Understanding It– The Veil In Britain

British Journalist Adel Dawish discusses the recent controversy over the wearing of veils by Muslim women in Britain in a piece on memri.org. British MP Jack Straw started the controversy when he commented that women in his district who met with him with a veil and only eyes exposed were difficult for him to communicate with. Since then, the issue has been widely discusssed, bringing as it does, issues of religious practice, modesty, and acculturation to Western Society. Regardless of your thoughts on the issue, ask yourself if the Muslim community in Britain has responded in a constructive manner, been understanding of British cultural mores, and sought communication or extremism. Also, note the very important critiques by Dawish of the rights of unelected Imams and the like to carry weight with British opinion, whlie they are funded by outside Islamo-fascists (my interp) and don’t understand British society.

excerpts: British Journalist Adel Dawish on Veil Controversy in Britain: “Why Do Those Who Choose to Come and Live in Britain Not Try to Understand Basic Concepts [Such as] Freedom of Expression and Thought, Equality Between the Two Sexes [etc.], Instead of Showing Disdain for the Country’s Culture…?”

In an article titled “The Constitutional Aspect of the Veil Controversy in Britain and Elsewhere” in the online English edition of the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, senior British journalist Adel Darwish discusses comments by British House of Commons Leader Jack Straw against the veil. Darwish argues that Straw, as an MP elected in a largely Muslim constituency, is a more legitimate representative of the Muslim community than the Muslim groups and figures who are criticizing him – since the latter were not elected by the Muslim community. He says further that many of Straw’s critics – who accuse him of violating Muslim women’s democratic rights – are hypocritical, since they themselves reject the principle of individual freedoms.
“The recent uproar over the veil started when leader of the British House of Commons Jack Straw revealed that during meetings between him and female Muslim voters in his Blackburn Constituency in northwestern England, he asked them politely and without insistence to think of the veil from a broader perspective, as a barrier between them and their male and female British compatriots, and a hindrance to face-to-face interaction between individuals.

“The uproar raised constitutional issues, including a demand to the democratically elected government to fulfill the constitutional contract between it and the voters, who are actually its employers and pay the ministers’ and government employees’ salaries from their own taxes. It also raised the question of the government being responsible for social cohesiveness, by protecting the accepted cultural norms and modes of behavior, balancing this against the individuals’ sacred right to freedom of expression and freedom of choice and the extent to which legal and circumstantial conditions are present to guarantee that an individual’s choice, be it man or woman, is free…

“By following the media coverage of this issue and also during my participation in a live BBC program to respond to viewers’ questions on the matter; I noticed that the vast majority of the anti-Straw chorus consisted of men, although the issue is a female issue. None of the respondents were Muslim women from Blackburn Constituency. Those who attacked Jack Straw call themselves, with the approval of Tony Blair’s Labor government, the leaders of the Muslim community.

“Most of them are real experts at making rowdy objections, raising an uproar, and condemning every artist, writer, or academic whom they judge, according to their own religious edicts [fatwa] or edicts that are handed down to them, as a person who attacks Islam. In such cases, they wage an inquisition tribunal against the individual in question, to abort his idea or artistic creation before it is even complete. In most cases they do not even read or view the substance of his creative expression. They simply want to confiscate his right to make that expression.”

“Which of the Two Pulpits is More Legitimate… The MP Who is Democratically Elected… Or Islamic Centers… Managed by Unelected Persons?”

“The ‘Muslim leaders’ condemned Straw because he proposed a review of the veil from the ‘wrong pulpit.’ In their own words, the pulpit that they accept must be a local mosque or an Islamic institution or center far from Parliament and the electoral constituencies. This is an example of a double standard, because these ‘Muslim leaders’ are not elected and represent only themselves. The local mosques in question are under the control of imams who do not speak the country’s language and whose entire reference library consists of the books used in Pakistan’s junior Koranic schools. Most of the so-called Islamic cultural centers submit to the political agendas of the people who supply them with money, and who live outside Britain, far from any oversight by the British voters.

“The second dialogue between the veil wearers and the deputy whom they freely elected to represent them in parliament has been going on for years. Had Straw not published the story in a local newspaper, the truth would not have become public. Following an old democratic tradition, the MP uses his office [to receive]… as a constituency surgery [i.e. clinic]… one day a week where he receives his voters, listens to their grievances, deals with their problems, and, on their behalf, submits questions to the Commons. In Straw’s case, a third of his constituency voters are Muslims.

“I ask you earnestly: Which of the two pulpits is more legitimate and representative when it comes to discussing issues that interest the voters? Is it the office of the MP who is democratically elected to represent the citizens, including the Muslims, or Islamic centers that only God knows who finances them and that are managed by unelected persons?

