[DEBATE] : Re: War, Islam and veils
robhoveman at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Oct 11 09:57:06 BST 2006
And some more. First George Galloway:
At least with hard man John Reid it was man-to-man hand-to-hand fighting. The latest New Labour witch-hunter to come out kicking Muslims, Jack Straw, has resorted to picking on women, and a pretty ugly sight it is too.
While he might now wish he had drawn a veil over his disturbing preoccupation with his female constituents clothing, he has unmasked how frenetically the Dutch auction in anti-Muslim rhetoric in Britain is proceeding.
Tabloid frenzy feeds government ministers, who feed the tabloids, and the resulting toxicity fuels the kind of firebombing of isolated Muslims in places like Windsor, where last week the Medina Dairy was attacked.
Almost a pre-pogrom atmosphere is being created in Britain and too few progressives are standing up against it.
Imagine if a minister in the US dared to instruct the Amish how to live their lives, railed against their unwillingness to act, think, live, dress like the majority around them?
Can you imagine a demand to the Orthodox Jewish residents of Stamford Hill that they must end their "separateness", cut their locks, get out of their "ghettos". Or that Sikhs should abandon their turbans?
Inconceivable, of course, and yet that is exactly what is being demanded of Britain's two million Muslims by Straw.
Britain is often described as a secular country. It is not. It has an established church, the head of which is the head of state (come to think of it, all concerned have a prediliction for unusual headgear themselves).
We have been on the other hand more tolerant than most of the minorities in our midst. What on earth is tolerant or secular about demanding of religious people that they should amend their religious observance to suit those who don't share their beliefs? No politician has any right to enforce a dress code on those to whom he is beholden for his very role in life.
This breathtaking arrogance would never be tried by anyone about any other group than Muslims. This Islamophobia is the secularism of fools.
Less than 10,000 women throughout the country wear the niqab - the veil covering all but the eyes. Unless they are all concentrated in Mr Straw's constituency, it is a fair bet that such women represent a tiny proportion of even his Muslim constituents.
By singling them out in this way for ruthless attention by the Richard Littlejohns and the John Gaunts, the gutterscribes of the Daily Mail and the Sun, Straw has committed a grotesque and cowardly attack on an already fretful minority of a minority.
At the risk of enforcing a dress code myself, he should put a big sock in his foul mouth and stop whipping up trouble between the different groups in this already fragile polity.
Sunday saw people gathering to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the great battle of Cable Street.
On that day progressive people of all kinds rallied to protect the significant minority of immigrants in London's east end against the strutting jackboots of a domestic fascism, one of whose very arguments was against the very "separateness" of the Jews who lived there. Their very garb, unusual diets, habits of living in close proximity to each other was a standing affront to the beef-eating Englishness of the Moselyites.
"Leave the Jews alone" was the response of the best of the British left. Let them eat dress and live as they want. It is a call that should be echoed about today's whipping boys, the Muslims.
And now Mobeen Azhar, a member of Respect's ruling National Council
'Thank God, someone has had the courage to break the taboo.' The Daily Mail's Melanie Phillips seemed genuinely elated to hear Jack Straw's request for his constituents to remove their nikabs when attending his surgeries. When the Member of Parliament for Blackburn explained why he thought the nikab was bad for community relations last week, his comments were almost drowned out by the sighs of relief for 'common sense' and the roars of 'here here' coming from the 'Political correctness gone mad' brigade. It was as if all the tensions built up by years of restraint and tolerance had been allowed to spill out into one giant orgy of everything that was once great about Britain (or so they would have you believe).
I'm yet to grasp why such excitement has been caused by a piece of cloth. For generations, the nikab has been a religious and cultural symbol of humility. It has been used to oppress, emancipate, comfort, demonise, and elevate its wearer. Like a baseball cap, a crucifix or a piercing, the nikab has a million connotations but today it is the nikab alone that has become the focal point of such fierce discussion. Perhaps this has more to do with what's in the ether right now, than the genuine concerns or Mr Straw.
