Will the burqa berks just shut up?

The media is thoroughly enjoying the controversy surrounding Philip Hollobone’s attempt to ban the wearing of the burqa in public places.  A number of MPs and a great many ordinary people think the garment should not be worn in public places, because some argue it reinforces separation within society and is used by some men as a method of subjugating the females in their family.

We’ve had various interventions from people opposing Hollobone’s Private Member’s Bill, such as the lightweight Caroline Spelman, who in classic doublespeak thinks wearing a burqa can be empowering.  We’ve had Damian Green chuntering on about such a ban being intolerant and unBritish because a ban would not be mutually respectful.  We’ve also had Sayeeda Warsi saying it doesn’t prevent women from engaging in everyday life.

But nowhere in these comments is there any sign of the F word or the L word.  No, that isn’t a reference to the television shows, but rather what the burqa debate should be about – freedom and liberty.

For what it’s worth, I don’t like the burqa.  I think donning it is a political statement, an example of intolerance of the society in which these women are living and an attempt to force a cultural difference on people.  Hiding one’s face in our culture evokes suspicion.  It isn’t a cultural norm.  The fact the burqa is worn proportionately more in the UK than in most Islamic countries demonstrates it is a tool for pushing the idea of cultural dominance for political reasons.

However.

I don’t believe it is the place of the State to legislate about the clothing someone chooses to wear.  Hollobone’s Bill might be well meaning, but it’s misguided.  Making it an offence to wear a particular garment, regardless of the motives or rationale for wearing it, is fundamentally wrong.  Where would such law making end?  Such legislation would be another example of an overbearing State that has too much power over the people it should be serving.  As long as no one is causing harm to another person they should be free to wear a garment of their choosing.  The State should uphold their liberty to do so, however much I and others may dislike that garment.

It would have been nice if the politicians who commented on this matter had understood this issue is all about freedom and liberty, rather than tolerance and empowerment.  But then, this is the political class we are talking about and they would rather deal in touchy feely platitudes than make an unambiguous stand against the State erosion of personal freedoms.  As they have so little of substance to say perhaps these burqa berks should just shut up.

11 Responses to “Will the burqa berks just shut up?”


  1. 1 AgainsTTheWall 03/08/2010 at 4:27 pm

    I understand your point about personal freedom but in order to be consistent you should make it clear that members of the general public can mask their faces also when entering post offices, Tesco’s, on ill-lit street corners etc.

  2. 2 Autonomous Mind 03/08/2010 at 6:28 pm

    Why? Am I not free to not make the point if I so choose?

  3. 3 Tufty 03/08/2010 at 8:51 pm

    I agree with AM. The burqa makes a statement. It is a form of expression and as such shouldn’t be interfered with by the state. As a statement it may be laughable, but if so then our reaction should be a laugh – no more.

  4. 4 Rereke Whakaaro 03/08/2010 at 9:53 pm

    I think it more appropriate to consider this in a somewhat wider context.

    For example, is it permissible for European women to wear shorts and halter tops in public in Islamic countries, if they so choose?

    Each society has its own mores and culture. When “travelling abroad” I am morally bound to respect those mores and cultures, and sometimes legally bound also.

    In return, the British should expect visitors and immigrants to respect British mores and culture, including the shaking of hands, and the exposure of facial features.

    It is incumbent on the visitor, to show respect for the host.

    This is the historical story of the Anglo-Saxons they assimilated other cultures into their own, by slow degrees. They did not bend over backwards to try to be all things to all people.

    It is time to get rid of the apologists.

  5. 5 Anon JP 04/08/2010 at 7:53 am

    @Rereke Whakaaro – thank goodness someone has got some sense here – If the law of this country does not allow us (non muslims) to enter certain public places masked (for this is exactly what the full burqua is – masking the face) – then you haven’t rally got an argument; have you?

    Or are you telling us that they can simply ignore our law, in the name of their freedom and liberty and all those non words?

    If so, I’ll take the liberty of say you’re a burk!

  6. 6 Gareth 04/08/2010 at 1:22 pm

    “But nowhere in these comments is there any sign of the F word or the L word. No, that isn’t a reference to the television shows, but rather what the burqa debate should be about – freedom and liberty.”

    Yes. Most perverse is the lack of vocal Government and community support for Muslim women wearing what *they* want rather than what their father or husband insists they wear.

    There is also an unclear but existing distinction between the burka and crash helmets, masks etc for fear of being branded racist. Yet it is an optional garment and should be treated no differently from crash helmets.

    We hear how either it should be banned (along with other face coverings in public places) or it should be freely worn (but given more leeway than other face coverings). What is falling through the cracks is defending and supporting women who choose *not* to wear burkas and reassuring the public that it *is* okay to discriminate against burka wearers in the same way we do against bikers – ie having the freedom to ask them to uncover their face before dealing with them.

  7. 7 Derek Reynolds 04/08/2010 at 4:49 pm

    ‘Against the wall’ may have commented tongue in cheek, but for identification purposes, a motorcyclist is instructed by notification through icon, notification in writing, and by speech over a tannoy system, that they must remove their crash helmets before entering Post Offices, Banks, supermarkets and shopping malls, or before filling their fuel tank on a forecourt – for identification purposes. Who is being discriminated against and why? Because the Burqa wearer can do all of these things without impediment – enter a Post Office or bank, shop in a supermarket, walk around a shopping mall, and refuel their vehicles remaining unidentifiable. Freedom and liberty? The indiginous peoples has been removed. If freedom and liberty were the expression, it would be accomplished if the Burqa wearer were to show their faces – not hide them.

  8. 8 Autonomous Mind 04/08/2010 at 5:21 pm

    Some very interesting and thought provoking comments in this thread. Perhaps I will be revisiting this topic in the near future.

  9. 9 Peter Reynolds 05/08/2010 at 4:40 pm

    I agree with you 100% on this.

    Just because Islamic countries (and others) are intolerant of the way some Brits may wish to dress, doesn’t mean that we should reduce our principles to match theirs.

    The point about motorcycle helmets is entirely self-evident. Anywhere where they must be removed, so must a face veil.

    It’s not rocket science is it? Britain should be proud to set an example to Europe and the rest of the world.

  10. 10 Mark 09/08/2010 at 9:19 pm

    For me, the banning of the burqua would be a strike against Islam and, purely for that reason, in taking the fight to the Islamists in some way, I’m in favour of a ban. Islam is at war with us and the sooner people realise that and start fighting back the better.

  11. 11 Peter Reynolds 10/08/2010 at 8:58 pm

    Will someone please lock Mark up before he makes everything worse?


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