“Straw is a shrewd politician who knows that criticizing Islam means political suicide and the loss of his seat in parliament. Hence his raising of the issue was a calculated step that enjoyed the support of the Muslims in his constituency. The female voters whom Straw asked to think again about the face veil as a barrier to a free face-to-face discussion removed their veils willingly. Some of them later said that revealing their faces might “embarrass” a man like Straw as if a woman’s face is a private part of the body, according to the misleading explanation given to them by the imams of deception…

“When Straw listened to the female voters’ wishes, he bypassed the unelected intermediaries and brokers including the Council of British Muslims, or the Islamic parliament, and other bodies that lack any constitutional capacity because they do not represent anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim.

“I hope that all MPs will follow Straw’s example and ignore these ‘Islamic’ organizations, councils, and gatherings, especially those that are financed from abroad, because they lack constitutional legitimacy. I hope that they will address themselves to the hundreds of thousands of reasonable and silent British Muslims and discuss issues with them as individuals, just as Straw did, to give them the opportunity to express themselves far from the domination and boisterous shouting of an unelected minority consisting of demagogues who seek a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims, or mercenaries who justify their getting money from abroad by pretending that the funds are meant to support fictitious Islamic cultural centers.

“Blair’s government should stop dealing with organizations that represent no one, and compensate the citizens for violating the conditions of the electoral contract by removing all ethnic barriers and installing social harmony among the people, beginning with requiring young male and female students to wear the same school uniform, which is the demand of most parents of all religions. This is necessary to restore discipline, just as the situation was a quarter of a century ago when Muslim female students wore the uniform and we never heard about a head covering, a face veil, or a jellaba. Today these former female students are good mothers, professionals, and successful businesswomen. Some of them are members of the House of Lords.”

….I support a woman’s freedom, Muslim or non-Muslim, to wear whatever she wants, provided that the conditions for such freedom exist. Most importantly, she should, when adult, be able to choose from several available options.

“Does the domestication of girls under five years of age and the effacement of their independent character behind a Taliban-like face veil give them the freedom of choice when they grow up – that is, if they even reach adulthood before being forced into a marriage that has no connection at all with a free choice?

“Most of those who raise the slogan ‘a woman’s right to wear the veil’ are Salafi fundamentalists who reject the principle of a person’s freedom of choice to begin with. The proof is that they immediately declare a person’s life forfeit because he dares to interpret a Koranic text in a way that contradicts their ideology – although Islam rejects the concept of a priesthood or intermediaries between God and human, whether he is a man or a woman. It is a person’s right to make personal mental efforts to interpret Koranic verses. By the way, nothing in the Koran requires a woman to wear a veil. There is no need, therefore, for an intervention or a fatwa by Al-Mahallawi, Al-Qaradhawi, or anyone else.

“Why Do Those Who Choose to Come to Britain to Live Not Try to Understand Certain Basic Cultural Concepts of This Country…?”

“The boisterous minority accuses the West of failing to understand the ‘Muslim people’s culture.’ Have they tried to understand British culture? My wife, for example, does not dream of recreating herself in a bikini in the gardens of Islamabad. At the same time, in British culture, it is neither polite nor tactful to have a conversation with another person while wearing sunglasses, let alone hiding the entire face behind a veil. Why do those who choose to come to Britain to live not try to understand certain basic cultural concepts of this country including freedom of expression and thought, personal efforts at interpretation, and equality between the two sexes instead of showing disdain for the country’s culture on the pretext of the right of a minority within a minority?”

(1) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 16, 2006, http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=6730 .


One Response to “Understanding It– The Veil In Britain”

  1. Alexander Thomas darwin Says:

    From Alexander Thomas Darwin
    London NW3
    The article by Adel Darwish (He is a veteran Fleet Street British journalist, an expert on the Middle East and a media commentator), which appeared in Al-Sharq alAwsat English website, seem to be a bit different from the original (The Veil Debate in Britain: Constitutional Aspects found at http://www.mideastnews.com/veildebate15oct06.htm) penned by Mr Darwish following the row ignited by the leader of the commons Jack Straw.
    It is either the original column was censored by the Saudi Owned asharq al-Awsat, or it has been back-translated badly; because a few days earlier, Al-Sharq al-Awsat published a good Arabic version of Mr Darwish’s column. And since translation, especially of metaphors and cultural references has to be modified to make sense to readers from different culture, the re-translation or back translation of a translation, made the column appear different from the original. If it is the latter, it is likely that who ever translated the column used also a soft-ware translation programme that translates word for word rather than asking the writer for the original in English which can be found at http://www.mideastnews.com/veildebate15oct06.htm, and curiously it is an opinion editorial under the section of ‘ Terrorism’ on the website, but to be fair, there is no section on Islam.

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