‘Burka’ is the mark of female oppression – Express columnist

A burka is the mark of female oppression

By Virginia Blackburn

Daily Express, 7 September 2006

I LIVE in a nice part of London known as Little Tehran. The place has a pleasant atmosphere – the Iranians who live here arrived after the 1979 revolution and are sympathetic to the West.

They brought much that is good with them, including a couple of excellent Persian restaurants, shops where you can buy caviar at about a tenth the price of elsewhere and a work ethic that means they are determined to succeed in their new life.

But, just occasionally, I see something that chills me as much now as it ever did: a woman wearing the full burka.

Even the most politically correct of people know in their hearts that the burka is possibly the strongest visual indication of female oppression in the world.

In countries where it is commonplace, and in some cases mandatory, women are not allowed to vote, drive or leave the house unaccompanied by a male relative.

Adultery, like homosexuality, is punishable by death. Forced marriage, an event better classed as rape, is common – as is female circumcision. Rape itself is almost impossible to prove and shames the victim, not the criminal.

The burka is the sign of a medieval society – although even in the Middle Ages in this country, women were treated better than they are now in certain countries in the Middle East.

But no one has been allowed to say any of this for fear of being labelled racist, dismissive of another culture, or a Little Englander. Only a very few who saw what was really going on looked on and despaired.

Author Salman Rushdie commented back in the mid-Nineties that young women were being delivered into the hands of the mullahs and no one in the West was doing a blind bit about it because they were all too afraid of seeming to say that one country’s cultural values were better than those of another.

So we have reached the farcical state, one which a few years ago would have been considered beyond satire, of burkas being made available to female NHS patients.

Put aside the fact that immigrants should adopt the mores of their new land rather than importing their own (although they should). Try not to think of how alarming it would be to wake up in a hospital ward and see a woman wrapped up like a mummy lying beside you.

Think only this: women are forced to wear burkas because they are considered to be first their father’s and then their husband’s property and as such have no right to an individual existence of their own.

Heaven knows what signs of physical violence that burka might be hiding – there is also the minor matter of honour killings to contend with – and it is actually condoning that violence to allow the victim the means to hide.

Its apologists say this horrible garment is a way of getting Muslim women who would not otherwise do so to come to hospital.

Well, there’s another way – a much better one at that.

Tell them this is a country in which no woman need feel ashamed to seek medical help and will be at no risk from doctors or anyone else if she does.

Tell them women can run their own lives here without being bullied or beaten by husbands or fathers – and there are severe penalties for men who behave in such a way.

Above all, tell them Britain is the high point of civilised Western culture – a culture, for all its faults, that really is morally superior to anywhere else.