I’m not usually one to agree with Telegraph columnists, but there was a great little opinion feature in the paper today which I thought made a very strong point around the argument of whether the UK should follow in France’s steps in banning the burka.
If you’ve got 5mins spare, it’s worth a read… You can click through to the original article here, or alternatively I’ve copied the text below for ease.
It’s a good article I thought and one worth sharing as it makes a strong point regarding the impact the burka must have on young women who have to wear them from an early school age.
There is a mosque in the East Midlands, an impressive building, exuding a sort of muscular serenity. Almost next door, is a private girls’ secondary school, an offshoot of the mosque, where, from the age of 11, the niqab is a compulsory part of school uniform. Just across the street is an advice centre that offers rulings to the community on points of Islamic law.
If you go to the centre’s website, as I did yesterday, and click on Women’s Issues you will find the Islamic equivalent of the Cathy and Claire problem page. Only instead of an agony aunt, we find a chap called Muhammad offering solutions to those tricky, girly dilemmas that keep us awake at night. Women Exposing Their Arms Whilst Driving – Should It Be Allowed? Are Tampons Permissible to Use Before Marriage? Can Women Travel Without a Male Relative? The Female Voice and Singing (is it OK to sing in front of men?) and – this has to be my absolute favourite – A Comprehensive Guide to Women’s Nakedness.
For those of you scratching your head over the toast and marmalade, the answers are as follows: Women are most certainly not allowed to expose their arms while driving. Anything above and including the wrist is likely to inflame passing motorists so “Muslim sisters must not be careless in this regard and should wear long tight sleeves.” I’m afraid it’s a no to tampons before marriage for reasons too weird to go into. As for females moving around freely, “It is impermissible for a woman to travel the distance of three days (48 miles) without her husband or a male relative.” Meanwhile, singing, that most natural and joyous act of human expression, also falls into the dread category of temptation. “The charm in the voice of a female plays a vital role in provoking the sexual appetite of a man,” explains our guide. This goes some way to solving the cruel mystery of why, in certain primary schools, parents have insisted that Muslim children be excused from music lessons.
My youthful feminist instincts may have grown slack with disuse, but the website’s ruling on female clothing made me want to kick and shout. Muhammad the Agony Uncle advises: “There should be no imitation of the Kuffar (non-believers) because ‘whosoever imitates a nation is amongst them’.”
A Muslim woman is allowed to dress like a British slapper in the home, if it pleases her husband, but if the intention is to imitate Kuffars – that’s creatures like you and me with our brazenly exposed wrists – then it’s forbidden. According to Mr Muhammad, if a Muslim woman starts copying the style of the country she lives in then she will soon be part of it – and we can’t have that, can we? No man is an island entire of itself, said the poet. A beautiful sentiment, but the women of this mosque and its girls’ academy seem to be instructed, quite specifically, to be an island, separated from the mainland where the rest of us live.
How did we end up with a school in the East Midlands where the door opens to release the children into the spring sunshine and out flaps a flock of crows? Young girls my daughter’s age clad from head to toe in inky black, a sight both alien and intimidating. “It’s their own choice,” runs the argument, so it must be tolerated by our liberal society. Exactly what choice does an 11-year-old girl have when her designated school uniform is a magician’s black cloth that conceals her from the world and never brings her back? Think of the paranoia that shroud breeds not just in the child who wears it but also in those who look upon her and turn away in dislike. At what point does tolerating the intolerant become intolerable?
Well, the French have had enough. This week, they banned the burka, imposing a fine of £130 on any woman who appears veiled in public. I like President Sarkozy’s bracing assertion of France’s values: “We cannot have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity. That is not the idea that the French republic has of women’s dignity.”
Compare and contrast with our own politicians’ policy of appeasement. The terror of appearing racist far exceeds any fear of what may happen to girls, British-born but living, to all intents and purposes, in Saudi Arabia. There are now 160 Muslim faith schools in Britain, double the number of a decade ago. Many provide an excellent education in enviably calm and respectful classrooms, but others are narrow and bigoted. Barry Sheerman MP, the former chairman of the Education Select Committee, once said: “I think it is very difficult for politicians to actually be absolutely frank on this subject. Some Muslim schools give one great cause for concern.”
The burka and the niqab should be banned in Britain. They are a barrier to integration, a statement of hostility to the host country. Poor women who have been brainwashed into hiding their faces are victims, not martyrs. The burka is a not a sign of religion, but of subservience. When Atatürk outlawed the veil in Turkey in 1934 the result was a soaring rate of literacy among women and equality between the sexes was ushered in.
How dare Muhammad the Agony Uncle and his kind, all enjoying the benefits of a modern democracy, presume to give such advice as: “A female is encouraged to remain within the confines of her home as much as possible. She should not come out of the home without need and necessity.” Not in our country, mate.
The Islamist agony uncles and their imams should go somewhere where their musings on women will be more appreciated. Get on the A1, travel due south, gentlemen, and keep going for, oooh, about 1,000 years.
I have a final question for Muhammad’s problem page. What kind of a God would give a girl a voice, then keep her in a cage and never let her sing?