the veil in recent events

60 posts / 0 new
Last post
Fall Back's picture
Fall Back
Offline
Joined: 22-09-03
Nov 8 2006 13:21
the veil in recent events

Continued from here: http://libcom.org/forums/libcommunity/help-with-an-article-about-the-veil-controversy

So, the whole Jack Straw thing. As I said in the other thread, I don't really think Straw was trying to be racist, and was genuinely trying to start a 'debate' on it. He wasn't ordering people to remove their veils - he just said he asked it. However, I think a lot of the backlash has crossed over into being racist, and most of the stuff that followed was really fucked. I think a lot of this blame has to lie with Muslin community leaders for their stupid (and in my opinion provocative) response which wound the whole thing up.

For context, I'm not one of the super anti-Islam anarchos - I think the French ban is racist and wrong, and I think the teaching assistant (especially since the stuff about kids complaining was apparently made up) being fired was done in a racist manner.

What do other people think?

Am I wrong on the Straw?
On the teaching assistant?
Do Muslim community leaders share a portion of the blame?

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Nov 8 2006 12:41
Jack wrote:
Might be the wrong thread, and I'm probably being horrifically naive, but does anyone else think that Jack Straw's comments were honestly said 'in good faith' trying to start a serious debate and weren't meant to be racist at all?

That's what I think. I wouldn't want to talk to someone with their face covered - just someone with sunglasses on or a hood up is bad enough.

But for another discussion I think...

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Nov 8 2006 13:17
Jack wrote:
Might be the wrong thread, and I'm probably being horrifically naive, but does anyone else think that Jack Straw's comments were honestly said 'in good faith' trying to start a serious debate and weren't meant to be racist at all?

I think so, though he must have known the likely reaction. TBH, this is always a difficult thing - should you criticise a community that is already under attack, knowing that it will be jumped on by racists, or do you keep quiet about things you don't like about it in the interests of some mythical social harmony.

Fairly obviously I think we should criticise one and all.

Regards,

martin

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Nov 8 2006 14:08
martinh wrote:
I think so, though he must have known the likely reaction.

Hmmm, but how did he "say" that thing? Was it an off-the-cuff comment or like a press statement or something? If the former he might not have.

Just saw front page headline about a muslim lawyer being kicked out of court for not taking off veil, a muslim teacher was sacked too. Again, I'm not really bothered by it - if I wore a balaclava about I'd get sacked. But it's hardly worthy of front page news...

revol68's picture
revol68
Offline
Joined: 23-02-04
Nov 8 2006 14:14

no i don't think Jack Straw was trying to be racist but once it was out it was always going to frame all discussion in such a manner. I do think Jack Straw was talking shite when he moved from a position of "personally i ask people to remove the veil" to one of it contributing to racial division.

I mean being lectured by a government minister on such a matter is abit like Jack the ripper giving you a bollocking for demeaning women cos you've just cracked a blonde joke, or like Jack giving a lecture on internet etiquette.

Black Flag
Offline
Joined: 26-04-06
Nov 8 2006 14:27

I think it is totally wrong to tell people how to dress or even debate it.The veil/burqa is not offensive and if people want to wear it they should.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Nov 8 2006 14:30

French thing is not racist by the way. The law is fairly old and was instituted when there were few or no muslims in France iirc. However it was widely ignored and has been enforced in a racist manner (like most laws in France)

Jacques Roux's picture
Jacques Roux
Offline
Joined: 17-07-06
Nov 8 2006 14:34
Tim wrote:
I think it is totally wrong to tell people how to dress or even debate it.

You think its wrong to debate it? eek

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Nov 8 2006 15:14
jef costello wrote:
French thing is not racist by the way. The law is fairly old and was instituted when there were few or no muslims in France iirc. However it was widely ignored and has been enforced in a racist manner (like most laws in France)

I think the French ban is clearly racist. It was a clear attempt to pander to a rising anti-Arabic/immigrant sentiment in France by updating old principles so that they directly challenged Muslims in France.

Jack wrote:
As I said in the other thread, I don't really think Straw was trying to be racist, and was genuinely trying to start a 'debate' on it.

I think this also completely misses the context in which the statement was made. Clearly we are in a situation in which Muslims are one of the new enemies. And Straw's attempt to paint himself as the reasonable-minded public servant simply trying to speak on an open and equal basis to women coming to his MP's surgery is obviously complete nonsense - he's a top-ranking (although recently demoted) government minister meeting with some of the least empowered people in the country!! As I understand it, he made these comments in a local newspaper interview in his local constituency (Blackburn - with a high Muslim constituency) - I really don't think we can believe that he is so naive or politically inexperienced to be unaware of the likely response to this. In fact I'm inclined to think it was an attempt to cash in on the recent controversy surrounding Muslims and raise his profile after his recent demotion for not being tough enough on Iran.

John. wrote:
if I wore a balaclava about I'd get sacked.

well obviously the veil and the balaclava are completely different. But I certainly think that if you wanted to wear a balaclava for a legitimate reason, say you had some kind of skin condition, e.g., then there would be absolutely no reason to sack you for it.

martinh wrote:
should you criticise a community that is already under attack, knowing that it will be jumped on by racists, or do you keep quiet about things you don't like about it in the interests of some mythical social harmony.

I sort of agree with this, and we had another debate at the time of the veil statement in which I said so - see here. The point for me is that criticism of some of the more reactionary elements of Islam should not be made by the even more reactionary elements of the British state - and when they are, it's more important, for me, to point out the huge power imbalances between members of the New Labour government and Muslim women in Britain, than it is to support the sentiments of the government's critique.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 8 2006 15:24
john wrote:
I think the French ban is clearly racist. It was a clear attempt to pander to a rising anti-Arabic/immigrant sentiment in France by updating old principles so that they directly challenged Muslims in France.

afaik the ban is on 'religious symbols' in general, and as such is inherently secular, not inherently racist.

john wrote:
well obviously the veil and the balaclava are completely different. But I certainly think that if you wanted to wear a balaclava for a legitimate reason

tbh thats bollocks. i believe a supernatural being created the world and if i don't wear a balaclava women will molest me. so don't oppress me!

i mean i'm not in favour of a state ban, but this relativist stuff is just bollocks, imho.

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Nov 8 2006 15:31
Joseph K. wrote:
afaik the ban is on 'religious symbols' in general, and as such is inherently secular, not inherently racist.

well, that's exactly what Chirac and Raffarin were arguing at the time, but I think it's difficult to deny that it was directly targeted at the veil in reality.

jk wrote:
i believe a supernatural being created the world and if i don't wear a balaclava women will molest me.

ok, so now your argument is what? you obviously don't really believe this. That any argument can be made to sound reasonable/legitimate?

jk wrote:
this relativist stuff is just bollocks, imho.

what relativist stuff? - I was making a clear case for tolerance and equality. That's hardly relativist. You, on the other hand, seem to think that an argument involving aliens could be made to sound reasonable - that seems pretty relativist to me.

odd
Offline
Joined: 5-10-06
Nov 8 2006 15:35

people should be allowed or not wear what they want.jack straw knew what he was doing as do all career politicians,he knew the media would fall over themselves,with their objective (not) reporting.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 8 2006 15:53
john wrote:
ok, so now your argument is what? you obviously don't really believe this.

right, whereas islam and chistianity et al have wonderfully rational bases for their beliefs roll eyes

john wrote:
well, that's exactly what Chirac and Raffarin were arguing at the time, but I think it's difficult to deny that it was directly targeted at the veil in reality.

i didn't follow it closely so i'm kind of taking Jef's word for it tbh. there are several leaps required for the law itself to be racist, firstly from 'religious symbols' as the letter of the law to islamic veils in practice, then to see islam as a 'race' and not a belief system.

john wrote:
what relativist stuff?

You seemed relativist by suggesting a muslim's veil is justified whereas John. or my balaclava isn't on grounds of some kind of unspecified cultural autonomy/authenticity, like when people excuse female genital mutilation on grounds of 'cultural difference'.

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Nov 8 2006 16:00
Joseph K. wrote:
john wrote:
ok, so now your argument is what? you obviously don't really believe this.

right, whereas islam and chistianity et al have wonderfully rational bases for their beliefs roll eyes

no, but they do, as far as I can tell, believe it

Joseph wrote:
there are several leaps required for the law itself to be racist, firstly from 'religious symbols' as the letter of the law to islamic veils in practice, then to see islam as a 'race' and not a belief system.

I think in this case these leaps are justified - the law was actually focused very heavily on the headscarves, which is worn almost entirely by Muslim immigrants from the North African ex-French colonies.

Joseph wrote:
john wrote:
what relativist stuff?

You seemed relativist by suggesting a muslim's veil is justified whereas John. or my balaclava isn't on grounds of some kind of unspecified cultural autonomy/authenticity, like when people excuse female genital mutilation on grounds of 'cultural difference'.

ok, I sort of follow you now. Let me be clear. I support yours and John.'s right to wear a balaclava. In fact I didn't need the caveat about skin conditions to make that sentence, which is probably why there was some confusion. So, yes, I might have been wrong on that. I'm against female genital mutilation of babies/children, as clearly they are not autonomous individuals who wish to carry out such a barbaric act. If, on the other hand, a consenting woman chooses it, then that's up to her - although I'd be very surprised if there are any!

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 8 2006 16:07

ok i see what you're saying - its no business of the state to tell people how to dress - agreed. meaning always elludes language wall wink

john wrote:
no, but they do, as far as I can tell, believe it

ahh, the tried and tested legal test of 'honest belief', or 'are you a pisstaker or just an irrationalist' tongue. fair enough.

john wrote:
I think in this case these leaps are justified - the law was actually focused very heavily on the headscarves, which is worn almost entirely by Muslim immigrants from the North African ex-French colonies.

yeah like i say i don't know the details so i'm not going to argue the toss. i just took Jef's word for it pretty much on the grounds of geography, which isn't exactly becoming of scholarly rigour wink

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Nov 8 2006 16:11
Joseph K. wrote:
olike i say i don't know the details so i'm not going to argue the toss.

how disappointing - I've only got 50 minutes left to kill until I go home wink grin wink

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 8 2006 16:14

30 for me, i'll try and think of something controversial wink

revol68's picture
revol68
Offline
Joined: 23-02-04
Nov 8 2006 16:19

the french ban wasn't racist because of the wording of the law, but rather was racist in what it was meant to achieve, the scapegoating of muslims for the break down in french society and furthermore to deflect attention from the numerous social struggles that were going on.

I can't believe people are arguing about the law as if it is some abstract entity seperate from the social relations it's formulated and introduced to.

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Nov 8 2006 16:22
revol68 wrote:
the french ban wasn't racist because of the wording of the law, but rather was racist in what it was meant to achieve

well obviously I agree, as this is what I've been trying to argue. But why, then, don't you view Jack Straw's attack, in a very similar context, in the same way?

Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
Offline
Joined: 7-05-06
Nov 8 2006 16:23

Iirc the French law dates back a long way and is seen to represent a defence of secular education won in the Revolution against the aristocracy and their clergy. Or something like that... But a new use has definitely been found for it recently, it's obviously being used to manipulate opinion racially for security purposes, in relation to terrorism and the banlieu riots etc.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 8 2006 16:25
revol68 wrote:
I can't believe people are arguing about the law as if it is some abstract entity seperate from the social relations it's formulated and introduced to.

well it isn't, clearly, but was the law specifically aimed at muslims, or were they simply the most visible religious presence in a political game over the Proud Secular Traditions of the French Nation? I mean it seems just as likely it was opportunistic politicking as racism per se, like the turkey-france tit-for-tat over whether you must or must not deny the armenian genocide ...

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Nov 8 2006 16:30

it was clearly an attack on Muslims, justified in terms of French national tradition (a tradition which is obviously limited to the White sections of France)

The French law on Turkey is also clearly another example of anti-Islam-driven xenophobia. I really don't see how you can view that law as tit-for-tat - it's an attempt to exclude Islamic countries from a 'European' club in a populist-inspired attempt to boost the popularity of the French political elite.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 8 2006 16:32

yeah maybe, but i'm going home in 5 minutes cool

revol68's picture
revol68
Offline
Joined: 23-02-04
Nov 8 2006 16:34
john wrote:
revol68 wrote:
the french ban wasn't racist because of the wording of the law, but rather was racist in what it was meant to achieve

well obviously I agree, as this is what I've been trying to argue. But why, then, don't you view Jack Straw's attack, in a very similar context, in the same way?

yeah the thing is that i have suspiscion that Jack Straw was looking to get his face in the papers but the thing is he done it in a way that was quite deliberatelty not racist, the fact however that it kicks off a massive national debate centring on the "otherness" of mulsims tied it into various racist discourses.

The main issue is power imbalances, I mean me saying veils are a crock of shite and i'd find it awkward talking to someone in one is fundamentally different than a senior politician giving off about it. I mean let's not forget that a very serious issue of ghettoisation , racism and sexism got reduced to a farcical debate over a tiny minority of women dressing like pregnant ninjas. Nevermind foreign policy, faith schools, the contradictions of multiculturalism, unemployment, womens oppression. Of course we should point out the absurdity of such discussions but the irony is that we still have to engage with it to do so.

BB
Offline
Joined: 12-08-04
Nov 8 2006 16:36
Joseph K. wrote:
yeah maybe, but i'm going home in 5 minutes cool

Wanka!

revol68's picture
revol68
Offline
Joined: 23-02-04
Nov 8 2006 16:36
Joseph K. wrote:
revol68 wrote:
I can't believe people are arguing about the law as if it is some abstract entity seperate from the social relations it's formulated and introduced to.

well it isn't, clearly, but was the law specifically aimed at muslims, or were they simply the most visible religious presence in a political game over the Proud Secular Traditions of the French Nation? I mean it seems just as likely it was opportunistic politicking as racism per se, like the turkey-france tit-for-tat over whether you must or must not deny the armenian genocide ...

yes but like all laws it's blindness is what makes it partial, like the right to sleep under brigdes. The equality of the law hides the inequality of living.

I mean everyone knew it was aimed at muslims primarily, even if it did hit a few other groups too.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 8 2006 16:36

i repeat, cool

Black Flag
Offline
Joined: 26-04-06
Nov 8 2006 17:19

Well what is the fucking point of debating it.Should there be a debate on wether jews should wear scull caps?Or wether sihks should wear turbuns?NO?!Well then, why do it?If someone chooses to wear something that is not at all offensive then why should we debate wether they should or should not wear it?It should be down to the individual and no one else.I now refuse to discuss this further.

revol68's picture
revol68
Offline
Joined: 23-02-04
Nov 8 2006 17:22
Tim wrote:
Well what is the fucking point of debating it.Should there be a debate on wether jews should wear scull caps?Or wether sihks should wear turbuns?NO?!Well then, why do it?If someone chooses to wear something that is not at all offensive then why should we debate wether they should or should not wear it?It should be down to the individual and no one else.I now refuse to discuss this further.

people debate what people wear all the time you precious knob. and since the debate hit the headlines and is an active one you can't make it go away by ignoring it but rather you have to engage with it in order to show how ludricous it is and furthermore the social forces that have engender it and which are veiled (fuck that just gave me a hard on) behind it.

greenginger
Offline
Joined: 8-11-06
Nov 8 2006 18:01

I have to wonder how many muslim women any of you have actually talked to about why they may chose to wear a veil. In my experience resons vary widely, but, for young women in particular, one important reason appears to be freedom. Freedom to go out and get an education so as to have a greater choice over their own destiny, and in particular who they marry and therefore how any kids are brought up...banning the veil will only restrict these women to the home.

revol68's picture
revol68
Offline
Joined: 23-02-04
Nov 8 2006 18:12
greenginger wrote:
I have to wonder how many muslim women any of you have actually talked to about why they may chose to wear a veil. In my experience resons vary widely, but, for young women in particular, one important reason appears to be freedom. Freedom to go out and get an education so as to have a greater choice over their own destiny, and in particular who they marry and therefore how any kids are brought up...banning the veil will only restrict these women to the home.

well that's a fantastic freedom. Why would not wearing the veil stop them doing any of that?