Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering who clearly wants to be the Daily Express’ favourite parliamentarian, wants to ban the burka (or, to be more accurate but less linguistically pleasing, niqabs).
This seems an odd response given his Government’s apparent concern for maintaining civil liberties and reducing state interference.
By contrast Caroline Spelman, the Tory Environment Secretary, posits that this sort of ultra-conservative Islamic dress can be “empowering”. She spoke of how burkas conferred dignity to women in Afghanistan and expressed respect for that culture of women covering up.
Both attitudes are wrong.
Hollobone justifies his proposed ban by claiming it would promote integration. How? Instead it would strengthen the Islamist narrative of Western society being ‘Islamophobic’. I’d like to see his evidence that curtailing the clothes choice of a minority of British Muslims would be more successful at promoting integration and cohesion than, for example, ending faith schools.
He also argues that these face veils are “un-British”. Well, yes, I agree that they do not conform to mainstream cultural norms in the UK but so do lots of things that Hollobone is surely not going to ban.
Looking at Hollobone, I would guess his list of suitably British activities includes dressing up as a station guard and playing with a model train set. But having an interest in daisy age hip hop may constitute an un-British activity that needs to be outlawed.
The bloke simply wants to demonise Muslims and it stinks.
Spelman’s position is another category of stoopid – a wholly different kettle of crazy fish. She seems to be advocating the worst form of multiculturalism; the lazy assumption that all cultures are equally valid and worthy of respect.
Rather than use her position as one of the few women in Government to point out how disgracefully repressive conservative Islamic cultures are in terms of women’s rights, she is excusing the proliferation of the most horrific anti-women attitudes.
We should not beat about the bush. Burkas, niqabs, and suchlike symbolise the belief that women needed to be hidden from men, that women are the property of men, that women’s sexuality needs to be controlled by men.
This is abhorrent and it is regrettable that any woman in the 21st century, anywhere in the world, chooses to wear one. Niqab-clad British Muslims effectively giving the sartorial equivalent of a two finger salute to the progress our society has made in the struggle against patriarchy.
I await a more sensible Tory to articulate a balanced approach which neither advocates crude bans or foolishly endorses the most reactionary Islamic cultures.