Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Muslim 'right' to keep the burkha is wearing thin

A short article that puts the wearing of the burka in Western societies into perspective.

The Muslim 'right' to keep the burkha is wearing thin

Sunday July 25,2010
By Julia Hartley-Brewer

IT CAME as news to me to learn last week that one of the key rights British women have is the right to choose what they wear every morning.

I have never thought that fashion was a fundamental human right but this means that the rest of us, two-thirds of the British people according to the latest poll, have no right to tell Muslim women whether they can or can’t cover their faces with a burkha or niqab.

Which is strange, given that the rest of us are constantly being told what we can and cannot wear with no apparent affront to our civil liberties. Women are told not to go topless on the beach. Men are told they must wear a shirt to be served in pubs and are barred from smart restaurants if they’re not wearing a jacket and tie.

Teens in hooded tops are refused entry to shopping centres, while trainers won’t get you into many nightclubs, football shirts are banned in some pubs on match days and I doubt very much whether any of us would get served in a shop or restaurant if we were wearing a balaclava.

So why the great outcry from our mealy-mouthed politicians over the demand for a ban on women wearing the burkha in such public places as airports, trains and buses, classrooms, hospitals, council buildings and courtrooms?

I have long thought the burkha to be a deeply disturbing garment yet shied away from calling for a total ban because it feels, as the Immigration Minister Damian Green argued, decidedly “un-British” to tell people what to wear. If we really are the liberal, tolerant, multicultural society we claim to be, doesn’t an acceptance of the burkha mean we must also, out of respect for Muslim culture, tolerate other aspects of Islam that thousands of Muslims living in Britain believe to be key to their religious beliefs?

What about allowing men to have more than one wife or supporting forced marriages? Why do we not back female circumcision, honour killings, the imposition of Sharia law or even stoning women to death for adultery? Aren’t these things just as much a part of “Muslim culture”, for the people who believe in them, as a woman wearing a veil?

We are also told that the burkha is a religious symbol and therefore afforded greater protection than other forms of dress. Most Muslim women don’t cover their faces. The burkha is an import from 7th-century Arabia and has no basis in the Koran. It is no more a religious symbol than the string bikini. Indeed, the burkha is not a religious statement at all. It is a political statement that speaks not of modesty or piety but of a hatred of Western values, of equality, of freedom and of religious tolerance.

The burkha doesn’t empower women. It doesn’t empower anyone except the extremist mullahs. The real issue is not the right to wear the burkha but the right of British Muslim women not to wear a garment that dehumanises and degrades women by rendering them faceless, voiceless and powerless.

A ban on the burkha isn’t about being anti-Muslim, it’s about being pro-Britain and pro-British values. The right to cover your face in public is not a fundamental human right. The right to equality is.