Saturday’s Daily Mail carried a short piece by columnist Kelvin MacKenzie in which he described the veil ban in France as a ‘great success’, framing the garment as a choice tool for criminals, and suggests that a 2015 Conservative manifesto clause in support of a UK ban on the face veil would be a vote winner.
From the Daily Mail:
“With time on his hands, perhaps former French President Sarkozy might pop over the Channel and explain to the beleaguered David Cameron how he managed to get a law passed that banned the wearing of burkas.
“The law has been a great success. This week, three women who refused to remove their face veils at Charles de Gaulle airport were refused entry to France and were put back on a plane to Doha the same day.
“Excellent news. To me, the most upsetting aspect of going through immigration at Heathrow is not the length of queues, but seeing Muslim women in their burkas being nodded through by border staff. How on earth can they prove their identity?
“Is it too much to ask him [PM David Cameron] to adopt a law which helps to stop criminals — from terrorists to shoplifters — hiding their faces from security staff and CCTV.
“My suspicion is that if Cameron proposed such a ban in the 2015 Tory manifesto, he wouldn’t end up 14 points back in the polls (as he is now) but would be 14 points out in front.”
MacKenzie’s framing of the face veil as a garment embedded in criminality is preposterous. Notwithstanding that the face veil has on occasion been used by criminals, is the abuse of the garment by a minority intent on misdemeanors, sufficient to deny the right to the majority to exercise free choice in attire? Moreover, MacKenzie’s assumption that a ban on face veils would help to “stop criminals” is borderline ridiculous. Is he suggesting that Muslim women who veil do so to evade identification while engaging in criminal acts?
As for his ‘distress’ at seeing women in face veils pass through border controls at airports with relative ease, would he rather see border patrol engage in racial and religious profiling, with Muslim women who veil their faces subjected to more rigorous and invasive measures? And is he presuming that women who veil are exempt from border patrols simply because they are “nodded through by border staff”?
According to Home Office guidelines “all persons arriving in the United Kingdom must satisfy an immigration officer as to their nationality and identity.
“Where there are sensitive or cultural reasons why it is not possible for a person to remove a veil or other garment at the immigration control, they will be taken to a private area where, in the case of a woman, a female officer will ask them to lift their veil so that their identity can be verified.”
Veiled Muslim women are certainly not exempt from identity checks according to the regulations, something Mackenzie doesn’t seem to have bothered to check up on.
A recent study by researchers at Queen Mary College found that the criminalisation of face-veils in Europe had been set against the context of a “’backlash’ against multiculturalism” and the place of Islam in Europe. MacKenzie’s rhetoric is indicative of this backlash and the excuses used by Europe’s political class to prohibit Muslim women from covering their faces with no regard for the irony of citing ‘liberty’ as a defence for the bans.
Moreover, a study published last month by Irene Zempi of the University of Leicester found that the banning of the face veil in France had led to an increase in hostility towards veiled Muslim women in the UK. It is such rhetoric by the likes of MacKenzie that contributes to the climate of mistrust, fear and hostility towards Islam to which veiled Muslim women are increasingly exposed.
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