Should we ban the burka?
I was sorely tempted to leave it at that. So sick am I of this preposterous and disheartening debate.
But given that we are, apparently, doing this again; here’s five reasons why it’s a bad idea.
1) It will do nothing to help women who may be suffering under oppressive religious or cultural strictures. It will simply make them liable for criminal proceedings should they follow those strictures. So it will further inhibit what limited freedom they have to go out and interact with wider society.
2) Ditto for social integration either then.
3) There’s not much liberating about setting the police on women and girls because of how they’re dressed. But we all knew that didn’t we? Because:
4) This has sweet FA to do with improving social cohesion or liberating women. This is about picking an out-group and squeezing them for political capital. It doesn’t take a genius to clock that the fact this out-group are Muslim and overwhelmingly non-white is like, not coincidental.
People who are suddenly excised about the oppression of Niqabis often seem strangely unconcerned about the fact that say funding for women’s refuges has been slashed by £7million since 2010. Or that Universal Credit makes it harder for people to leave abusive partners. Which seems like it should be top-of-mind for those who worry about domineering men trapping women in the home? Not to get all whataboutery about it, but it does give cause to question their motives.
5) Finally, because, outside some strict and sensible limits regarding safety and public decency, it is in no sense the place of a democratic state to legislate what people can wear and it beggars belief that we still have to say this. Who are these supposed liberty-lovers who think that the Government should be piling in to decide what women can wear on the way to the shops?
Ah but what about swastikas etc?
That’s a facile comparison, because swastikas are specifically worn to indicate the wearer’s hatred of other people, and to inspire fear in those people. The burka isn’t.
Ah, but what about if women are forced to wear the burka?
Well, we have laws against physical and now emotional abuse and if necessary we should deal with that situation under that rubric.
However, I suspect it won’t be. Because, again, this isn’t about protecting women.
The right type of clothing doesn’t protect women from an abusive partner. Refuge, support, and a welfare system that doesn’t impose harsh financial penalties for trying to escape does that.
But there’s little political capital in offering genuine solutions to domestic violence. Instead, let’s just wheel out the dog-whistle, again.