David Cameron needs to look beyond the veil


Source: The Guardian


For a man with an in-tray that never empties, David Cameron has strange priorities. This week, with the world economy shaking perilously and the EU campaign under way in earnest, his preoccupation was the claim thattoo few Muslim women speak English. Then he turned to the veil. If any public authorities put in place “proper and sensible” rules to ban women from wearing face veils, he would back them, he said. We must have done something to merit so much of his attention.

I wear a headscarf. I know women who wear face veils. Each time we are put in the spotlight in this way, the reaction is the same: here we go again. For we have seen veil or niqab debate thrown into the political ring on numerous occasions. Many have spoken out against a ban, saying it would be contrary to British values; others support one, citing the very same reason. These discussions never provide much by way of clarity. But they always mean trouble.

Each time the issue ignites a media furore, and Muslim women who wear the veil are exposed to more hostility in a climate where those in niqab and hijab are already under threat: 60% of the victims of anti-Muslim attacks are women.

When I started wearing a headscarf, I did so for personal and religious convictions. Now, whenever there is a media backlash driven by a political agenda, I feel frustrated that we can’t move beyond the broken record that is the veil debate. For the women who wear face veils, that frustration runs deeper; it’s a struggle not to feel like an outsider in your own country and it’s infuriating to be told to integrate at the same time.

Cameron would never go down the French route, he said. “I think in our country people should be free to wear what they like, within limits live how they like, and all the rest of it.” But that was not how his comments were received. I have some advice for him. Targeting a politically beleaguered minority of women who wear a face veil will not improve their fortunes or his own. The first thing he might do, for example, is try to base any future comments he might make on a reliably factual basis. Cameron referred to government reports that set the number of Muslim women who speak little or no English at 22%. The Muslim Council of Britain suggests the number of Muslims who struggle with English is just 6%.

Cameron is right that the acquisition of basic English skills should be encouraged. But the idea that the lack of them somehow fuels radicalisation and, down the line, terrorism is misplaced to say the least. It is, moreover, a reach to say that bad parenting leads to radicalisation – though an inability to speak English is not in itself a sign of bad parenting. As the clearly exasperated Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi pointed out, citing her own family, many Muslim mothers whose English might not pass the Cameron test have nevertheless raised children who have contributed significantly to British society at all levels.

Not speaking English doesn’t automatically mean a communication breakdown between mother and child, as parents, regardless of race and religion, don’t always know what their children are up to. And mothers without good English can still talk to their children.

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3 replies

  1. If David Cameron will ban veil,or hijab, burqa, Al Quran and Bible women have to obey the existing authority, even though against your faith or religion. God command people to obey authority. But you still resist, you have a right to protest your government peacefully. Or you can move to other country as Prophet did before.

    All citizen have to obey the existence authority, even you do not like or against your faith you have the right to protest peacefully.

    O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.QS 4;59
    HADITS.Listen and obey your authority, though he struck your back and take your wealth force ( Muslim ).

    This Golden Rule is found in Christianity, Judaism, and other religions.

    Everyone must obey the existing authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered .Roman 13:1-2).

    Women do not feel guilty you do not wear veil, hijab or burqa.

    Was Salam
    Read more Why Allah suggested women to cover her whole body.

  2. “It is estimated only one in 500 pupils wear the veil in the UK”

    Surely there can’t be that many veiled pupils. 250 out of every 500 are boys. Is there really one veiled girl out of the remaining 250 students?

    Question: would you want your children’s head teacher to be wasting time on this silliness – which boils down ideological conflict versus political correctness – instead of improving maths teaching…? Schools are now grappling with lots of stuff and nonsense which should actually be the job of the Home Office.

    Schools will be marked down by Ofsted for the first time if inspectors judge that wearing the veil – by students or teachers – is a “barrier to learning”.

    Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, has on Tuesday written to all inspectors instructing them to mark down institutions where they believe the veil hinders “positive social interaction”.
    He said that people need to listen to David Cameron’s concerns that “our liberal values, our liberal West values, are protected”. The new rules will affect around 16,000 children and just under 1,000 teachers who currently wear the veil to school.

    It comes after the Prime Minister announced that Muslim women can be banned from wearing veils in schools, courts and other British institutions. This is the coward’s way out – putting inspectors, head teachers and schools into the ideological front line. Cameron should lead from the front instead of shoving educators into the front line and washing his hands .

    An school inspection expert said there was no research to support Ofsted’s veil penalty for schools. Dr Andrew Clapham, senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Ofsted’s threat to penalise institutions where the Muslim veil is worn has no basis in research. There is no credible evidence base to suggest that “wearing a piece of clothing on one’s head has an impact on intellectual or academic ability”.

    “Moreover, the veil is no more or less physically inhibiting than a whole range of other headwear. Consequently, it appears bemusing that this piece of clothing should be signalled specifically as having a hindrance on learning. To claim that the veil, as Sir Michael Wilshaw the Chief Inspector suggests, can impact negatively on “positive social interactions” is also lacking a basis in research.

    “Penalising an institution because of a piece of clothing raises a whole range of questions which appear beyond the remit of the school inspectorate. If Ofsted is to pursue this initiative, then empirical evidence should be analysed prior to making such a policy decision.”

    A Department for Education spokesman said “we fully support” the statement from Sir Michael that head teachers who “restrict the wearing of the veil to support effective teaching and learning will receive Ofsted’s backing”.

