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Burkha Madness!

There has been much discussion about proposed “burkha bans” (actually bans on veils in public) around the World including the UK.

All the discussions I have seen have concentrated on the civil liberties / freedom angle and I have nothing to add on that score. I think it an obnoxious garment but then so is the mankini. Sorry, that is flippant. The burkha is a politico-religious statement in a way that (God help us if I’m wrong) the mankini isn’t. Having said that it should not be banned purely on the basis of personal freedom. By which I mean that is a necessary condition not to ban by itself.

Now that that is out of the way what about the practicalities and effects of such a ban?

Firstly, despite living in a lot of areas with very high Muslim populations I don’t recall seeing a “classic” burkha. The niqab (veil) is more common but still not that common. This is really a very petty cause. It would be like banning lederhosen in 1940. It really isn’t worth it.

Secondly, Muslims would go ape over it. The most obvious recourse they would have would be to stage massed veiled protests against the ban. Every Muslim woman who wear hijab would be able to quite easily obtain a niqab and that’s it. Frankly, I’d support them doing that. But is that the Muslim way of protesting? Maybe in this case, maybe not. Depends if the firebrand clerics get them into the (all to frequent) skirling rage and this would give them an excellent excuse to do just that. Victim-hood is what firebrand clerics excel at.

Thirdly, almost every case from Salman Rushdie to Geert Wilders of Islamic “pissed-offness” with the West on cultural grounds (I’m leaving war and terrorism out here) has not been the West’s fault. This time it would be over a ridiculous piece of gesture politics. A piece of gesture politics of such piddling utility that if I were an Islamist leader I’d think it made the West look even more weak and ineffectual. The perception of that weakness amongst many Muslims is a significant part of the problem. If we really want to do something about some of the unpleasant aspects of the culture of too many Muslims within our lands then there are far more important causes than something which is (almost literally!) about window dressing. Forced marriages and female genital mutilation are clearly far more important causes.

Finally, it is impossible to deny that dressing how one likes is an example of freedom of expression. By clamping down on Islamic dress we are offering the mullahs a Gotcha!. And they’d be right too. The West (some of it) was right to say, “sod off” over the MoToons of Doom (the UK media disgracefully wasn’t) because freedom of expression is a fight worth fighting. If an item of clothing were banned Muslims would have every right to cast in doubt our true commitment to that principle. It would make our defence of that fundamental principle of our civilization untenable.

PS. It could be argued that on the grounds of taste and decency the mankini ought to be banned but when something is it’s own punishment…


  1. Lynne says:

    A mankini does look rather gross but it could be worse. Imagine Jo Brand, Ann Widdecombe or even your porn busting friend Prof Dines wearing one.

    On second thoughts, don’t…

  2. JuliaM says:

    “By clamping down on Islamic dress we are offering the mullahs a Gotcha!. And they’d be right too.”

    Well said.

  3. QM says:

    The not so easy solution would be to give people (shop owners, banks, government offices, headmasters etc) the freedom to refuse access to anyone whose face was covered. That way you don’t ban the burka, you just make it bloody inconvenient for anyone to wear one.

  4. mehere says:

    The mullahs don’t need a gotcha; they try to impose gotchas whatever happens. The pious mind, after all, can interpret everything and anything the way it wants.

    My objection to the masked, veiled female dress is not only that indeed in some cases it is an obnoxious and deliberate statement of dislike of the west but also that the men in the family allow themselves to slob around in any old tat.

    I have seen veiled, black outfitted women accompanied by pot-belied, open shirted males wearing cut-off jeans. They can apparently dress as they wish, but their women may not.

    Double standards always irritate.

  5. Kevin B says:

    I opt for cowardice here.

    Let’s wait and see the reaction of the fatwa merchants in those countrys that are about to ban, or have already banned, the veil. If there’s a rise in the number of car-b-ques in the banlieu then perhaps we should hold off a bit.

    Seriously, the burqua, like pretty much the whole of Islamic culture, is a political and cultural statement. It’s a statement that all men are rabid beasts for whom the sight of a bit of female flesh, (not to mention the hair!!!), leads to instant rape. It is also a statement that your mum, if she isn’t covered head to toe when she goes down the shops, is a whore.

    Now I usually give religions a bit of a pass on the whole proscription thing on account of the fact that certain examples of mankind can find any number of reasons to tell the rest of us what to do without recourse to religion, and when religion is invoked it’s generally a warped version of the original that the righteous bastards use against us. However, in the case of Islam, telling people in the here and now exactly how to live their lives, on pain of death no less, is pretty much the whole thing. I guess it’s because the founder was a mysoginist, pederast, control freak.

    So yes it’s a liberty thing, but it’s also a discipline problem. The islamists jump up and down and scweam and scweam until they get their way, but sooner or later we’re going to have to slap them down. Whether the burqa is the right fight or not we’re going to have to fight eventually.

  6. What QM, mehere and Kevin B say.

    When these sods allow women in Islamic countries to wear Western clothing (should they so wish) then we can we revisit the topic.

  7. NickM says:

    My point is that it is a real gotcha not a manufactured one.

    You are right about the “whore” thing but it’s also kinda like leaving your car door open with the keys in the dash because it’s about the “responsible guardianship” of females… It’s also an honour thing. It is pathetic and horribly sexist against men.

  8. JuliaM says:

    “What QM, mehere and Kevin B say.

    When these sods allow women in Islamic countries to wear Western clothing (should they so wish) then we can we revisit the topic.”

