Sunday, October 08, 2006

Strange Parallel

It struck me this morning, listening to Phil Woolas on Radio Four (mp3 download, about 11 minutes in), that the language used by liberal commentators on the subject of Mohammed cartoons/Pope's remarks/whatever is exactly that of Straw and Woolas.

"Muslim women have every right to wear what clothing they believe their faith requires or that they feel confortable with - we're not questioning that ... I am saying that people need to consider the effect of their behaviour on others - and just as this government is very strong in standing up against discrimination and bigotry, we're asking people to consider the implications of their own behaviour ..."

This is pretty much par for the "of course there is a right to publish, but there are times when it is right not to exercise that right" course. The big difference is that those vearing the veil are unlikely to have to go into hiding. I imagine the SWP and MCB are even now organising a dignified 'Defend the Nijab' march, and I look forward to the sight of lefty women donning their veils in solidarity with their oppressed sisters. We may as well get some laughs out of the whole depressing situation.

The dynamics aren't totally clear to me. Why are Straw and Woolas saying this, and why now ? Is it, as some have suggested, a move for the Deputy Leadership, a concern to show that he's as tough as John Reid ? Or is he genuinely worried for social cohesion ? I suppose it's possible. The obvious thing to do if that's the worry - given the demographics of high fertility and chain migration - would be to stop all immigration from the Indian sub-continent now - no more trips for clever female undergraduates to Bangladesh or Mirpur, returning with a second cousin husband and elderly in-laws. But that would be racist. It ain't gonna happen.

So it looks as if we're going for an extremely mild kind of assimilation - thirty years too late.

"Excuse me, would you mind awfully taking off the veil when you're talking to me ?"

The dynamics of the response aren't difficult to foresee, although I hope I'm wrong (as one who predicts an unpleasant future for my children's generation, I have no desire to be proved correct). A marked increase in veil-wearing. Mr Straw will have made his request and got his response.

Couple of other points.

Remember when Jack Straw ducked out of the cartoon debate, which was entirely the product of a campaign of orchestrated outrage ?

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: "The right of freedom of speech in all societies and all cultures has to be exercised responsibly and does not extend to an obligation to insult."

Phil Woolas today : "... the impact of the debate in the united kingdom goes directly across the world - particularly to the Asian subcontinent, where relatives watch the same news often, read reports of the UK debate - these things can be misinterpreted, can be twisted, can be used by any point of view to inflame or perpetuate a particular angle - now, some of the reports in the Asian subcontinent have questioned whether or not it is safe to be a Muslim in Britain ... my point ... is that this debate is reported elsewhere and is often misunderstood"

Perhaps you should have defended the Danes against lies and misinformation when they were the victims. Those who do not hang together will assuredly hang seperately.

"The issue of how do we have faith-based communities within a democratic secular country,is a question that is facing the world"

I didn't know we WERE a secular democracy. I thought the Queen ruled under God and that our constitution was specifically Protestant and Christian. Did they slip and Enabling Act through in the recess ? Admittedly our constitution is about the only Christian thing left. Which is why we're in this mess.

This bit was also interesting - the opening part especially (I couldn't actually grasp his waffling at the end) :

"Young Muslim people especially want to assert their identity, want to assert their faith - and that's very understandable in the modern world - equally that can cause an increase in stereotyping and discrimination against them, contrary to their own intentions - so while the government is strong in standing up against discrimination - and indeed we've legislated very strongly for that ; we also wish to create a very tolerant society where there's a greater understanding of why it is that people do what they want; I'm trying to get this out in the open so that we can debate this in a very mature way"

Would Mr Woolas find a desire in English people to assert their identity "very understandable" ? The problem with asserting identity is that it tends to be asserted against some other identity. If thet other identity is the straight white male, or the English. no problem - hence Gape Ride marches or Easter 1916 commemorations. Yet I haven't noticed an especial keenness on the part of our rulers to understand, say, the desire of British Ulstermen to "assert their identity" at Drumcree and other places.


Rick said...

My bet is on Jack Straw retiring at the next election............the ability to hold the White vote together with the Muslim bloc is becoming increasingly difficult.

Labour - ie Ruth Kelly, Phil Woolas, Shahid Malik etc have a problem with Labour's Muslim constituency which is not big enough to compensate for BNP-inclined White voters

When John "The Groper" Prescott starts talking about female dress you know Labour is rattled about votes

verity said...

Laban - Pakistanis do not marry second cousins. It is their tribal custom to marry their first cousins, for generation after generation after generation. This has resulted, as I have posted elsewhere, in NHS figures that show Pakistanis acount for three per cent of the births in Britain and 30% of birth defects.

I, too, am puzzled by Jack Straw's sudden lurch towards the light. The veil is not "modesty" and it is not a religious requirement. It is an aggressive statement. And it also carries the implied message: "I am hiding, but I can see you and I am watching."

If, when a veiled muslim woman came into his surgery, Straw, to level the playing field, automatically reached into his desk and put a mask over his own face, there would be outrage. But why?

There are signs with a line through them indicating "No motorcycle helmets" on the doors of some commercial establishments. There should be an accompanying icon with a slash through it indicating "No veils".

One cannot wear the veil to work in any mairie or government office in France. This is a longstanding law. They have now banned the hijab on school property. Some German states have also banned the hijab in schools for teachers, and in government buildings. I think (not sure) I read that in Belgium, they banned it on the streets.

Britain, so accustomed to thinking itself more politically advanced, more devoted to freedom - both of action and speech - than the continent, is actually very backward and weak. France, Germany,Spain and Sweden published the cartoons. In Britain, the papers pretended to be acting "responsibly" by not running them. For responsible, read "scared shitless".

Covering one's face on public property - and that includes the streets - is against the law. Except for islamic women enclosed in black draperies and islamic male demonstrators covering their faces with their keffyas.

Rick said...

in NHS figures that show Pakistanis acount for three per cent of the births in Britain and 30% of birth defects.

Go check Labour's Health Action Zones (HAZs) and see where they are...........see how many projects are running in Bradford City with links to Mirpur in Kashmir

“The mosques have access to people. We have access to knowledge. Together we can have a good partnership.” Ali-Jan Haider, Director of Equality and Diversity Partnerships, Bradford City Teaching PCT.

Dr Rashid had already organised a series of events to raise awareness of type-two diabetes in the city's South Asian community - who are up to five times more likely to suffer from the disease than people from other backgrounds - but he needed to attract those most at risk. So he approached the Imams to make announcements about the events at prayer time.

it is also generating new ideas about how to improve the health of local communities, including a plan to develop stronger links with healthcare providers in Mirpur, Pakistan, where around 40 per cent of Bradford City's patients originate.

Ali-Jan Haider, Director of Primary Care Equality and Diversity Partnerships at the Trust, says that building such relationships is important to ensure continuity of care for those patients with long-term or chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease or mental health problems. "We still have lots of migrants from Pakistan who come to Bradford to marry," he explains. "A lot of people spend large amounts of time back in Pakistan visiting their families. If they don't access health services or their drug compliance breaks down their health can deteriorate to such an extent that they need secondary care by the time they come back. If we can develop good links we might be able to prevent that happening."

John said...

I think it's an orchestrated attempt by the Labour Party to outflank Cameron on the right as he veers leftward. Triangulating
the triangulators as it were. What got me thinking was seeing Hazel Blears on Question Time oh so eagerly trying to raise the
issue of immigration just as Oliver Letwin was trotting out what would have been a standard New Labour Multi Culti mantra a very short while ago. Clearly Labour have realised that the public mood is changing and they will brazenly perform any number of outrageous about turns to remain in power.Just as clear is there determination to be all things to all men, hence Cabinet members publicly voicing 'disagreement' with Straw - they don't want to lose their Muslim vote.And it fits perfectly with their talk tough and no action - a tactic which they could patent...
Still, as painful as another Labour victory would be it would be wonderful to see the oleagenous Cameron get an electoral slapping.

Stuart said...

"I thought the Queen ruled under God "

You thought wrong. The PM rules with God-like power in the name of the monarch. The Queen, having shirked her constitutional duties to advise, influence and restrain her ministers has reduced her role to a puppet, acting as a mere rubberstamp to political tyranny.