Monday, January 18, 2010

UKIP Are Wrong on Banning the Burka

UKIP keep telling us how libertarian they are - that they are the most libertarian party out there. I've never bought that. Their new policy of banning the burka/niqab is yet another example of their authoritarian, populist, streak. Had they announced it at the time of the French ban, at least you could say they were doing it out of principle. But to announce it now is as perplexing as it is disturbing. All it does it rip off one the BNP's most high profile policies and thereby appeal to the basest instincts of a certain part of the electorate.

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.

UKIP may have gained a lot of headlines with this policy, but they have lost a lot of respect, especially from those who understand the meaning of the word 'libertarian'.

UPDATE: A correspondent points out I wrote about this subject back in June 2009...
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.


Jabba the Cat said...

Your argument fails to hold water because the burka is an imposed piece of attire on women...

Anonymous said...

The people that wear the burka should take on the full consequences of their actions. So if a bank has a no covered face policy, then they can't use it. If their is an identity check, no compromise. If a man is doing the identity check then they must show their face. If they have a male teacher for their child then the teacher should insist that they identify themselves.

I also think they should be treated in the same way they want. They do not want to interact with society, then society should shun them as non people. If they find life intolerable then the problem was caused by them.

Anonymous said...

cheap and nasty policy from cheap and nasty party.

IanVisits said...

I saw a sharp rise in the number of people wearing the burka recently.

Oh, no I didn't - that was the cold weather and people so tightly wrapped themselves up in scarves, hats and sundry goods so that only a pair of eyes could be seen peeping through the layers of wool covering their face.

I hope UKIP is not planning to ban the woolly scarf.

About Yasin Akgun said...

Jabba I'm sure you know tons of Muslim women who wear burkas to come to that well researched and evidence based conclusion. (not).

A lot of women choose to wear it, Just because you or can not understand why they would choose to wear it, does not mean we should make up stories to try and explain it.

Unknown said...

Iain said:
"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!"
Surely it will be banned the same way we ban everything in this country these days. Just add it to the anti terror laws. Its for your own good you know. If you have nothing to hide etc etc

Unknown said...

This is like commenting on Liberal Party policy or BNP policy or Green Party policy - who cares - they're not going to be the government.

Ian M said...

The Burka in all its manifestations from minimalist to maximalist is no doubt the way many Moslem men impose their power on women. For some Moslem women, it is also their way of putting two fingers up to Western Society.

Indeed, the last time the British Government tried to ban a specific item of clothing was when the wearing of the kilt was banned after the '45 Jacobite rebellion. It wasn't particulary sensbile then and it didn't particulary work either

Rather than take the impractical policy of banning any item of clothing then individuals,retail, commercial, professional and Government Offices should, if they so wish be allowed to demand that no "hooded" clothing should be worn on their premises and that no action be allowed to be taken against them under the race relations laws

MrW said...

Tricky - on the one hand who are we to say what someone whould wear, however unfortunate? On the other hand - there is at times a security risk in allowing concealed identity. People need to be able to check against a passport photo at customs or to have access to helpful CCTV footage in a bank. I guess that the choice to adopt the burka bring with it necessarily limiting consequences.

It is of course a disgrace when someone is forced into this mode of dress, but that is clearly impossible to police... I certainly don't think it's worth drawing battle-lines on the issue. Making it into a govt v Muslim issue will quickly see burka-sales boom, and that's good for nothing.

subrosa said...

I really am not concerned what women or men want to wear, but when the face is constantly covered that's another matter.

Those who wear the burka voluntarily do not want to be part of our society but still, they cannot be allowed to withhold their identities. How do we resolve that?

Jabba the Cat said...

@ About Yasin Akgun


Anonymous said...

I saw a sharp rise in the number of people wearing the burka recently.

Oh, no I didn't - that was the cold weather and people so tightly wrapped themselves up in scarves, hats and sundry goods so that only a pair of eyes could be seen peeping through the layers of wool covering their face.

I hope UKIP is not planning to ban the woolly scarf."

Ask anyone, wrapped in a scarf, to show their face for identification purposes and you'll get no problem.

Ask a burka-wearing muslim to show her face and you'll get a refusal.

The wearing of a burka should not be banned. It is the refusal to be identified that should be made a criminal offence.

happiness said...

I lived in muslim countries. They claimed their system was best and that "one law for all" meant everyone was treated fairly. Covered faces, whether the burka, or hoodies with bandanas across their face, have no place in this society. So I would say "one law for all", and stop the special treatment based on religion. And the burka has no religious significance. It is a cultural phenomenon that has no place in a modern society.