    But Mark, we’re not responsible for how other countries behave to their people. That’s for THEIR PEOPLE to resolve.

    Here, in the UK, we don’t dictate what people wear (outside of uniform and dress codes for work, or entry to private establishments).

  9. Andrew Duffin says:

    “…give people (shop owners, banks, government offices, headmasters etc) the freedom to refuse access to anyone whose face was covered.”

    Hello? Give people the freedom?

    You mean (a) they don’t have that freedom now and/or (b) freedom is something to be “given” – presumably by the State and its organs?

    I think you may be part of the problem, my friend.

  10. NickM says:

    When that happens I shall buy you a double in Nick’s Bar and Casino, Mecca. Turn left at the synagogue, carry on past the pentecostalist church and mine’s the one just past the lap-dance club.

    Seriously though. In terms of the culture of bizarrely repressed/obsessed sexuality (a woman’s forearms must be covered!) they have created in places like Saudi the hijab/niquab is important to prevent a woman being abused or raped. It is a self-fulfiling prophecy. That the axioms it is based on are mad and bad is irrelevent in the context because the derived structure is both coherent and deeply engrained.

  11. Paul Marks says:

    Formally speaking the proposed law does not “discriminate” as it also bans other forms of face covering (such motor cycle people continuing to wear tinted face plates when they get off the bike and walk down the street).

    However, I know people will say that is a dodge.

    Basically the problem with Islam is not a particular costume it is the IDEAS of Islam – the number of Muslims has increased (vastly over the last century or so) and is increasing – both in Britain and Europe and around the world.

    Banning X bit of clothing will not alter any of this. So what will?

    I do not believe in relgious persecution – so that leaves voluntary conversion.

    It is not enough to say “well X person does not take these ideas very seriously” – it is the matter of what a the base beliefs of a person are. Someone who only “nominally” follows Mahomet (or any of the other spellings) may, at some point in their life, get interested in what this person actually did (in THEIR life) and what ideas they taught – after they are supposed to be following the “Prophet”.

    The trouble is that (contrary to the notions of those great scholars Bush and Blair) the man was not very nice (he was an aggressor, an enslaver, a murderer and a child rapist) and what he taught was not very nice either.

    So having an ever increasing number of people, at least nomincally his followers is not a good thing – the “extremists” or “islamists” actually have the interpretation of the “sacred texts” about right (at least as far as an infidel like me can tell).

    One can not just ignore all this – and it will not be solved by banning bits of clothing. So how can these people be won over to other basic beliefs (which they may choose to follow a lot – or just have as “nominal” background)?

    The trouble here is that the above is FORBIDDEN QUESTION.

    It is not just Muslims who do not like talk about converting Muslims – it is the ruling (for the present ruling) non Muslims as well.

    The Church of England (for example) is about as interested in coverting Muslims as it is…… well as it is in religion generally (who is this “God” thing? is the typical position of a Church of England Bishop, although not all of them).

    And the poltical establishement of all Western nations (including the United States) go nuts whenever anyone tries to convert Muslims – whether to Christianity, or to Randian Objectivism or anything else.

    “This will end in tears”.

  12. John B says:

    I agree, it is kinda self evident, that one should be free to wear whatever one chooses and as much or as little as one chooses. It really should not be an issue.
    That said, people living in the west should realise they are on the receiving end of stealth (and overt) Jihad, and had better get real about what is coming in.
    It does intend to change your life.
    Banning burkhas, as such, does not seem to be a very clever way of dealing with that. But whatever is appropriate should be considered.
    This is not theory. This is reality.

  13. NickM says:

    “those great scholars Bush and Blair”

    Watch it Paul there are long waiting lists for NHS hernia repair you know…

  14. Julie near Chicago says:

    Nick, thus:

    Firstly, despite living in a lot of areas with very high Muslim populations I don’t recall seeing a “classic” burkha.

    That was then, 2010 — this is now. 2013.

    And here, in the formerly sunlit uplands of northern Illinois, around 90 miles (80 mi. as the crow flies) from the radioactively glowing swamp that is Skunk Cabbage City, I have recently seen for the first time ever in a long and sheltered life two persons (I assume they were persons–but one oughtn’t to jump to conclusions) sporting the full-dress wearable prison cell, to wit the Black Burkha. In the supermarket.

    I was amazed. I mean, it’s sort of like seeing Medusa for the first time. One has heard of her, of course, but one tended to think of her as near-mythical, possibly imaginary. Imagine the surprise if her actually-existing self were spotted in the Instant-Mashed-Potatoes aisle!

  15. John Galt says:

    Did you turn to stone?

    They do tend to object quite strongly if you attempt to post letters through the slot. Not sure why though.

    Woman in Burka with Children

  16. NickM says:

    A great post by JG. I do wonder if folk would understand me on this. But my experience of seeing trad female Islamic dress is always to wonder more than anything, “is it hot in there?” And yeah, having lived in Manchester, Leeds, East London, I have seen such dress though not the classic burkha. Oddly enough certain forms of Islamic dress are extremely flattering. Remember that school-girl from Hertfordshire(?) who wanted to wear something different from the uniform code. She was well fit. In fact rather than ban the taste of Forbidden Eastern Promise we ought to celebrate it! And yeah, there is something foxy about hijab. Don’t ban it! Celebrate it and then see what a skirling mess the mullahs get into.

    And, yes, the mankini is offensive. Not that I’d ban it. As JG says it is a crime which is also it’s own punishment.

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