Tuesday 19 January 2010

There's Nothing Liberal about Banning Symbols

Strongly opposed to the war in Iraq, frequently described as feminist and republican, the author Joan Smith, writing in The Independent today, does not come across as someone who would naturally have sympathy with UKIP’s burka ban policy.

However, Joan Smith acknowledges that the burka ‘limits women’s contact with non-relatives and maintains barriers between people who have different ethnic and religious backgrounds’ and that the garment signals a woman’s ‘deliberate separation from people unlike herself’. Smith points out that regardless of the woman's motive, whether it be family pressure, religious belief or political statement, the meaning of the burka remains the same: ‘separation, rejection, an acceptance of shame’. Thus she neatly concludes ‘wearing it in the 21st-century is preposterous’ but she concedes she would never support a ban.

A fellow feminist, who I believe would be more likely to support the ban is the Swiss, best-selling author of psychology books Julia Onken. Onken’s last minute email campaign was vital in swaying the vote of the recent Swiss referendum which banned the building of any further minarets in Switzerland. For Onken ‘the minarets are masculine symbols of power’. This has nothing to do with the minarets themselves but what they connote: a religion whose fundamentalist strands suppress women’s freedoms.

Many Swiss nationals were persuaded; the building of any future minarets was not voted against because they are an eye-sore, but because they represent a religion which has led to a perceived breakdown in social cohesion. Voting for the ban was making a statement.

If you overlook the genuine Islamophobes and racists, the desire of the Swiss people to ban minarets is very similar to the desire of UKIP’s leadership to ban burkas. Onken viewed the minarets as a symbol of Islamic patriarchy and this is just how Smith and Farage view the burka. Mr Farage said himself on The Politics Show that it is a ‘symbol of something that is used to oppress women’. Like the Swiss and minarets, Farage also views the burka as a symbol of the breakdown of social cohesion.

Mr Farage’s argument leads us into dangerous territory. Take the minaret example: Julia Onken attacked them because she saw no other way of expressing her views about extreme Islam. Surely It must be asked: why stop at minarets? By her own logic, if she had the chance, Onken would want to ban all the Islamic symbols in an attack on the religion's patriarchal nature, why not ban mosques, the Koran etc. And the exact same could be said of Farage’s line of argument. Why pick just the burka? Surely Mosques should be banned as they are spreading the doctrine of patriarchy and seclusion which he detests so much.

As any liberal will tell you tolerance and pluralism are the keystones to a free society. As Evlyn Beatrice Hall attributed Voltaire with writing: 'I detest what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it'. You might hate what is being worn but that gives you no right to ban it. If we believe the burka is inappropriate because it goes against our traditional British cultural values then so too must we ban that which is worn by Punks and Goths or the short skirts which our grandparents would of been shocked by in the 1950s.

Yes, let's encourage British culture in society, but forcing people to take part by restricting their liberty connotes fascist ideology (no surprise at all we're being linked with the BNP). Our Party would do well to concentrate on serious policy proposals in the regions of Foreign Affairs and Terrorism Legislation to deal with the real threats of Islamic extremism.


Anonymous said...

My liberty is restricted as I cannot hide my face like Muslim women. Please write a polemic about me and my sensitivities.
If you don't I'll have to go into counselling and I'll need compensation.

Anonymous said...

Have I missed summat or is this just another load of auto aggrandizing, shallow pseudo intellectual ephemera, rather than a COMMONSENSE consideration of the matter in hand?

Is not liberality a two-way street? If so, those who hide themselves in the burkha can hardly expect, nor deserve, the respect of others who traverse their path! Ought they not to recognize the customs of the society in whose multiple benefits and privileges they have so freely elected to partake and observe the long-established, elementary courtesy of “REMOVING THEIR SUNGLASSES”, when conversing with their fellows.

Charlie Chan.

The Pub Consultancy Service said...

Is not posting anonymously equally disrespectful of those who you engage in comment with on blogs.

Anonymous said...

Lest anyone be in doubt about where we're headed, take 5 minutes to read all about EuroMed.

We are told that this doesn't apply to us, because we're not in the Euro ... yet.

Time is running out. We have until 28th January 2010 to stop this. Inaction will be taken as tacit acceptance.

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha, like me im sure other anonymous posters just dont want to have to remember yet another set of online log in details.

Unfortunately a faith that the UK has opened its doors to is harboring small pockets of people that are taking it to an extreme, people happy to take residence in this country, take the benefits of this country, also hate this country and other western civilizations.

So in a typical fashion, there is a minority ruining a good thing for the majority who have come here for a better life. Unfortunately for the majority, it means that there are going to have to be rules, be it existing, or newly implemented, and these rules are for the PROTECTION of this country!

I saw comment on the previous thread talking about this subject from someone who joined UKIP for its prime policy on extracting us from the EU. Independence for the UK, so we can take control of our own country. Which is also what this current topic is about, taking control of our own country! The current government and its shadows are loosing grip of this country to both the EU and its rising immigrant population!

UKIP will need to implement more policy than just simply getting us out of the EU, and if the policies are still for the protection of this country, then we should have no problem with this!

I am a responsible adult, i have a degree, i work full time, pay my taxes, pay my bills. My fashion taste leads me to wear hooded jumpers. On entering a local shopping centre i was asked to remove it, a minority group of troublesome teenagers wearing hoodies had caused this policy to be implemented. I removed my hoodie and shrugged it off and got on with it. Its a rule, implemented for security, shame it affects the majority but thats life!

STEVE, (one of the anonymous crowd)

The Pub Consultancy Service said...

And every single Muslim woman and Muslim commentators don't have a problem with 'removing' on request so why does there need to be a Burka specific policy.