.

Alan Douglas said...

iain, your last sentence was all that needed saying.

Alan Douglas

JuliaM said...

While everyone's exercising themselves over whether we should ban a form of clothing or not (and I vote emphatically NOT!), what about the news this morning about the spread of sharia courts?

Let's get our priorities right, shall we...?

simon said...

Dear God- ANOTHER pointless debate. English culture etc; has been virtually eradicated due to the fact that to make the 'ethnic minorities'(uninvited by the people) feel 'welcome' they have been allowed to run riot expressing their own individual cultural identities. This will not be reversed so stop kidding ones-self. The establishment has conspired in this since day 1 and have just woken up to the fact that they should have been like the Islamic countries in allowing immigration. There is NO WAY Islamic countries would have let in so many immigrants from differing cultures. The tide has turned too much in the immigrants favour, and no 'mainstream' government has the will to do owt about it. No surprise there then!

FireForce said...

A friend, a lawyer in a heavly populated Burka area, says the Burka in part hides evdence that many of the married girls are in fact under aged, and this (the Burka)hides the sexual abuse,

digitaltoast said...

Sue said...
While it may well be true in many cases, it's not always a husband/brother/father forcing women to wear a burka - there are plenty of women who've made the decision independently to start wearing one.There are many women who've made the decision independently to become glamour models. Can I assume or infer your support of these women too?

Alex said...
We've had trash TV, now we hae trash blogging masquerading as political comment.Nothing to say then? Why not try engaging with the debate?

Anonymous said...
I thought Joanna Lumley had this sorted? Ha! Nice one :)

Anonymous said...

It is a fantastic disguise for a suicide bomber, and has been used very effectively in Iraq.

How do you know that a woman is wearing one?

Unknown said...

What an intriguingly argued post.

In 5 minutes searching I found this post on Lonely Planet:

You'll note that in the comments there's reference to bikinis being banned on most, but not all public beaches in S.Arabia, and that the various large hotels allow the wearing of bikinis.

Can we assume that you now accept the burka or would you be prepared to accept that your argument needs a little more work?

sobers said...

Could we not have a blanket (how ironic) ban on burqas, but a specific law detailing that it is NOT in contravention of sex/race discrimination laws for individual people/companies/public bodies to ban burqas on their premises if they see fit?

That way we empower individuals to make their own decisions. If a jewellers shop want to ban them (and motorcycle helmets) they can. Ditto banks etc.

Anonymous said...

"Have you actually asked any burka-wearing women?"

Somehow, I don't think it would be wise for Iain to approach a burka-wearing woman, walking two paces behind her husband through one of the more "diverse" parts of twon, and try to talk to her. Even if they didn't know he was gay...

Anonymous said...

I will not support the burkha until we have a full Spam Butterfly on Eastenders and an erect penis on Big Cook Little Cook.

torymory said...

The Burqua (and any head and or body coverings) is not part of the traditional dress of the majority of UK Muslim women who are of Pakistani/Bangladeshi origin.

Their mothers and grandmothers did not wear it. Look of film clips of say Birmingham in the 1960s & 70s -the new immigrant women wore a Shalmar Kemeez (a silky trouser suit), and the only head covering was a flimsy bit of chiffon - decorative not concealing. At my school the Muslim girls were happy to wear a tunic with trousers (we non Muslims then asked to be allowed to wear trousers as well!)

The appearance of the Burqu etc is a result of the growing influence of the more fundamental Wahabi Islam - which is prevalent in the Middle East, and North and parts of East Africa. This form of Islam is popular among the young, because although very strict, it allows choice in marriage - so long as your intended is a good Muslim.

Therefore young Muslims can defy their parents arranged marriage plans by becoming more virtuous and ostentatious Muslims!

I don't think it should be banned as such, but employers should have the right to demand it's removal at work. Similarly security, medical staff, police, teachers etc should have a similar right to ask for it's removal if it impeeds their work.

Anonymous said...

The Burqua (and any head and or body coverings) is not part of the traditional dress of the majority of UK Muslim women who are of Pakistani/Bangladeshi origin.

Their mothers and grandmothers did not wear it. Look of film clips of say Birmingham in the 1960s & 70s -the new immigrant women wore a Shalmar Kemeez (a silky trouser suit), and the only head covering was a flimsy bit of chiffon - decorative not concealing. At my school the Muslim girls were happy to wear a tunic with trousers (we non Muslims then asked to be allowed to wear trousers as well!)

The appearance of the Burqu etc is a result of the growing influence of the more fundamental Wahabi Islam - which is prevalent in the Middle East, and North and parts of East Africa. This form of Islam is popular among the young, because although very strict, it allows choice in marriage - so long as your intended is a good Muslim.

Therefore young Muslims can defy their parents arranged marriage plans by becoming more virtuous and ostentatious Muslims!

I don't think it should be banned as such, but employers should have the right to demand it's removal at work. Similarly security, medical staff, police, teachers etc should have a similar right to ask for it's removal if it impeeds their work.

Unknown said...

Anyone at all who thinks the Burka is a benign garment needs to read 'My Forbidden Face' by Latifa (readily available on amazon, tho the blog doesn't seem to want to take my tag)

I guarantee that you'll never, ever think a burka is benign ever again. It's not a difficult issue at all. It's a walking prison because the men of these countries can't control their own sexual drives and project their insecurities onto their women. And they get away with it.

Jabba the Cat said...