Unknown said...

UKIP Are Wrong on Banning the Burka is not anti-liberty.

If you believe it is freedom of expression, where do you stop? People blowing themselves up could be freedom of expression.

The United Kingdom was founded on Christianity, so we promote this, not demote it over a sence of anyone can do anything because it is the christian way, we accept everything.

Unsworth said...

How do Muslim women get to 'choose' to wear the Burqa? This is a cultural pressure, much the same as Sikhs and Jews have similar pressures placed on them to wear items of clothing etc. And what of various Christian rituals?

The notion of 'choice' in all of these cases is itself quite alien. If Muslim women themselves do not wish to make such a change then they won't, simple as that.

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

"Jack Straw was right to feel uncomfortable when he had a burka wearing woman at his surgery. I would have been too" - er yes - and the proper solution in that case (and yours too, if you ever hold surgeries) would have been for the woman to take the burka off and for Jack to don it. Who wouldn't feel uncomfortable in a confined space being stared at by a modern Westminster trougher.

About Yasin Akgun said...

so there's no societal pressure for teenagers to dress like paul bearers? (emo's)

And the comments about security at airports. People do realise the passport photo can't be with them in the burka? And surely people realise too that they can't get thru passport control with the burka on? hello?!

and jabba, good comeback. almost as good as flares

Newmania said...

I think the two posts together make an interesting and nuanced response of which I approve

I do not however see what Liberty has to do with it on one side orn the other .Laws set us free , anarchy enslaves us. We have a free and tolerant society and we are entitled to defend it from cultural attack.
When deciding if a bann is warranted we ought to compare with other banned symbols , the swastika in Germany , Communist symbols in Poland and so on. We can only affiord not to bann the (Does my bomb look big in this- Burka ) If our culture is robust enough that it will be ignored

The weaker New Labour make it , the more authoritarian the response will have to be .

Paddy Briggs said...

The only bit of Islamic dress that should be banned is the veil over the face. Covering the hair and having a loose fitting black garment over the body is in no way objectionable. There is confusion over terminology here so it is best to keep it simple. The face is the visible manifestation of our personality and our character. Cover it and we become anonymous human ciphers. If some nation states want to insist that their mature women wear veils in public I deeply regret it – but it is their call. In Britain it is our call and it should be disallowed. There is also, of course, the security point. The one thing that distinguishes us from one another is our face and that is the one part of our anatomy that identifies us. If it is right to monitor us with security cameras – I think that it is – then these cameras have to be able to identify us which means that they must record our faces.

The Purpleline said...

Iain- I believe you are wrong and are just using your blog to attack UKIP for a policy the Tories would love to adopt.

I believe UKIP will take some votes off the Tories, because of this policy and here are my reasons for this position.

1) Our culture is a face-to-face culture, where we learn more from a person’s facial expression than the words they may say.
2) The Burqa is forced on some Muslim women by their men folk

3) Security at public buildings, airport, banks would be enhanced adoptng this policy.

Therefore, apart from pandering to appease the more vocal Islamic community,
we should celebrate UKIP’s courage to open this debate.

Women who wish to wear the Burqa too & while attending the Mosque or to a special Islamic event, wedding or during the holy days could be excused This way we do not impose a restriction but take control to ensure cohesive society.

P.S. I am a Tory voter by the way. Although should not need to add that, I feel you are a little to partisan against UKIP.

Iain Dale said...

Purpleline, seeing as I was against banning the burka before UKIp announced it's policy you can hardly accuse me of saying this just to attack UKIP. I dont know any Tories who agree with this, although of course there will be some.

Of course I am partisan against UKIP. They are an opposing political party to the one I support. However, there are some good people in UKIP and I have made that clear over time.

Curbishly said...

"Go to Wurka, in a Burka".

TheBoilingFrog said...

As a UKIP member myself (only because the 3 main parties are clearly pro EU) I’m uneasy about this proposed ban. There are obvious security implications about the burka, but a blanket ban (excuse the pun) is not something I would support.

I understand the need for publicity for a minority party like UKIP, especially when the cards are stacked against you; for example at the Norwich North by-election or the upcoming 3-party televised debate (is Clegg seriously a contender for PM?) but this is potentially self-defeating and ultimately could lump UKIP in with the BNP in voter’s minds.

I’ve often campaigned for UKIP and I’m fed up with ‘racist jingoistic’ jibes as it is now; this hardly helps.

Robert said...

