Wednesday, October 18, 2006

the drumbeat of hysteria

Couldn't agree more with Jonathan Freedland's comment article in the Guardian today:

Right now, we're getting it badly wrong - bombarding Muslims with pressure and prejudice, laying one social problem after another at their door. I try to imagine how I would feel if this rainstorm of headlines substituted the word "Jew" for "Muslim": Jews creating apartheid, Jews whose strange customs and costume should be banned. I wouldn't just feel frightened. I would be looking for my passport.
And as much as I take Andrew Brown's point when he asks "How and when do we start debates on difficult issues? If we worry (overly) about how our concerns will be interpreted doesn't that create as many problems as it solves?", I have to admit that I find myself nodding in agreement with a letter in the paper, too.

Politicians have pitched in with their views about veils, what the Muslim community should do to improve relations with the rest of the population, and so on. I am not a Muslim, but perhaps a period of silence would be a more positive contribution to community relations.
Richard Dargan
Old Coulsdon, Surrey
Andrew, incidentally, makes some very good points about the integration row here:

Every day that I go to work I walk from Whitechapel to near Old Street and see lots of women wearing the niqab. I'm not bothered by that in the slightest (perhaps because I spent some of my childhood growing up in places where that form of dress was quite common, or perhaps because I'm only passing through).

However, there is something on that trip that does bother me.

My walk takes me past three schools; two appear to have pupils from almost entirely South Eastern Asian origin, while the other educates almost entirely white kids. I know absolutely nothing about the schools other than that observation, but it strikes me that this segregation in education is more worrying than what people wear as they walk down the street.

1 comment:

Stephen Newton said...

It’s extremely disingenuous to pretend that the veil is just a fashion statement or, as Freedland seems to imply a form of harmless national dress or an expression of strange (but harmless) custom. More worryingly, this is a line put forward by some Muslim leaders (sorry for linking to my own blog), which shows that community is not facing up to the real issue, which is that the veil is symbol of grotesque misogyny. The Qur’an may not specify a veil, but it does make women responsible for any ‘molestation’ they may suffer as a result of wearing immodest dress.

This is why Harriet Harman, for example, used her interview in the current issue of New Statesman (in which she emphasises her feminist credentials) to declare that the veil has no place in British society.

We cannot, and should not try to, force women to stop wearing the veil. But neither should we pretend that just because a woman has chosen the veil for herself, she is an independent freethinker; many women choose to live with abusive partners.

The debate will at times stray into hysteria and be exploited by racists and the like, but it needs to take place and the longer the Muslim community refuses to acknowledge important issues like the rights of women, the more drawn out that debate will be.

It’s interesting that Freedland also talks about ETA and the Spanish experience. I flew to Barcelona the day Madrid was bombed and began my blog with photos of the huge demonstrations against ETA (who were initially blamed). It was powerful stuff. We know how easily Muslims take to the streets, so their response to events such as this, 7/7 and 9/11 does stand out. The muted reaction is a product of that community’s failure to come to terms with the extremists in its midst.