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Thursday 19 October 2006

The UK and the veil [Lurks]

Something needs to be said about this muslim woman, Aishah Azmi, who basically was told not to wear the niqab full veil in class in which she taught. Well, it transpires that common sense has prevailed and she lost the case on the major points although she was still awarded a grand for victimisation. That baffles me still but anyway...
It's hard to avoid saying the obvious stuff about this such as the fact that you are in our country, this behavior is extreme and unwarranted if if you feel so strongly about it that you are prepared to cut yourself off with your blatant demonstration of seperation, then why in shit don't you piss off to another country? Bizarrely I have to show some appreciation here with France's hard-line attitude on the issue. No religious symbols in school. At all. Ever. We're far too PC for that here, examples recently manifesting as politicians coming out with their absurd fawning PC shite denouncing Jack Straw's perfectly sensible comments. However if Aishah Azmi has achieved anything, it's by raising the awareness of her annoying give-an-inch-take-a-mile behavior, exploiting our willingness to pander to these people and causing us to re-evaluate our position.
Which is, of course, what the redtops have been doing in a tabloid feeding frenzy which really isn't helping matters. As I intimated, props to Jack Straw for his original and perfectly reasonable request and corresponding statement of fact, Eg. this stuff does not help the much vaunted integration into the community which we have been generous to offer people of these faiths in the United Kingdom. Suddenly, however, our screens are full of issues like this.
The right wing brigade most recently were jumping up and down about some woman who was suspended by British Airways for wearing a Christian cross. In fact wearing of any religious symbol is banned, and rightly so. If you're an international air carrier, you're coming into contact with multiple faiths and some of them clearly don't get on. That's the employment rules, she was asked politely to take it off and would not comply. This is no different from the woman in the classroom asked to remove her veil so she could do her job right. We're insensed because this is a Christian country but this woman has a job in an organisation which behaves more like an ambassador than a local chip shop.
Still, the veil thing does get my back up. I wonder if any of you saw the excellent documentary recently of that asian (muslim) woman who won The Apprentice (I dunno her name, I don't watch reality crap like that) getting stuck into the veil issue including confronting veil wearers and asking what on earth they could find useful about it. In fact the best response this particular veil-wearer could manage was "I find it liberating because I'm not being judged by my appearance". Oh right, so it's nothing to do with God telling you in the Koran then. Basically you are, as we all expect of full-veil wearing women, a bit of a munter then.
Well, you stupid cow, if the goal wasn't to be judged by your appearance then you really don't get it at all do you. Listen up you religious whack-job muppet, there are other ugly people in the world and somehow we manage to get on alright with them without them shoving a garbag over their puss.
Oh and incidentally, the Koran really doesn't tell you to do any such thing. I think of God wanted you to wear a tent, he might have been a little more clear with the phrasing eh? Thou Shalt Crown Thyself with Millet's Finest or something.
You have to wonder though, what if I turned up to the office in a ninja suit and then when asked to remove it said "Sorry, I insist on wearing it when there's women around." I'm sure that'd go down ace, and so would the resulting employment tribunal. Oh well, if nothing else I'll apparently get a grand for victimisation.
If there's one thing I find positive about this whole situation it's the sheer number of decent moderate muslims standing up and saying sorry, the niqab is absurd. Just when the muslim community is gaining some ground in understanding and respect... it must feel like going backwards when this comes up and bearded loons fill the televisions, waving plaquards on the streets again.
Don't they have some sense that we might be nearing the point of having enough of their bullshit?


  1. Just a quick clarification about the BA issue. As I understand it, the actual rule was that jewelry of any kind had to be covered up by employees, not just religious symbols. So the mad christian in question had even less cause to cry religious intolerence.