    Mr Cameron said that he will give his backing to public authorities that put in place “proper and sensible” rules to ban women from wearing face veils in comments which will reignite debates.
    Schools have had uniform rules challenged time and again and courts typically show then to be unenforceable. Face coverings are not banned by law. Schools will find it difficult to enforce any ban as part of the uniform. Ofsted will therefore criticise schools for allowing something that is completely legal.

    If the government are prepared to stick their neck out and ban then then they should do it. Calling on others to do something is pathetic whilst they’re unwilling to do something themselves. Is there anyone in government with any balls to say what they mean?

    The Government is preparing to announce a series of measures designed to stop British Muslims becoming radicalised and traveling to the Middle East to join terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

    As part of the plans, ministers will pledge to outlaw gender segregation during meetings in public buildings amid concerns that some Muslim organisations are forcing women to sit separately.
    Ofsted’s move was faced with opposition by Muslim leaders. Dr Sheik Howjat Ramzy, director of Iqra Institute in Oxford and former head of an Islamic school, said Ofsted’s move was “unjust” and it was “picking on Muslims in particular”.

    He told the Daily Telegraph: “I believe he’s totally wrong and this is totally unjust. Ofsted is picking on faith schools, specially Muslim schools. There is nothing wrong with wearing the head veil.”
    He estimated only one in 500 pupils wear the veil in the UK. He added: “Not many pupils wear the veil. The veil doesn’t make pupils intelligent or not. It gives them their identity and some security. Pupils have the right to wear the veil if they go to Islamic schools. That is no problem.” “It is also clearly right that if the wearing of the veil is interfering with education in schools that should trigger action from Ofsted.”

    Teachers criticised Ofsted’s move too.

    Leora Cruddas, Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We do not think that it is the role of Ofsted inspectors to judge schools on uniform policies and dress codes. Inspectors should focus on what schools achieve rather than what people wear. Schools make decisions on uniform policies and dress codes with the needs of their staff and pupils in mind and take into consideration relevant educational, welfare and equalities issues.”

    You cannot have a multi-ethnic society and then impose restrictions on people’s ethnicity. If their religious requirements are to wear a niqab/veil/yashmak/burka they must be free to choose to do so. It’s not for the government or school teachers to dictate what should be worn in school or anywhere else. If teachers need to identify pupils whose faces are covered there is always the simple expedient of wearing an ID tag, if you go into any government department they give you one to wear so that you can be identified, it’s no big deal. The government is a servant of the people, they are not dictators. Have you never heard of religious freedom? The government is there to see that in a democracy people of different faiths or none can abide by the tenets of their faith without interference. The women I see going about with a bit of black cloth ties round their heads never seem very subjugated. They are in groups with other, unveiled, women, and chatter away to each other in local accents as they shop.

    But wearing religious garb must be left to the discretion of the wearer. If it offends the teacher on the grounds that covering the face is incompatible with his/her ability to teach a class then some compromise must be reached. That is what this whole question revolves around. Who is prepared to give ground? It could be argued that the pupil is welcome in the class but the face must be recognisable. If the pupil insists that their religion demands a complete cover-up then it is a simple matter that on religious grounds they cannot be part of the class. If the teacher is comfortable with teaching a covered-up pupil then a suitable compromise has been reached.

    Banning the wearing of the burka is every bit as oppressive as enforcing its use. If women choose to adopt this apparel it’s their decision. OFSTED hinders learning! How are OFSTED going to determine if it is the veil that is impeding teaching and learning or if it is down to other factors?? Maybe by asking one teacher…that in itself is enough!! Maybe “eeney meany miney mo”… Teachers who wear a veil remove it when they are in their classroom with the children.

    Niqab is part of freedom of expression and religion. It might be something you don’t like or respect, but it is the choice of women to make, if they want to cover their faces then they should and in many societies are free to do so.

    Wearing the Niqab has never been a security threat, and if one was to say in case it becomes a security threat, let’s BAN women from expressing their beliefs and determining for themselves what they want, then I say INCREASE and IMPROVE the security of institutions.
    There might be some Muslims who deny the niqab as having any legitimate basis in Islam, but when faced with evidence from Islamic traditions, I wonder, what evidence to they bring to support their preposterous arguments.

    And, Let’s for the sake of the argument say this has nothing to do with Islam, it still has everything to do with the right of women to determine for themselves how they want to dress.

    According to some western feminists, ban on Burqa is violation of fundamental human right to choice for dress. To them the law does not aim at defending Muslim women rights but restricting the same. The Burqa ban is, in fact, liberticidal, they argue. And it will not defend women dignity but increase racist aggression against Muslim women wearing veils.

    The niqab, hijab, and Burqa are all Islamic, as they have been customary in parts of the Muslim world and are bound up in Muslim scripture and tradition for hundreds of years. Such clothes may very well have been inherited by Islam from pre-Islamic cultures, too. But that doesn’t change the fact that the clothes are closely identified with Islam. As for any rules REQUIRING or BANNING clothes are unnecessary.

    Not covering whole face or not is up to interpretation of various schools of thought and they shall be accountable on their intentions behind interpretation but I have numerous examples around me where women are doing complete veil and they are very much professional and active in every walk of life and living a very “respectable” and healthy life along with every contemporary suitable fashion and ornaments they may feel comfortable with.

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