The former Foreign Secretary's comments were first published in the Lancashire Evening Standard just hours after David Cameron's slap on the wrist for 'Muslim Ghettos' had been greeted by rapturous applause at the Tory party conference. Twenty seven years after winning his seat in Blackburn it seems that Jack finally had the courage to bite the bullet and give his nikab wearing constituents a well earned telling off. Good on you Jack-just don't wait so long next time. We may begin to think you're playing politics.
And whilst I defend to the last letter the right for MPs to have opinions, is it really a constituent representatives job to be handing out advice on dress codes to the people who elected him? Does Jack feel uncomfortable when he is visited by a constituent with facial piercings? Are tattoos ok with you Jack? Are their any colours we should be avoiding this season? Surely the choice to wear (or not wear) a nikab should lie completely with the individual whose face it may (or may not) grace. Surely, the universal application of individual choice is one of the things that truly make Britain great.
Things just aren't so clear right now. We are living in a time of political schizophrenia. The politicians crowding the ever more tightly packed 'middle ground' are crawling over each to say what they believe no one else is saying loud enough; it is Britain's Muslim population that must change. Whether it be checking for signs that our children are about to blow themselves up (thank you Mr Reid) clearing out the Ghettos (thank you Mr Cameron) or making sure we don't frighten anyone by covering our faces (thank you Mr Straw) the Muslims must change, adapt, integrate.
Is it any wonder that elements of the Muslim community feel threatened? The list of condemnation has turned into a dull headache for most British Muslims but more worryingly, amongst a minority, it encourages the very separation it so fiercely attacks. Without doubt, Muslims in the UK have their problems; economic, educational and social. These are not Muslim issues par se, and these are not problems inherent to the Muslim psyche. But with every call of 'You must change' fresh ammunition is given to those who seek to destroy the multi-faceted Britain that the majority has worked to create. The goons of Al Muhajiroun and Hizb-ut Tahrir must jump with joy every time they hear that multiculturalism is a failed experiment, or that Islam is at odds with British values.
The likes of Reid, Straw, and Cameron are playing a dangerous game. The 'Middle ground' in politics has for too long been claimed and branded by those who use fear to sell their agendas. As long as these men in suits scapegoat the women in nikabs (along with the teenagers in hoodies) to avoid tackling the real issues of our time, the majority of our society, Muslim and non Muslim must work harder to maintain perspective and to preserve that which truly unites us.
Mobeen Azhar is a member of the National Council for RESPECT, the Unity Coalition.
Peter Dwyer <peter at aidc.org.za> wrote:
Jack Straw's veil comments are ammunition for racists
Montage of newspaper cuttings
by Charlie Kimber
The last week has seen a new wave of attacks on Muslims, including
Jack Strawâs speech on veiled women. Whatâs behind the latest
round of Islamophobia?
Is it possible to get the question of racism and Islamophobia more
wrong than Oldham Labour MP Phil Woolas did last weekend? Muslim
women who cover their faces with veils, he told readers of the Sunday
Mirror, can be âfrightening and intimidatingâ. He added that
Muslim veils could increase racial tensions in Britain.
âMost British-born Muslims who wear it do so as an assertion of
their identity and religion. This can create fear and resentment
among non-Muslims and lead to discrimination. Muslims then become
even more determined to assert their identity, and so it becomes a
vicious circle where the only beneficiaries are racists like the
BNP,â he wrote.
So there you have it. Muslims are not victims of racism, Islamophobia
and fascist violence - they have brought it on themselves.
And this incendiary rubbish is written by the man who is minister for
local government and community cohesion - with special responsibility
for race and faith!
The immediate cause of the wave of Islamophobia is the competition
between politicians of all the major parties to be seen as âtough on
Muslim extremismâ and âtough on terrorâ.