You can wear what you like in the UK we are free to do this or I hope we are, unless it comes to school or hospital, I have in the past refused to be seen by a doctor who has the Burka, although i was very ill at the time . But again in school it's about seeing the teachers face not looking at a pair of eyes, but out side we are free in this country to wear what we like within decent bounds.

Michael Heaver said...

Have thought long and hard about this and on reflection I do think it is a sensible policy. Have blogged my thoughts, Iain.

Anonymous said...

Why are you getting so uppity about the meaning of 'libertarian' - I thought you were a conservative?

Newmania said...

The one thing that distinguishes us from one another is our face

Paddy in your case the distinctive dribble of rubbish is unmistakeable.Of coures the best answer is not to open the doors to unlimited immigration( for the purposes of getting in New Labour votes ) in the first place.

We know up to 10% of our delightful new neighbours applauded the London bombings . and the Burka shows that you supprt that view and detest this country .
Now is it acceptable to go around in a tee shirt that says "Britain is a toilet and if a few fat Western bastards have to die to change it then thats fine by me "
You could have on the back ,..." Oh and by the way gays should all be dead , preferably decapitated ...oh and as for the Jews , pure evil "

The only reason not to bann it is that it is not a powerful symbol . Suppose someone started listening ?

Twig said...

If we were to drasticaly cut back on the welfare state I'm pretty sure that the problem would resolve itself.

JohnRS said...

So if I choose to wear a terrorist-style balaclava with two eye holes in it whenever I leave my house, that's OK is it?

As with the burka I'm not being forced into it, my religion doesnt tell me to wear it. So I'm not doing anyone any harm am I?

Paddy Briggs said...

The post from Newmania really is bonkers. I think that Iain might want to think about whether this sort of unbalanced rant adds much to what has been mostly quite a good debate on the subject.

Meanwhile I can only encourage Newmania to lie down in a dark room for a while - and to take more water with it in future...

Anonymous said...

Actually, didn't the 1994 Criminal Justice Act say that benefits could be withdrawn from those whose self-imposed lack of conformity (dress, hair, etc) reduced their job prospects? I recall many punks and crusties complained as much at the time...

Newmania said...

Paddy thanks to Neather ,we know mass immigration ,was designed 'to rub the Right's nose in diversity ,and render their arguments out of date'. Also to provide Labour voters as the population hurtled to 70,000,000. The Electoral Commission has revealed, some 90 per cent of black people and three-quarters of Asians vote Labour.

So far so sane and informed then , you should try it .

Now , in their enthusiasm for undermining the Nation New Labour have imported a Muslim community of whom Islam 4 UK are an unremarkable part. 26% of British Muslims are not patriotic, 20% have no loyalty at all ,and 10% supported the London bomb attacks. Islam for UK are not .( Surveys quoted in Londonistan),.Iskam 4 UK are not unrepresentative ,they are just a bit flamboyant.

The history of modern Islam is bound up with Arab Nationalism and closely shadows Europe's fascist moment it is a cocktail of religious ultras and Arab fascism .
Should it be banned ? Well would we bann the swastika ? Under what circumstances ?Its a tricky question and I would err on the side of doing nothing

Its usually best

I am afraid you will not persuade Iain to censor me .If there is one thing you can trust Mr.Dale on it is his commitment to free expression . He has published some appalling insults directed at him and deserves great credit for walking the walk.

Learn from wise Mr. Dale silly Briggs

1001 Saudi nights said...

Iain, I think you are wrong. I moved from the UK to Saudi nearly 3 months ago, I have to go out in public wearing an Abaya (ok not full on burka with veil) but I think it is high time that immigrants to the uk showed some degree of integration into uk culture as I have to make here. I think that not all muslim clothes should be banned just the full veil. If muslim women in the uk want to have an outward sign of their religion them an Abaya should be sufficient.

Unknown said...

A great many Muslim women, particularly in the North of England and West of Scotland, wear the burqa and the niqab as a consequence of threats of violence (and often actual violence) from their families.

If you want to yell about a woman's right to choose how she dresses, you must first demonstrate that wearing the burqa is a choice, when, as anyone living in a predominantly Muslim area will tell you, for most women any "choice" is being made by fathers, brothers, uncles and imams.

The burqa issus is about a lot more than abstract definitions of libertarianism; it is about more than the instinctive dislike of BNP supporters for anything that isn't white and English; it is about more than multi-culty notions that anything non-white and non-English is delightfully exotic and innately good. It is actually about the tyranny under which Muslim women are living - a tyranny that quite frankly no-one, on any part of the political spectrum, cares about.

DeeDee99 said...

think the face veil should be banned on security grounds alone. If men - Asian or otherwise - decided to walk around with their identity concealed there would pretty soon be action taken to prevent it.

Women should be no different. If they wish to be part of society - and by part of it, I mean walk around it in; access public places - including shops, businesses, schools, parks - then they should be able to be identified by whatever security procedures are in place. Without someone specifically having to take them to a secure place and ask them to remove their 'disguise.'

This is NOT a religious issue. It isn't even a feminine issue. It IS an issue of security and safety for all. There have been well documented cases of men using the veil to disguise themselves and perpetrate criminal and/or terrorist acts. If the veil is permitted these will recur.

Brian said...

"You can wear what you like in the UK" - how many agree with the pers/prosecution of the Naked Rambler? His belief in not wearing clothes is at the other extreme of the burkha wearers' prejudice yet the lefterati don't support him.

Rob said...

Iain, you are wrong on this in SO many ways. For starters, the burka is NOT a symbol of moderate Islam but of fundamentalist Saudia Arabian Wahhabism. Wahhabism is the ideology driving Al-Queda. That alone should be enough to institute an immediate ban.

Why? Because we are at WAR with fundamentalist Islam & the ideology behind it. What on earth are we doing allowing this symbol to be paraded in our streets, much less our homes? Have you TALKED to any moderate Muslims? Have you READ the comments by moderate Muslim scholars about this? They will all tell you that the burka is not required wearing for women, is not part of the Koran. It is a garment forced on Muslims by extremists.

Is this really your idea of democracy? To allow our enemies free reign to parade their totalitarian symbols in our streets when the ideology behind it has led to the mass murder in the UK of innocent people on tube trains? We can presume then that you'd have been content to allow Nazi uniforms & swastikas to have been publicly paraded by Nazi sympathizers in this country during WW2, yes? After all what's the difference? They are both symbols of a totalitarian ideology that sought & seeks our destruction.

Then there's the feminist argument which is the number of females forced by their parents/communities into these things. And for those saying 'Aha! But you don't KNOW how many have been. It could be none!' let me say that it could be none but given that Muslim communities don't exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to respecting women's rights, as the history of female genital mutilation, honour killings & forced marriages show, I think we can conclude that 'none' is about as accurate a prediction as a Met Office weather forecast. So if you're a feminist that fact in itself is enough to seek the ban of this repressive garment.

The security concerns surrounding the burka are self-evident I need not mention them here. But one final thought; reading your post, Iain, as well as those of the commentariat out there, all of whom are predictably horrified by the thought of a ban, reminds me yet again of the gulf between the public & the media/political tribe. You see - or claim to see - an assault on freedom by an authoritarian, populist party. I see a political party asserting our values over a viciously regressive ideology of which the burka is the most visible manifestation. It is right that it should be banned & like the recent Swiss vote to ban minarets on mosques, which was passed overwhelmingly much to the horror of the media/political elites across Europe, so too will UKIP's policy of banning burkas have overwhelming public support. I wish UKIP the very best of luck with this.

ukipwebmaster said...

The Burka:

Anonymous said...

Newmania - 'thanks to Neather' we do not know anything. All we had was Neathers assumptions. Well i have been assuming the same thing for years and I did not need neather to tell me I was right.

'the refusal to be identified that should be made a criminal offence.' - it surely already is.

This is a bonkers policy from a bonkers party. A party which has just exposed its racist undertones.
There are many problems in dealing with the islam religion - a simplistic ban on wearing the burka is no way to a solution.

Make no mistake - I grow tired of the constant whining from bleeding heart muslims about their absurd medieval religion. At least lets cheer the muslim group who have praised the decision today to reject the giant mosque near the Olympic site.
But I also recognise cheap opportunism from a bunch of quasi racist loonys who make me ashamed to be white.

Anonymous said...

@ About Yasin Akgun 11:12

Who is Paul Bearers? And what is it about his dress sense that teenagers feel they need to emulate it?

Newmania said...

But I also recognise cheap opportunism from a bunch of quasi racist loonys who make me ashamed to be white.

I cannot say I recognise that description of UKIP. How would you suggest the tide of multiculturalism is turned back ? I am not sure David Cameron seems concerned although I shall certainly vote for him.
Of course his children will not be struggling in schools unable to cope with eight languages and fractured communities .

Why drag race into it?

Battersea Boy said...

Might I please make a plea for those who are hard of hearing and rely on lip-reading?

