An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Tuesday, September 27, 2005  

Islam in Western Society

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).

and today:

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I know that my comments were originally made about the hijab, and Kevin's are about the burka but I think the essential point is this: We are facing now what America has faced since its inception.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.

posted by Sarah | 21:14 14 comments
I presume your first act on coming to power will be to remove primary education from the hands of churches and put in place a proper secular system?
For a minute there, I thought that comment was posted by Ivana Bacik.
Jeez Louise,
Islam ain't a religion of tolerance at all. Not since big Mo went to hell anyhoo. I dunno why people bang on about it though.

However, how many women in Burkas have you seen in Ireland. Talk about a straw woman. Nothing un-Irish about wearing a headscarf. There was a time when our women were famous for their luminous skin and chaste virtue. Now it's luminous alcopops and chase the dragon.

Is this progress?
I saw a woman in a Burka in South Dublin about two weeks ago. It was disgusting.
Hi Dave,

What was so disgusting about it. Maybe she was a minger in which case she should be required to wear a Burkah.
Ladies that's a joke I am a 'New Man' type.
Hi Sarah I would tend to agree with you re burkas on our streets. Imposed by men, it may be more a cultural thing though than religious. Anyway its wrong. The melting pot analogy worries me - all cultures totally subsumed. Is it Utopian to look for a Salad Bowl where every culture exists by blending to a degree whilst maintaining own integrity?

Not surprised you agree with Myers intellectually you are at the same level.
I've thought about this a lot and have read Kevin Myers articles. He's certainly not afraid to put his views out strongly and I admire that. I think we should allow for cultural differences - otherwise we are going to be one dull big monolithic World. However I agree that any cultural or religious practise which can genuinely be seen directly or otherwise to harm others or oneself is wrong. The extreme cases are easy to agree with Kevin Myers on. However it's potentially a delicate subject when you try to define where cultural limits cross over to dangerous. I think a certain amount of "When in Rome..." respect should apply when anyone travels to other countries when big differences in cultural practises can cause offence. I'm sure we are all familiar with how even body jestures can have different meanings in different parts of the World.

If Kevin Myers means that we should ban all aspects of a culture because some of it's practises are wrong - then I don't agree. It is both possible and important to be a-la-carte and celebrate sensible differences. As for the Burka - well, it does make the person look completely different to others and they are making a statement. I don't buy the idea that folk who wear the Burka in Western society are saying they condone the extreme forms of Islam. It's also a respect for their home country and culture which they still want to cherish. However, if they want to intergrate into the country they have moved to, they perhaps should tactfully lean a little to where they are now living. It would be a bit like me trying to blend into Italian society by continuously wearing an Ireland soccer tee-shirt. I might be passionate about the football team, but it can be kept a little more private!

In summary, I don't agree with the thrust of Kevin Myers point that we ban the Burka just because some Islamic people are terrorists or there are extreme practises in some aspects of Islam. I think it is a choice people make to blend into the general country culture they find themsleves in. By wearing the Burka a person is saying they are Islamic. By wearing it in another country where they are in a big minority then there is the danger to themselves that they are projecting outwardly that their views are passionate enough to maybe accept more extreme and dangerous aspects of their culture. I think this is why Islamic people should not wear the Burka when in a significant minority in a community. However, an outright ban is not the right approach. The exception would be schools or other institutes of course - where the rules might state a uniform is required for all the usual right reasons.

Wow, this "comment" has turned into an article of it's own - sorry Sarah! BTW - I admire your admission of change of mind, it's a delicate subject and there are different ways of looking at this topic.
Comments comments.
John, I think that all civil law has to decide where lines must be drawn. So for instance, I believe the hajib is ok - for what is it but a headscarf, but that the Burka is an outrage.And even in a predominantly Islamic country the Burkas are controversial. We're talking about Saudi Arabia here, Afghanistan and a few other crazy places. However the larger question is the questions of assimilation of cultures, eastern ones in western society. As I said in my original post, I think 19th and 20th century America is a great example. By all means come. But learn our language, be loyal to our state and obey our laws. No one's identity was thrashed, the Irish, the Jews, and the Italians being great examples of that. I think multiculturalism as we understand it today simply allows separate cultures to exist side by side without learning the best from each other. And let's face it, English Leeds and Bradford are the inevitable result. You have an entirely separate nation within a nation who feel pissed off and alienated and excluded. Multiculturalism worked for the 1st generation but left a 2nd generation gutted. Or at the very very least, let's talk about it. The new orthodoxy is that we must not judge others, but maybe we have that right.
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.

Whoah, there! I think you'd find that that's a gross simplification of America's ethniticies.

You're missing out on the complete erasure of German-American identity during WWI, for example. And the "Know Nothings". And the issue of Spanish in the border states with Mexico today.

And you'll find that Myers has a long history of indeed promoting a foreign culture and identity here, which anyone who's read his column should be familiar with. It's just non-Anglo foreign cultures that the guy has a problem with.
So some women wear burqas-no problem. Some don't-also no problem. The only problem is when people tell people what to wear.
Like the Taliban saying wear a burqa and the Christian Taliban saying take them off. It should be a personal preference.
The erasure of German culture also happened in England. You will all recall no doubt that the current royal family of Britain, the Windsors, made up that name during WW1. Their real name is Sax-Coburgh-Gotha or something. So we'll have to leave the German example to one side for the moment. And the Japanese of course who were rounded up and put in camps in the US during WW2. These were countries with whome the state was actually at war with so we'll have to argue their cases separately.
Let's remembers that Myers has confined his case to mentioning the Burka, female circumisions etc. These are specific customs which in western society we have specific problems with. And with regard to Janice's comment - remember that these are big problems within Islam too. Women are under massive pressure by the mullah's to wear it - so its actually doing them a favour to have the state outlaw it. You can't say women in Eypt or Turkey wear it by choice when the mullahs are starting to give them hassle on the street if they don't.
I don't believe Myers is anti-Islamic. He's just saying some of their customs are anathema to us (and some of their own) so we shouldn't allow the badge of multiculturalism prevent us from saying - actually that's not acceptable.
just a quick thing on the Spanish in America. Surely that story is one of the great cultural success stories? Haven't they actually beaten the drive towards a uniformly English speaking nation? I would have thought (as a non-resident and therefore definitely open to correction) that Spanish is almost the dominant non-American culture in the States. I know they are identified with the underclass now - but that was the Irish 100 years ago. No doubt they will gentrify in the next generation and rise into the political classes.
If muslims want to come to this country and enjoy our freedoms then they should learn very quickly that if they want to wear Burkas they should have Ralph Lauren written on them. Otherwise they can just go back to england.
Post a Comment
Previous Popular Posts
Other Blogs