  2. I agree with much of that. I agree very much with the french approach and think that there should be no link with religion and nationality or religion and education.
    This woman is british and that's the end of it for me. That makes this as much her country as mine and so I do feel bound to take issue at an initial high level with "It's hard to avoid saying the obvious stuff about this such as the fact that you are in our country" / "why don't you piss off to another country". It's her country on an equal footing with me.
    And I absolutely take issue with the idea that this is a christian country too. It's a country where there are christians, muslims and an increasing number of Jedi. You are British. Then you can decide whatever religion you are. Your religion should have fuck all to do with characterising our mutual country.
    However in the detail, what we're talking about is that our country has rights and those should be supported and maintained above anyone's beliefs. If this woman wants to subjugate herself to non-Quranic ideas that covering your face is a good idea, I think that is very sad on a women's rights basis. Strict-sect Islam has a terrible position on women's rights. If as an aggregation of beliefs, as a mongrel nation of many inputs, we believe that there is a common position on equality then yes we should take issue with that. The difficulty become those that perceive it as "an attack on Islam".
    As a british citizen you can do what the fuck you like. But absolutely what you can't do is let it interfere with a job as important as teaching children and so on the issue in hand this woman was plain wrong.
    Oh and faith schools? I've got fuck all time for you too. Religions may believe they have a god given duty to indoctrinate the minds of children with the particular version of the god stories they believe in. But that is not the purpose of a school as the french have clearly and correctly identified. I was indoctrinated in a christian school in a way my parents never did. Today my son (4) does lessons in Hindu gods, Christianity, Islam, *Humanism* and others. It is up to my wife and I and our family to introduce him to anything we believe in. It is not the place of a self-interest group to do that in the name of 'education'.

  3. Perhaps ironically, France's stance on this sort of thing seems to have worked better. It's a secular state with religious clothing of any sort not allowed in schools & there is a clear seperation of religion & politics. When the riots took place in France a while ago, it wasn't just a ghettoised muslim community burning cars, there were white, non muslim folks in there too. The issues had far more to do with poverty & opportunity than which particular sect of the Church Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster they subscribed to. Of course there is the different mix in France, with most of their muslim population coming from N. Africa while our muslim communites are rooted in Pakistan. This does go some way to explaining the differences in customs (iirc there's not many burqua wearers in N.Africa)
    In this country we have the result of Tony's multiculturalism experiment resulting in flashpoints like this, and Tony's cronies handing out cash for the funding of faith based schools. Has he learned nothing from the troubles in Northern Ireland? Lets put people in their own little silos where their predjudices can be reinforced eh? That'll help loads....

  4. I fully accept that she is British and is afforded the same rights as anyone else. I did, perhaps, phrase things in such a way I can see why you'd argue this point. However I think the comment that if you don't want to live by our laws and customs, fuck off to another country is not unreasonable. Listen, while I'm not happy about the fact this country is Christian, that's hardly a point of debate. The faith is enshrined in our customs, holidays, law and method of governing even if in the (very recent) past we have been distancing ourselves from it.
    This is a bit of a red herring though. It's irrelevant, really, that it's a Christian country. Let's leave religion out of it for the sake of the argument. In this country we talk face to face, people can write what they like (we don't ban books because we disagree) and they can satire anything they so please. Now you're free to walk around like a fucking idiot on the street campaigning to ban a book or otherwise telling everyone how furious you are that someone made a joke at your expense, or sit inside your house wearing a bin liner if you want, but we have one set of laws and one set of things we (I mean employers/society etc) expect people to adhere to when they do jobs or interact with other people.
    What we actually expect, when welcoming other cultures to these shores, is that you don't just set up shop of little Islamistan and keep to yourselves and ignore the entire culture around you, denouncing it as corrupt and kaffir. We're expecting that you integrate and if that requires a slight update of your medieval views then that is what is required. I don't think there's any further demonstration of a refusal to integrate than the niqab. Then claiming this is your right because we gave you freedom of religion? Well, this is against the very spirit of what was offered in the first place.
    And if you're not happy with that. If you think it is your right, first and foremost, to do anything you like irregardless of local laws and customs behind the fascade of freedom of religion, then yes I think you should fuck off to another country where the local laws and customs are self evidently compatible with your particular church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (peace be upon his noodly appendage). I don't say that because these people aren't white! I say it because they simply don't want to be British.

  5. I was agreeing, though I may have ranted off the point slightly. There was an article in the Times (or Independant, can't remember which now) which quoted surveys in France & Britain. Again I can't remember the exact stats, but the upshot was that most British muslims think of themselves as muslims first & British second. In France, it's the other way around. This seems to me to be the effect of emphasising national identity over race & belief. Exactly as you surmise above.

  6. This case is a good example of the current media tendency to inflate muslim issues out of all proportion. This isn't even a muslim issue, it's an education or employment issue. We have a young lady in a job where clarity of communication is of paramount importance, who has chosen to limit her ability to communicate. The school quite rightly asked her to remove this limitation, and when she refused, they terminated her employment.
    No-one is saying that muslim women can't where the veil. They're simply saying that if you can't communicate effectively then you can't do certain jobs.

  7. Think that was mostly for me and I agree too.
    One particularly depressing thing about the veil debate is the quality of 'leadership' commentary as with pretty much anything else. The quality isn't there and those that apparently represent us once again cause all sorts of really very serious trouble through intellectual shortcomings and their sluttish pursuit of public approval in saying whatever they think will go down well. It all boils down to one of my core contentions about what's wrong with society; those that want to lead it are not fit to do so:
    As I've said elsewhere, the Ancient Athenians would banish anyone who tried to get elected in Athens. Douglas Adams simply reprised this in HHGTTG where the galactic president couldn't be elected if they wanted to be it - the Athenians would elect the man they thought most right for the job and if he refused, he'd be banished too.
    Compare and contrast the abilities and intellect of leading academics like Dwarkins and a thousand like him or the leaders of industry and the city and politicians. It's sad isn't it?
    The extremes of this issue can be seen in the intellectual inability of some of the holders of the most important executive offices in the world. Then overlay that slut-factor of needing to stay in office. Wonder if the latter has a real effect? Well compare and contrast the handling of inflation and interest rates under an impartial Bank of England versus it's handling under politicians. Under politicians it hit 16% interest rates and hundreds of thousands lost their homes in the 80's. The reason was i) lack of ability and ii) trying to spend spend spend to stay popular. Give it to some people who are able and don't have conflicts of interest and strangely enough.....
    Take that example and apply it to anything. If we really wanted to get somewhere as a society globally, we'd go back to the essential principles and ban any of the dumb sluts who want office in the first place.

  8. Okay. Some quotes from the teacher, in her own press conference today:

    "the veil does not cause a barrier"

    Hm. Okay then. I don't want to be childish about it but... as Lurks says, well I've just decided I'm going to teach wearing a pillowcase over my head. Now I know what you're thinking... children won't be able to make out my facial expressions, and you're bang wrong because I'm going to cut slits for eyes in the pillowcase. You can see my eyes so that's good enough for kids, right?
    Now you're thinking I'm demeaning her religion, and in a way, I am making a bit of a jab about it (ha!). But it doesn't matter that its religious or not - not to me anyway, and not to the majority of British people (according to the broadsheets this week). When teaching children, it is hard to see how anyone should justify being covered up. A veil - like a pillowcase, like a balaclava - is a barrier. It covers your face up and makes you in broad terms indistinguishable. That's why crims hide their faces right?

    "I can teach perfectly well with the veil on"

    Oookay. Me me me! We're sure you've done the courses but your idea of uber-religion in the classroom is INCOMPATIBLE with "normal" Britain. Message to you: by wearing a veil, you're not being the best teacher you could be. If it boils down to how seriously you want to take her religion and how seriously you want to keep your job, oh wait, well we all know how that has worked out.
    Surprising that her local Imam or even Allah himself didn't guide her to lower her veil for just a few hours a day, for the benefit of the precious children. That would have been pretty constructive to life on earth.
    I guess she didn't want to be a teacher that much after all. Otherwise she'd have sought permission to remove the veil in the classroom. [EDIT: Question Time has made it apparent that she would not wear the veil in front of children, but she'd put it on in the presence of men, like her male teaching colleagues]
    (Meanwhile, the MCB continues to be a right royal waste of time. Much as I want to tell the Government to stop giving it credence, it's fairly apparent that there's no other body to fill the gap, and it would be dangerous for elements of the community not to feel represented... but please oh majority of middle of the road British Muslims, start a new body and let's move on instead of listening to this MCB tripe!)

  9. I believe either the council or one of the teaching staff made the point that the notion she'd take it off only when there there was no male colleagues were around was blatantly unacceptable too. If you tried to make rules in the work place that only applied to men or women, imagine the bother you'd have. Again that's an example of a religious belief being incompatible with our society.

  10. I've always found it amusing - that sign in the front of banks that says "for security reasons please remove your motorcycle helmet". Then you have someone in there clad head to toe in best black shift, less an eye slot...

  11. This should make interesting viewing tomorrow.

  12. I'm confused; how on earth do these people get through Passport Control at say, Heathrow? Honestly bemusing.

  13. Holland has banned the full-body burqa. And I'm fully supportive of this. We should not let people hide themselves in our community either, whether its dressed up as the KKK or in a burqa. It's inappropriate and un-British, or if you like, un-European.
    We should continue to discuss the subject and look at options, because the burqa as one specific example appear to hinder or even prevent integration, and to some extent encourages serious traditionalist values which in turn have a loose connection to extremist leanings in the UK.
    For the veil - well that clearly doesn't need banning, but British people who choose to wear it need to understand where the limits are in its use, because these limits are still undefined as we are finding out.