A brief update on the progression of my thoughts on this. Last year I
posted on this issue and I had decided that the State shouldn’t get involved in telling people what they could and couldn’t wear. But Kevin Myers has now written two columns on the topic and I have to record that they have persuaded me. There is a line between what is acceptable practice in a western democracy and what should be totally discouraged.
Here’s one extract from his Sep 16th column:
So, if you defend multiculturalism as parity of esteem for all cultures – and please, make yourself at home in Ireland of the Welcomes – well, you’re in essence saying that you respect cultures which mutilate little girls and justify the murder of rape victims because they are unclean (haram, a common practice in Jordan and Pakistan).
Anyway, just because the burka might be traditional in certain places doesn’t mean we should accept it here. We do not permit Swahili women to go bare-breasted in Dublin merely because they do so at home. Moreover, this is not a debate about some harmless sartorial vogue, but the spread of a fundamentalism which has so far caused tens of thousands of deaths across the world. Nor is this something strange and remote. A dozen British Muslims have so far become suicide bombers, killing scores of people, from London to Kashmir. We are all facing a complex war of civilisations, and part of that war is sartorial.
In all free societies, humans have a profound taboo about concealing the face, and I believe that taboo should now be reflected in law. We are increasingly dependent on Muslim immigrants, without whom our medical services would collapse overnight. By outlawing the burka, we are both protecting Muslim women and girls from the coercion of fundamentalists within their own immigrant communities, and are defending public cohesiveness according to European norms. We must not allow women to go masked in public. Full stop.
I know that my comments were originally made about the hijab, and Kevin’s are about the burka but I think the essential point is this: We are facing now what America has faced since its inception. That country has many flaws but one thing they got right was using the schools as the melting pot. Through the schools the peoples of many nations became one nation and without sacrificing their identities. Irish-America and Italian-America didn’t have to give up their cultures, but they all became Americans. I think you can pander to cultural sensitivities and end up creating huge divisions in a society instead of bringing people closer together. Fundamentalism is spreading and it is no harm to put the brakes on it. It does protect the moderates from pressure. So I am using my woman’s perogative and changing my mind. No religious symbols in the schools and I endorse Kevin’s no burkas on the street.