Allison Pearson goes back to her “burkha rage” with an article in yesterday's Daily Telegraph advocating a French style ban on the burka in the UK.
Prefacing her piece with what appears to be information gleaned from the recent Panorama programme, “British Schools, Islamic Rules”, Pearson writes:
“I like President Sarkozy’s bracing assertion of France’s values: “We cannot have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity. That is not the idea that the French republic has of women’s dignity.”
“The terror of appearing racist far exceeds any fear of what may happen to girls, British-born but living, to all intents and purposes, in Saudi Arabia. There are now 160 Muslim faith schools in Britain, double the number of a decade ago. Many provide an excellent education in enviably calm and respectful classrooms, but others are narrow and bigoted. Barry Sheerman MP, the former chairman of the Education Select Committee, once said: “I think it is very difficult for politicians to actually be absolutely frank on this subject. Some Muslim schools give one great cause for concern.”
“The burka and the niqab should be banned in Britain. They are a barrier to integration, a statement of hostility to the host country. Poor women who have been brainwashed into hiding their faces are victims, not martyrs. The burka is a not a sign of religion, but of subservience. When Atatürk outlawed the veil in Turkey in 1934 the result was a soaring rate of literacy among women and equality between the sexes was ushered in. “
Perhaps Pearson should look to speak to British Muslim women, like Fatima Barkatullah, who would leave her in no doubt as to whether they perceive themselves as “victims” or “brainwashed”.
Pearson might usefully too apprise herself of some facts concerning Turkey – it is under the “Islamist” AKP that gender equality has progressively advanced with female literacy rates improving (though still poor by OECD levels) and of the 50 female members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, more than half, 30, are female deputies from the ruling AKP.
For more intelligent comment on the French niqab ban, see this from the editorial in the Catholic weekly, The Tablet.
“The sight of Muslim women being manhandled by French officials because they were wearing the full-face veil brought no honour to that great country. The French approach to secularism, known as laïcité, can only be discredited by such an ugly outcome. It was entirely predictable when the law banning the burka in public was passed. How else was it to be enforced, if not by physically apprehending the burka-wearer and on occasion criminalising a victim of oppression?
“In truth, this is not about the principles of laïcité but about French discomfort with “otherness” – non-compliance with expected standards of Western bourgeois behaviour. It seems to say that the presence of a substantial minority of Muslims in France is only acceptable if it is invisible.
“This is a policy designed to appeal to the far Right in French politics led by the Le Pen father and daughter. As in some recent speeches by President Nicolas Sarkozy, it comes close to recruiting France’s Catholic history and identity on the side of a dangerously exclusionist ideology.”
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