Pat Condell sums up the matter well here

digitaltoast said...

Peter said...
What an intriguingly argued post.

You'll note that in the comments there's reference to bikinis being banned on most, but not all public beaches in S.Arabia, and that the various large hotels allow the wearing of bikinis.

PUBLIC beaches, PRIVATE hotels.

Shall we take a close look at that page, Peter?

It's worth noting also here that women are not permitted to wear swim suits or bikinis on most public beaches. You have to wear full-length trousers and avoids any tangles with the religious police, as well as showing respect for the local
culture and sensibilities.

Notice that last line too? Or maybe that only applies selectively for you? Shall we look at some more local culture?

Diving for a woman in SA has its drawbacks.. on boat dives one sits on the boat quietly with abaya on ( and bikini underneath) until past the coast guard. Our diving qualifications are never requested as "woman do not dive"
Women don't drive, either.

One of my favorites is not being allowed to check into a hotel in Qatar (when we visited there) until we had surrendered our ORIGINAL wedding certificate to be photocopied by hotel personnel (certified copies from US county officials are not accepted)

There - are you feeling that cultural tolerance and goodness yet? You ever heard the phrase "cultural relativism"? If not, try buying a copy of The Fallout by Andrew Anthony. You never know, you might learn something.

Anonymous said...

What is this crap about being 'too tolerant'.

This is Britain. We're a free country. The freedoms we've fought so hard to gain are not contingent on the freedoms that other nations give to us when we're in their countries. Should we ban free speech just because N Korea doesn't allow it? So what if they have clothing restrictions in some countries. Doesn't mean we should have them here, its like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
The price of freedom is accepting things you don't like. Drinking causes public order and health problems...lets ban it shall we?? No I don't think so.

If you don't like people wearing something, then deal with it. Its not them with the problem its you.

To think, Dale actually wants to be a MP.

digitaltoast said...

Anonymous wrote:
"So what if they have clothing restrictions in some countries. Doesn't mean we should have them here, its like cutting off your nose to spite your face."

So where does cultural relativism end for you, anonymous?

Sharia courts? Female Genital Mutilation? "Honour" murders? Forced marriage?

Is there something difficult for you to understand about WHY so many people come to our extremely generous country? Because we offer the freedoms and benefits (in more than one way) that are denied to others in their country of origin. It's precisely because, up until recently (and with the shameful exception of the inaction over the Nazi-style burnings of Salman Rushdie's book) we have not tolerated intolerance in the UK.

Come here, work, enjoy our freedoms by all means. But if you don't like the way we do things, sling yer hook. Almost every other country in the world has this policy, and yet I bet someone will call me a racist for stating the obvious.

contrariwise said...

This is a genuine question - if someone is hit by car driven by a person wearing a burqa, what would the legal position be if the driver denied that it was in fact she behind the wheel?

Unknown said...

Who's talking about female genital mutilation and forced marriages?

The discussion was about whether the burka should be banned in the UK.

I would agree that by wearing an all-encompassing garment such as a burka that someone is sending out a signal that they don't want to be part of the wider community (although I would strongly argue against any nebulous wording such as 'British society').

I would suggest that other garments/clothing styles may send out similar signals. Do we want to ban those?

I would completely reject arguments such as "country (x) bans a garment (y) which people from our country want to wear in country (x) and people in country (x) often wear garment (z), therefore we should ban garment (z) in our country'. That's bad logic. In particular when the ban in country (x) is not as blanket as it's being portrayed.

I would completely reject arguments such as "by supporting the wearing of the burka you are supporting female genital mutilation". That's kindergarten logic.

The proposers of a ban on the burka need to make a better argument if they want to be taken seriously.

frankie said...

The burka also hides the bruises.

Forcing a woman to cover herself from head to toe - does not make a man chaste!!

Paul Halsall said...


The really worrisome thing, in the comments here, is that so few people seem to have recourse to basic principles. What a lot of comment comes down to is "I don't like it so it should be banned."

We I don't like the burkha or niqab either (I really can see no harm whatsoever in the hijab), but basic principles of liberty mean that the state does not constrain people to do or not to do things some other people don't like when no harm is caused.

This does does not mean that one has to accept any given Muslims reasons. [After all it is not only women who can be looked at sexually - lot's of Muslim guys have cute butts]. But it does mean avoiding the kind of forced "liberalism" that has such a tragic history in France.

Unknown said...

It is important to consider what exactly about the burka is discriminatory towards women. Should the same principle be extended to other religious head dresses, such as nuns' veils? Should the Catholic Church allow women priests? If accepting others culture is the way forward, should, as you mention, Saudi Arabia accept women in bikinis?

Is it easier to be equal if we ban all symbols, or if we accept all?

I think it's really important to get young people in Britain's view on this. Please check out our video on Sarkozy's proposal to ban the Burka for a young British prospective:



Anonymous said...

so your just a perve. as long as you get to see half naked women your happy. but gotd forbid they cover up their body so you can't see them. will nuns clothing be banned too then?


i don't get the "cultural apartheid" idea: are you saying that being SEEN in public, your face exposed, for example, all the time, one's only action that constitutes participation in society? Those women are by virtue of the work they do in the home and with families, especially in terms of providing the kind of stability where children may excel in British schools and contribute to the nation, are taking up the role they are comfortable with as British citizens. Aren't there more ways in which we might "be a part of" any society? i don't get it. oh well.