‘All this veil wearing is plain offensive’

“We’ve all been too deferential about the veil, the hijab, the niqab. I find such garb, in the context of a London street, first ridiculous and then directly offensive.” David Sexton writes in the Evening Standard.

All this veil wearing is plain offensive

By David Sexton

Evening Standard, 15 June 2007

THE Commission on Integration and Cohesion has issued some feeble recommendations urging local authorities and government departments not to pander so much to immigrant communities. All well and good, all long overdue. But in many quarters, multiculturalism is a creed that can’t now be contradicted.

There was a comic example of this in that temple of self-righteousness, The Guardian, this week. It ran a sympathetic report on Islamic sharia “councils”, as they are euphemistically known, portraying them as being primarily helpful to Islamic women seeking divorce. The piece delicately hinted that it might be a good thing if sharia law on marriage and divorce became part of English civil law.

Now, there’s a problem here: Islamic law permits polygamy (for men only, obviously), whereas it’s still a crime under English law. You might have thought that a paper devoted to rancorous feminism would not have had much difficulty knowing where it stood on the prospect of polygamy, for men only, being legalised. But no. They hedged, they havered.

Meanwhile, London’s listings mag, Time Out, ran a feature last week explaining why we should positively look forward to London becoming an Islamic city in the near future. The daftest reasons were offered. “Islam offers Londoners potential health benefits: the Muslim act of prayer is designed to keep worshippers fit … The regular washing of the feet and hands required before prayers promotes public hygiene.”

Ban alcohol and “you’d avoid many of the 22,000 alcohol-related deaths and the £7.3 billion national bill for alcohol-related crimes”. Education would improve. There’d be more parks because Mohammed was “one of the first ever environmentalists”. And so forth.

This week, the magazine has had to print furious responses from readers. In its eagerness to be multicultural, it had somehow failed to notice that the bars and nightclubs and the gay and lesbian scene that are its own stock in trade aren’t really compatible with Islamic rule.

Several Muslims who had left their home countries because they are gay or just wanted to live in a secular Western democracy were particularly enraged. “Don’t let the idiots who write this type of thing turn this once-great country into the stinking Islamic hellhole my birthplace has become,” one woman stated.

We’ve all been too deferential, for example, about the veil, the hijab, the niqab. I find such garb, in the context of a London street, first ridiculous and then directly offensive. It says that all men are such brutes that if exposed to any more normally clothed women, they cannot be trusted to behave – and that all women who dress any more scantily like that are indecent. It’s abusive, a walking rejection of all our freedoms. And we don’t dare say so.

Ruth Kelly might well hope the report from the ever-so-carefully titled Commission on Integration and Cohesion will provoke a “culture change”. Too little, too late, though.