Having created the conditions for terrorism through the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan, Tony Blair and his acolytes have set out to denounce
their political opponents as âsoftâ if they do not agree to ever
more brutal terror laws.
It is not our wars that fuel terror attacks, says Blair, it is the
evil Muslims in our midst - and those who do not join in the hunt for
them are equally guilty. On the back of such lies comes the
succession of terror laws and the elimination of liberties held for
hundreds of years.
More generally, war has been declared on âextremist Muslimsâ, a
concept which grows ever wider. Last August Blair told the Los
Angeles World Affairs Council that the conflict in the Middle East,
as well as others involving Muslim âextremistsâ, revolve around
âmodernisation within Islamâ and whether the Western system of
values can âbeat theirsâ.
In February of this year Muslims were castigated for complaining
because they had been insulted by the racist cartoons in Denmark. And
then in September Pope Benedict XVI launched the latest phase of his
attack on Islam.
Now politicians are scrabbling to be seen as the most vicious
towards âterror suspectsâ and the most contemptuous of
âpolitically correctâ defences of Muslims. And their words are
taken up by some as the trigger for racist violence.
At Labourâs conference home secretary John Reid trumpeted his
determination not to be âbulliedâ by Muslim critics.
A few days later Falkirkâs Islamic centre was set on fire, causing
Â£10,000 damage. Bricks and concrete blocks were thrown at cars parked
in a mosque in Preston and a Muslim teenager was subsequently stabbed
by the attackers.
Then at the Tory conference, David Cameron used his speech to claim
he would âsmash Muslim ghettosâ, as Tory newspapers put it. That
night Muslims faced petrol bomb attacks in Windsor.
The next day the press worked itself into lather about police officer
Alexander Omar Basha who had been excused from duty outside the
Israeli embassy (which he was not actually assigned to).
And Jack Straw launched his attack on the veil. The next day a Muslim
womanâs veil was snatched from her by a man who shouted racist abuse
at a bus stop in Liverpool. The 49 year old woman from Toxteth had
her veil snatched by a tall white man in his 60s.
Have no doubt - this is a serious and accelerating situation in which
Muslims are defined as potential or actual enemies.
This hysteria has opened the door to coded calls for harsher action.
Simon Jenkins wrote in last weekendâs Sunday Times that âit is
reasonable to ask why they [Muslim women who wear the veil] want to
live in Britainâ.
He added, âThose who claim such hospitality owe some duty of respect
to their hosts, or at the very least cannot complain if the hosts
Until recently Labour ministers would generally defend
multiculturalism. Not any more. Last August, Ruth Kelly, the
communities secretary, called for a ânew and honest debateâ on the
merits of multiculturalism.
In fact this âdebateâ means prescribing a notion of âBritish
identityâ, identified by the political establishment and implemented
with increasing ruthlessness. It defines an âinâ and an âoutâ
group - with consequences for those deemed unwilling to adapt to the
Look carefully at what Straw said. He described meeting a man and his
wife who are constituents. She was friendly, polite, respectful, and
gave off âsignals which indicate common bonds - the entirely English
accent, the coupleâs education (wholly in the UK)â.
But he could not reconcile such elements with âthe fact of the
veil,â which made him feel âuncomfortable,â he wrote.
He decided that in future he would ask his female constituents to
remove the veil when they came to his surgery because wearing it
made âbetter, positive relations between the two communities more
difficultâ. A veiled woman could not, for Straw, be âone of usâ.
New Labourâs creed of imperialist war and neo-liberalism is in
trouble. So, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq turn increasingly
disastrous, the government seeks to target âenemiesâ at home. It
is crucial we stand together against racist attacks and in solidarity
Dr Peter Dwyer
129 Rochester Road,
Cape Town, 7705.
TEL: 021 447 5770
FAX: 021 447 5884
DEBATE mailing list
DEBATE at lists.kabissa.org
Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com
More information about the Debate-list