I really do think that insisting everyone in direct customer contact (e.g. supermarket cashiers, passport control officers) has their face uncovered would be a positive move to end such discrimination!

Twig said...


From Lord Tebbits blog:
So perhaps we could agree here and now that the expression “multicultural society” is a contradiction in itself. A society is defined by its culture. Though, of course, one can have two societies with different cultures in one territory. Sri Lanka is a good example of this, and the Middle East is another.

The Purpleline said...

Question and I do ot know, but if Muslim women wearing the Burqa were in a supermarket and purchased Cigarettes, would they be asked to identify themselves or prove age.

Obviously they would not buy Alcohol, but what is there to stop a non Muslim teenager dressing up in a Burqa and buying drink and Cigarettes.

It could happen and when it does I will film it and put it on Youtube.

Newmania said...

Lord Tebbit is a man I admire enormously Twig , thanks for that

Jabba the Cat said...

Pat Condell has a more eloquent take on the burka than the UKIP political pigmy Farage.

Dr Kevin said...

as jabba the cat says - if muslim women wore the burka by choice - then i would have no problem with that. any more than i have with people dressing in whatever way out they want.

but it is pretty apparent that for many muslim women they have no choice. their fathers, brothers and more importantly their culture imposes this garment on them.

if you brainwash a little girl from its youngest age that they must cover themselves in this way - then many will obey. but they are not choosing to do so by choice. they are being coerced.

the argument that britain is a free society means just that. free to choose. but many muslim women are not free to chose. but if they live in this country then i believe they should be free to choose to wear what they want. if not. there is not much point in britain being a free country. we just become an extension of a represive state.

the other day i saw a little girl in a push chair fully covered in a black burka. what kind of parent sexualises a child like that. are you telling me that child chose to wear that outfit?

i think India Knight in the Times summed it up well. she said '... what little girl comes into the world wanting to be covered from head to foot...'

when i see a women in a burka - i dont see liberal britain - i see a women repressed by a male dominated culture - and there is nothing libertarian about that

Mrs Rigby said...

Ian, have you read the comments over at Conservative Home?

No Society said...

Really worried. For all the liberation, which i unequivocally support, bestowed upon a brutally suppressed sexual orientation, you appear confused to this issue.Is it lefty elitism winning over or....? I'm wearing a white niqab tomorrow in north London with a pointy hat....

Frugal Dougal said...

Of course we need to ban the Burka - imagaine a bank letting in somebody in a full veil and discovering it was John Simpson!

Anonymous said...


Just a few points.

Firstly, the timing is not arbitrary. There is currently a debate on national identity in France, which has been disastrous for the ruling UMP - who will be campaigning with Conservative candidates in the Westminster election. A part of that debate is the proposal to ban the burqa and niqab.

Secondly, the ban is not possible by legislation. That is why, in all probability, UKIP are raising the issue. It is part one, because they know that adhesion to the ECHR renders the ban impossible. Thus, they will suggest it is a breach of sovereignty, with their usual respect for nuance, not to be able to do so.

Some parts of the UMP (the party is highly divided on the issue) are proposing a solemn declaration of Parliament, an instrument created under Mr Sarkozy's constitutional reforms of last year.

The issue has been raised to keep the extremist vote they captured from JM Le Pen's Front National in the run-up to regional elections. Your party will probably do the same when UKIP, with the Telegraph's support, become a serious player, particularly in the event of a hung parliament.

For those who seek to use feminism as a justification, it doesn't work to have a male-dominated demographic (the far right) impose a ban to stop certain husbands imposing the burqa or niqab. It is a contradiction in terms.

Pritchard10 said...

Iain, as others have said - I’m afraid that the analogies you make here break down at several levels. The burka is not equivalent to cultural fads such as goth and punk because 1)The latter are not a symbol and a part of an initiative to subjugate a certain group of people 2) There is no doctrine specifying that people should wear make-up or wear a pink mohawk (I’m aware that that the Quran does not condone the burka, but the very reason that the burka exists is because of the views regarding female rights and sexuality set down in the Quran).

If, as you insist on suggesting, the burka is equivalent to other forms of cultural expression then why do we think it acceptable to ban goth and punk dress at work, yet find it intolerable to disallow the burka in the same situation? Because anything influenced by religious belief has acquired unwarranted privilege, I think you’ll find.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post/comments. I can't tell if you agree or not. Some views:

Unknown said...

You guys really helped me to see different sides of this issue. Mainstream media seems to set it up as government vs. activists: