On Wednesday, the Telegraph‘s Allison Pearson–bravely, given the current climate–suggested that we should revisit the debate about banning the burka. “One day, the burkas, like a flock of crows, will come home to roost. Ban it. Now,” she concludes. So say we all! And the good news is that I think a ban on wearing the burka in public places in Britain is probably inevitable.
France, embarrassingly for us, has got there first. Normally I wouldn’t dream of taking advice from a Frenchman on anything but food and fashion, but the French government’s victory last week in the European Court of Human Rights has established the Republic as a thought leader. Paris argued that the veil is incompatible with the rule of law. The ECHR agreed. So it remains illegal to wear the veil in public in France.
As an ugly symbol of Islamism and its systematic injustices toward women, the burka is unrivalled–and horribly sinister. Tell MAMA, an organization set up to track anti-Muslim sentiment, says the veil is involved in most of the “islamophobic” incidents between Muslims and non-Muslims on British streets. So it seems to me that it’s time to make the problem history by doing away with the offending garb–not just on legal grounds, but ethical, aesthetic and social ones too.
To be clear, this is not an invitation to ridicule or abuse Muslims for being Muslims. But I believe we are entitled to make our rejection of an odious cultural habit, imported from regions in the world where Islam is practiced in its most oppressive forms, crystal clear. British imams themselves call the veil an “archaic tribal rag” and an “imported Saudi fad.” Let’s send it back to where it came from.
First, some good news. Life in Britain is getting harder for Islamic extremists. Birmingham schools are being purged of Islamist influence. Pressure is growing on self-described “moderate” Muslims to speak out about the violence their brothers commit. The public is increasingly vocally intolerant of Left-wing idiots who uncritically defend Palestine–or anyone on television wearing eyeliner and bleating about multiculturalism. Banning the burka is, in my view, the next logical step toward a tolerant society that makes no room for divisive, unpleasant ideologies.
As victims of a horrific and internationally reported terror attack on 7/7, Britain should be leading the way. Politicians will need a lot of convincing–but I think the great British public is up to it.
So alien to our culture, alienating in our communities and sinister in aspect is the veil that I am compelled to conclude it should be banned by law, and not just subjected to public censure and ridicule. (Though it should be definitely be laughed at, too.) That won’t make me any friends among my more ruthlessly libertarian colleagues here at Breitbart, who think the state has no place regulating what people wear. But I think they’re forgetting the uniquely toxic influence of political Islam on our streets and the singular threat posed to our liberty by Islamic terror worldwide.
In my view, nothing should be permitted in our towns and cities that might encourage British Muslims to feel comfortable around tyrannous, violent ideologies. We should make Britain as unwelcoming an environment for extremism as we possibly can. As I say, I think the public is smarter than politicians on this issue. (As usual.) So public censure will probably take care of itself. While no civilized person would endorse physical attacks on innocent people in the street, if all Tell MAMA’s new report really documents is a bit of name-calling, well… let’s just say I find it tough to get angry about that.
Much is written about how demeaning the veil is to women–and it is just as miserably oppressive as people say it is. I won’t go over those arguments in detail. Pearson and others do that admirably elsewhere. But I will ask about the psychological effect of the veil on men, who are apparently considered by advocates of the veil to be such base creatures they cannot be in the presence of a woman without being driven into a lascivious frenzy.
Perhaps I enjoy uncommonly rarefied company, but I’m pretty sure even my most testosterone-driven friends do somehow find the self-control not to run over and motorboat every woman they see on the street. I don’t think we need visible reminders everywhere of the offensive and untrue assumption that men are uncontrollable pigs.
And as for the smug female commentators you sometimes see on the telly, saying how they enjoy wearing a burka sometimes because men no longer look them up and down: how conceited can you get? You could be a size 2 and I wouldn’t notice through such a flatulent ego. There’s a serious point here, which is that for all the claims about burkas being something beneath which women can hide, the reality is it draws negative attention wherever it appears. It’s tough to blend in to the background in Sainsbury’s when you’re the only one wearing a bed sheet.
If those last two paragraphs offended you, I’m afraid you’re part of the problem–because there’s a dreadful sense of humor failure currently surrounding what is unarguably a ridiculous piece of clothing. Aside from all the serious stuff about how icky and unsettling they are and how they give silent succor to extreme forms of Islam and make it impossible to conduct fair trials and dear God have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone in one of the things… look at a woman dressed in a burka or niqab. Really look at her. Don’t tell me it isn’t a ludicrous, demeaning sight.
I don’t find women’s bodies shameful, but I do find pious fury entertaining, which is why I wasn’t in the least bit “offended” when UKIP councilor Chris Joannides posted a joke about “bin bags” on Facebook that got him sacked.
The joke was crass, lowest-common-denominator stuff, sure. But were more people angry–or secretly giggling along with Joannides? I think we know the answer. And in fact there’s no shame in admitting that this is so. Ridicule is a powerful and legitimate weapon in our arsenal against the burka; few methods of stigmatization are more effective. As far as I’m concerned, the greater an object of derision the burka is, the better. I want it to be the uncoolest ensemble a young Muslim woman can choose to wear.
To those who say, “Shouldn’t we ban crosses as well?” it is difficult to remain courteous. Surely they know, but are setting aside for the sake of specious argument, how fundamentally different it is to (a) wear the symbol of our national religion, a faith on which our institutions, literature, art, morality and social obligations are founded, and (b) parade around in the uniform of sexism and terror. The fact is that not all religions are created equal, and until Islam has its enlightenment and one in five Muslims no longer want to destroy western civilization, I’m perfectly happy admitting that I don’t want symbols of its most extreme forms out there in my neighbourhood.
Under current law, no one can walk down the street dressed precisely as they please. Try hitting Oxford Street butt naked on a Saturday afternoon and you’ll quickly find out what I mean. All we need now is for politicians to give expression to our revulsion at this monstrous piece of clothing, to send a clear message that extreme forms of Islam have no place anywhere in this country. Let’s banish from our streets what even Muslim leaders say is a Saudi-financed public relations campaign and put the burka in the same legal category as running around a pedestrian precinct with your bits hanging out.
And if, after all that, you’re still not convinced we should be ahead of the curve, allow me to appeal to your sense of national pride. We’re not just behind France on this one… we’re behind Belgium. The public doesn’t want this god-awful, ugly thing poisoning our communities. It’s heinous, stupid, backward, repressive and stands for those who would see western culture annihilated. Let’s just get on with banning it, rather than stretching the process out with another half-decade of hand-wringing, shall we?