Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A Jab At The Hijab

Hijab, Niqab, same thing, same thing, innit? Well no, but I know what people mean. I've just come out of a debate calling for a ban on it. Suspend the splitting of hairs for now, and know that each time I say Hijab or Burqa, I mean Niqab. They're not the same thing, but in many ways they are. What follows below is what I said:

I don't think we should ban any kind of clothing or means of self-expression - that's not who we are. This is not the Jedi way. I wear a turban, and I've never faced any problems of discrimination, or singling out, ever. I've waltzed through half a dozen of international airports with and without my turban, even though the picture on my passport is of me WITH turban, as is with most Sikhs. Any comparisons with helmets and balaclavas when you fill up with petrol or go into Barclays is tenuous and far-fetched. They're not the same thing.

Having said that, my problem with the burqa or the full-face veil has nothing to do with tolerance - it's to do with the tolerance of intolerance. It is true that the burqa or hijab is NOT mandated in Islam, and that it is a cultural overhang - a male-centric tribal fetish, if you will. My own faith is riddled with similar idiots.

Our fight ('our Jihad'?) mustn't be with the women who wear it willingly, they have every right to do so. Our fight ('our Crusade'?) mustn't be with the women who HAVE to wear it because of the men that mandate it, enforce it, and demand of women to comply with their misogynistic, patriarchal attitudes. The former are champions of self-expression, while the latter are victims. They need our help, your revulsion of them isn't helping them, or you. Or common decency.

Banning something doesn't work - all it does is push the problem underground - below the radar of free and public discourse and scrutiny - like insanely high taxes push businesses into the grey market. It never really goes away, and it obligates otherwise moderate people into falling in with the aforementioned tribal constructs - reinforcing the 'us and them' narrative, that fundamentalists thrive on and incubate head-lopping slave trading pimps in.

So what IS the proper response then? How do we help our fellow citizens break free from the shackles that bind them? How can we set people free? Women's rights are enshrined in British Law. So is tolerance. Where the law fails, is it's inability to break through impenetrable social barriers which oddly enough, draw strength from very same laws. This puts us, and the unfortunate women forced into purdah-compliance in a pickle.

Here are three suggestions:

1. Make coercion illegal: Treat it on par with child abuse and spousal abuse. Any complaint must be dealt with swiftly and as publicly as possible. This could result in shaming a lot of people - the irony being, shame is what they're trying to hide behind. Good. Ensure and guarantee that those who speak out are protected. Don't do a Rotherham on them. Lobby your political masters. Labour won't do it for fear of losing votes, the LibDems will, and the Conservatives already have.

2. Education: Stop it with the indoctrination of young minds with tolerance of intolerance. Education in the UK is no longer a place where minds and norms are challenged - instead we're raising clones. No, stop telling them "What", try telling them "Why", and get them to ask "Why not?" I have very little respect for the 'blob'. Gove failed to neutralize it, Morgan isn't going to have much more luck than he did. I have very little hope. The blob has to die for our children to be more than Stormtroopers. Perhaps you can help in your local school as a parent governor? Do it.

3. Hug A Hijabi: Well actually, don't. I don't mean it literally. But many of them need our help. We must (a) understand the social constrictions and fear they live under (b) be kind in light of that knowledge and NOT target them, they're victims and they're hurting (c) campaign to ensure they KNOW that the full force of the law is on their side, not on the side of their parents or brothers or husbands who would subjugate them, and (d) invite your childrens' friends over, let them see the other side.

I'll come clean and state that I have no friends that wear the full face veil, but then I've never interacted with one... I avert my gaze when I see a pair of eyes looking at me - after all, that is the point of the garb anyway, isn't it? I do have many very close friends and dozens of acquaintances that somewhat adhere to some form of facial and head coverings, and they're lovely people. No malice, no hatred, just the calm serenity you would find in a nun - and the real world pragmatism you would find in an Indian accountant.