Thursday, October 05, 2006

Veiled Threats

Jack Straw has beautifully illustrated that fundamental Labour inability to respect individuality. If he finds it difficult to communicate with women who are wearing a veil, then I would suggest it is he who has the problem.

Where would you draw the line? One could argue that wearing a Celtic shirt in certain parts of Glasgow is "a visible statement of separation and of difference." I've been the only Lib Dem wearing a rosette at a count surrounded by Labour people. Maybe Jack would say I should just have conformed and joined Labour so I was the same as everybody!

You would never find me wearing either a veil or a Celtic shirt (I'm not picking on Celtic, by the way, I could just have easily have used the other lot as an example) but I worry very much when politicians show such blatant contempt for individual expression.

We should respect each other's right to show whatever allegiances, interests or beliefs we hold dear. We might not like them, but so what. Labour have never been able to really understand diversity, which is a shame as we can all learn something from other cultures and ideas. To close your mind to dialogue because of what someone is wearing is to lose the opportunity to understand and share.

There are times when I truly despair of that lot being in charge of civil rights issues.

4 comments:

rkjfyoung said...

Congratulations, Caron, on a sensible and well-reasoned posting with which I fully sympathise. I find it quite incredible that Jack Straw should be so stupid as to call in question Muslim women's right to dress as they please. Would he feel "uncomfortable" if a nun came into his surgery, ot tool at it from another angle, would he ask a female member of Blackburn's "yoof" - a goth say, a punk, or a hoodie - to remove make-up or garments before he deign speak to them.
Multiculturalism has existed in Britain since at latest the Roman invasion. Labour's desperate attempts to row back from it now carry the danger that they sell the pass to racists and extremists like BNP and the National Front, by letting them believe that it is actually RIGHT to say that being different is WRONG.

rkjfyoung said...

Sorry for the typos in my last - the garbled bit should read: "or to look at it from another angle...". I must be tired and emotional!

Caron said...

Thank you for that. I have just seen on the BBC News website that some man has ripped a veil from a woman, which, unfortunately, proves your point.

Ian Hislop was saying on QT last night that Muslim women wear veils because they are told to by their husbands and brothers and as such the veil was basically an instrument of oppression. Of course, men who have a Western outlook are all meek, respectful souls who wouldn't dream of telling womn what to do. Women are completely equal, aren't they?

Western culture, like mamy others, is full of some deeply unpleasant attitudes towards women. I'm thinking of pornography orientated towards the male market, the constant pressure to be thin and sexy, the ever prevalent domestic violence.

I've heard a load of old tosh about how you need to see someone's face to communicate with them properly. Apart from the fact that many of us manage to communicate quite successfully on the phone - the almost saturated mobile phone market is a testament to that - you can tell an awful lot from someone's eyes.

Like I said, you wouldn't catch me in a veil, but I would be happy to talk to someone who was wearing one.

Shirley Williams did make the point that she doubted that Jack Straw would have very many Muslim women at his surgery in future. That is a great shame.

Anonymous said...

I'm not even familiar with what Mr. Straw said or the incident - but here's some food for thought.
If I moved to Saudi Arabia and wanted to hang out in regular clothes and live my life like I do in Texas - I'd have a very real problem. If I tried to go out without something on my head - big problem, if I drove, big problem, forget voting. If I had a problem with my husband and wanted a divorce REALLY BIG PROBLEM. If I had a daughter, and someone accused her of "disgracing the family" - she could be a target for an honor killing in any number of Muslim countries.

In the United States we experienced a very tumultuous cultural revolution in the 60s. In that time period our society made a dramatic shift away from anything that repressed women (regardless of what moniker was used). We stand as near equals (not completely - there's always work to be done)today. Over here, there's a great deal of discomfort with this same issue. This discomfort ties directly back to our own beliefs that women are not to be repressed in any manner. The "individual freedom" argument in defending wearing of veils really doesn't work well either. The vast majority of American women wouldn't budge from the thought that the ONLY reason a woman would chose to be subjegated this way is because she has been indoctrinated by her culture, religion and family. There is some basis to this position as the majority of muslim women here do NOT cover their heads or wear veils.

In an increasingly integrated world - cultures clash, period. And there are legitimate reasons why this happens. Symbols and traditions from the middle east are relatively new to Western Europe and the U.S. Plus the laws and practices in Muslim countries tied to women are wholly unacceptable to American society.

That being said, its no surprise that many would reject the integration of these types of practices into current culture.

As usual, there's no black, no white and lots of gray.

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