France Bans the Burqa. But In UK, Ban Is Off-Limits
As the French ban of the Burqa comes into force, on the other side of the channel we still inhabit a society where to even so much as raise this issue is to risk being pilloried as a bigot and a racist. This subject has been uncompromisingly taken off of the table by the liberal elites in our media and politics.
Threats of racism from the Left certainly shouldn’t scare anyone into silence. Rather, those of us who are concerned for the good health of the basic values and freedoms of our liberal democracy should feel compelled to see that this debate gets a fair hearing. Indeed, much of the media coverage of this matter has focused on concerns among the French police that they will be unable to enforce the ban in certain Parisian districts notorious for rioting against perceived anti-Muslim discrimination. Yet when there are places in European cities where the police fear to enforce the law shouldn’t that alone be enough of a wakeup call?
There is something slightly nauseating about those who consider themselves feminists attempting to frame the Burqa issue as a matter of women’s freedom to wear what they choose. Would they dismiss domestic violence in terms of a woman’s right to remain in whatever kind of relationship she chose? Surely not. Back in the 70s the Women’s Lib were out on the streets burning the Bra as a symbol of female oppression, so where are the Burqa burning rallies of today? And what about the Pankhurst’s? Could they ever have imagined that a hundred years on women would be wandering around London dressed from head to foot in black, their faces entirely covered? No one would deny that some of those who wear the Burqa do so out of choice, but what about those who are forced to do so by their husbands and families, what precautions are we as a society taking to protect these women’s freedoms?
Theodore Dalrymple tells the story of how during his time working at a hospital in Birmingham a group of his medic students suddenly en masse adopted the wearing of the Burqa. Dalrymple and his colleagues put an immediate stop to this when they found an obscure rule in the hospital’s 19th century code of conduct stipulating that all staff must have their faces uncovered.
Shortly after this the girls approached Dalrymple and thanked him explaining that they had been forced to wear the covering by a group of male Muslim students who had threatened the girls that if they failed to wear the face covering they would tell their parents their daughters were behaving immodestly, so resulting in their immediate removal from their studies.
A Burqa ban would undeniably go against the wishes of those women who have chosen to adopt it, but it would free those who have had it forced upon them by others. How many of the women who we pass in the street wearing the Burqa are doing so under duress? Under the present system there’s no way of knowing or reaching them.
But there’s another more pressing issue here. It is simply naive for us believe that we can adopt the Burqa into our society without thinking that it will carry with it the ideas from the societies and culture from which it originates. These are after all places where at best female victims of rape receive public whippings; at worst, they may face execution by beheading or stoning. That the horrible phenomenon of honour killings and forced marriages has found its way to Britain’s shores should come as no surprise to us. We have sent out the message loud and clear that we have no problem with seeing the open oppression of women through such inhuman forms of dress. The idea that to be a tolerant society we have to sit by and turn a blind eye to these things is simply madness. As a responsible and ethical society we have every obligation to intervene here and say that we utterly reject a mode of dress that seeks to make women invisible as both individuals and human beings.
Under New Labour we saw the banning of the traditional British children’s seaside entertainment Punch & Judy under the claim that it promoted domestic violence. Shortly before Labour left office they managed to rush through the so called Equalities Act, which among other things, told employers that they could hire a woman over an equally qualified man simply by virtue of her gender. If we all managed to permit the passing of these draconian measures without too much distress then why is it that the very same people who advocated for these laws would fight tooth and nail to see that Muslim women remain imprisoned under such an offensively discriminatory custom?
If in Wembley we witnessed the revival of Sati and Hindu women started throwing themselves on their husband’s funeral pyres (seemingly out of choice) then would we sit by and do nothing? Judging by our current attitude to the Burqa its very hard to say.
Tom WIlson is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist