the veil in recent events

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Fall Back
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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?

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Steven.
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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
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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

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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...

Black Flag
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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.

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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)

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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
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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.

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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
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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
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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.

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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
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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!

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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
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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

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Nov 8 2006 16:14

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

john
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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?

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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.

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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
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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.

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Nov 8 2006 16:32

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

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

Wanka!

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 8 2006 16:36

i repeat, cool

Black Flag
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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.

greenginger
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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.

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Nov 8 2006 18:41

Incidentally Turkey, like France also has a legal ban on the veil. Although Turkey's ban is more wide ranging in application and specifically anti-muslim john.
The French law is in regard to secularism (laicite) which is a very important concept here. If the law now is being used against muslims it wasn't, as I said earlier, the original aim. Teachers have been punished (I don't know about prosecutions for wearing crosses etc) If anything the original target was likely to be jews.
greenginger why does the veil give them these freedoms? Because if they wear it they are allowed by their husbands fathers etc to do so?

Dundee_United
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Nov 9 2006 11:17

As a communist I believe very much in smashing religion. Every temple must be destroyed for the benefits of humanity and anti-relgious secularism must be rigidly enforced. The veil is no exception. However that's not what this public 'debate' is about. It's very concerning, in that it seems to be shifting the political consciousness. Jack Straw's comments were intended to lead to this. (The idea that a ruling class lackey like Straw did not know exactly what he was doing is not realistic.)

Speaking to people, many white working class individuals are confused about 'the veil' - a large number insanely seem to think the debate is headscarves.

A large number also bizarrely seem to have tied this into immigration issues.

[Obviously that's just from hearsay and not the results of scientific/sociological research but I think any such research would bear this out.]

I despair. I spoke to a woman a few days ago who honestly assumed that all 'asylum seekers' were muslim, that all muslims were scroungers and that non-white people she saw in her job centre were asylum seekers, and that because of this they were being seen quicker.

Now to a certain extent people like this woman are always going to be manipulated into thinking something if that's the level of the garbage they've somehow managed to internalise, but I often wonder how many people are like this.

I was in Inverclyde the other day leafletting about a stock-tranfer ballot and one of the tower blocks we went into was a run-down slum. The area was covered in 'white nationalist party' crap and everyone we spoke to was going to vote for the stock-transfer. For some reason they had internalised that the chronic and unbearable anti-social behaviour problems that the area was suffering from would be sorted by a change of landlord. The problems people face are always because 'somebody else' (some marginal group) is stealing from the pot that rightfully belongs to them. It's always because of one or two problems in an otherwise 'good' system - the chronic neglect faced by those people is somehow going to be fixed by a transfer to a housing association, or the fact that some woman gets treated in a bureaucratic and intimidating and uncaring way in the job centre is due to muslims/asylum seekers. It would never be because of a structural problem like capitalism and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or anything would it?

Fucking social democrats... I think this veil debate is part of a careful evidence based government strategy which has a number of aims.

1. Gain back Labour votes from the BNP
2. All the usual stuff - divide class, attack immigrants, create destitution/marginalisation of immigrants etc.

Dundee_United
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Nov 9 2006 11:34

tongue

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Nov 9 2006 12:07
Dundee_United wrote:
As a communist I believe very much in smashing religion. Every temple must be destroyed for the benefits of humanity and anti-relgious secularism must be rigidly enforced. The veil is no exception.

You'd better hope your area never becomes majority muslim then otherwise according to you you'll have to start wearing one to fit in!

ticking_fool
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Nov 9 2006 12:10

One thing that interestingly didn't come up in the whole thing is that Jack Straw has a very good reason for asking people to take off their veil - he's deaf (severe tinitus) and lip reads. The fact that he doesn't seem to have mentioned this at any point in his own defence does suggest that he did on purpose to raise his profile.

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Nov 9 2006 12:54

I think the media was more at fault in stirring things up than the muslim leaders, i remember the reactionary articles i saw in the Sun, but barely remember what the muslim leaders said, maybe what the muslim leaders said was provocative (Though i do not remember, that may be different amongst muslims), but the media (Sun, Mail etc) has a far more louder voice, they by far incited more divisions. I think straw was not directly racist, he may or may not have intended the outcome of what he said though, if he did want that, i think he is if not racist, inciting division. About the teaching assistant, it seems like something that has been stirred up just because of this jack straw thing, i am not sure it would have been talked about as much as it has, if it wasn't for this. I do agree that it was done in a racist manner. Ultimately my opinion on the subject as a whole is people should wear whatever the hell they want, there is one issue that muslims who wear the veil (I do not know how many) are forced by their husbands to wear it, that i also think is wrong and opressive if that is not what the person wants. Anyway, I'm a little tired of this debate, the whole thing went nuts like the mohammed cartoons (Though i think that one was by far went even more nuts)