Friday, July 03, 2009

Headscarves not allowed?

I've no time for the fashion police who tell women what they're allowed to wear. If someone wants to wear a headscarf that's their choice. Some people, even among the 'great' and the 'good', think that it's acceptable to regulate other people's clothing - although obviously if you're white headscarves are fine.

Whilst this sort of bullshit isn't confined to journalists and politicians they do provide legitimacy to any bigot with a rage to vent. I'm happy to see that the racist attacker of a young Cambridge student has been given a clear message that just because someone wears a scarf does not give you licence to abuse them.

Nadeen Dah was unloading her shopping when Samantha McKay (40) "launched a tirade of racist abuse against the student, shouting: "How dare you wear a headscarf in this country."... As she did this, Miss McKay pushed her with both her hands back against the car." McKay was then restrained before she could continue the attack.

My Mum comes from this country and wears a headscarf, is McKay going to attack her next? Unlikely, because the scarf debate is just a veil for racial prejudice. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see that there is a contradiction between telling women what they can and cannot wear and women's liberation but it doesn't stop some thinking they have a right to sound off about stuff that's fuck all to do with anyone but the woman concerned.

McKay pleaded guilty to racially aggravated assault and, as this was not her first offence, was jailed for three weeks. I'm glad. We can't tolerate arbitrary racist violence against women in the street, no matter what they happen to have on their heads.

When 'respectables' denounce the headscarf they feed into real and existing prejudices. You wont see them having a pop at the stuff nuns wear because underneath it all it's not religion, gender or equality but race that prompts the bias. Every voice against the scarf is a voice for intolerance and makes attacks like this all the more likely.


Jim Jay said...

Today's letters in the Independent even has a new version of the old "they all look alike don't they" routine

"I often wonder, if more than one burqa-clad mother is at the school gate, how does a child identify his or her mum? Same problem if Mum and child get separated in a crowd – especially if the number of these hidden faces increases.

Dorothy Neville

Rayyan said...

Jim, I salute you. Where do I sign?

weggis said...

How does a blind child recognise their mum?

By sound, smell and touch.

Raphael said...

"[...] the scarf debate is just a veil for racial prejudice. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see that there is a contradiction between telling women what they can and cannot wear and women's liberation but it doesn't stop some thinking they have a right to sound off about stuff that's fuck all to do with anyone but the woman concerned."

Anyone with an ouce of sense can see that the event that you report is a disgusting racist attack which has close to nothing to do with the "scarf debate".

Anyone with an ounce of sense can also see that the claim that "the scarf debate is just a veil for racial prejudice" is false.

What about Turkey? The debate about lifting the head scarf ban in Universities there was all about "racial prejudice", or, was it about secularism and women's rights, and the fear that soon women not wearing the scarf would be submitted to intimidations, or worse?

Although you don't explicitely link to it, the post resonates with the current debate in France about the Burqa.

Fadela Amara only motivation is stirring up hatred against Muslims then when she says:
“Overall, the women who wear the burka, who have their very existence confiscated, are victims,” said Fadela Amara, the Secretary of State for Urban Affairs and an outspoken advocate of a ban. [from]

This is a difficult debate because it mixes issues of identity, gender equality, racism, secularism, etc. It is also difficult because, no doubt, the racists will do whatever they can to use this as a tool to stir up hatred.

Jim Jay said...

R she clearly citewd the scarf as her reason for attacking her - you can't just say it had nothing to do with it - we have to take people seriously.

Maybe I wasn't clear enough that I'm refering to the scarf debate in this country (or perhaps more generally the West).

Whilst secularists in, say, Iraq oppose the headscarf because they want women to be able to choose not to wear it, here secularism is used as the excuse to rebuke women for making a free choice that the person disagrees with - it's quite a different thing.

Anonymous said...

There was me thinking secularism was about religion being a private matter for the individual.

This really is an appalling incident, and we can lay the blame firmly at the Government for stoking up such attitudes.

Raphael said...

I did not say the headscarf had nothing to do with the attack.

The racist who attacked her did it because she identified her as a Muslim, and she identified her as a Muslim because she wore a headscarf.

I said it had close to nothing with "headscarf debate"; I was wrong. It is more than "close to nothing" because one of the dimension of the debate is Muslim identity and the rights of women/men to display their identity without fears of being attacked.

What I strongly contest in your post is not the fact that discussions around this sorts of topics are used to raise division and hatred.

What I contest is your assertion that all those who are worried about the veil or the burka do so because of racial prejudices, and the assertion that such worries are necessarily racist.

I have cited Fadela Amara. She has part of a right wing government for which I have no sympathy. But she has a track record in feminism which I do not have. The organization "ni putes ni soumises" is unique; I do not think that there is an equivalent in the UK. It fights discriminations against women including when those are from religious extremists.

The idea that such problems only occur in far away countries is very mistaken. But before we can discuss further, you would need to define who are these "respectables", and what debate you refer to exactly... and this is the second thing I did not like in this post: it lumps everything together and obscur debate.

ModernityBlog said...

Agreed with V&F, no need to use this as a side swipe at secularism.

I have argued long and hard against a ban on the burqa, yet I am as secular as they come.

The strongest arguments I ran across were not from obvious bigots, but women concerned that other women had been coerced into wearing certain types of clothing by men, and it is a strong point.

People should be free to wear whatever they choose, and free NOT to wear proscribed clothing, if they don't want to.

No more dress codes, either way.

John Mullen said...

The secularists in France are making the racists scream with delight. Thousands of redundancies every day, and the government has found the perfect issue to distract attention - the few hundred Burqa clad women around France. Feminists and leftists by their hundreds jump into the trap.

The main point is that burqas in France are extremely rare. Often they are worn by women who have recently arrived from a far off country, or by converts. But sending the (evidently non-racist) police to arrest them or stop them leaving their homes would hardly be liberation!

Unfortunately in France, when girls were expelled from schools for wearing headscarves, almost all the Left applauded, the rest sat on their hands ( with a very few notable exceptions, all of whom I know).