Sunday 28 August 2016

Burkini Divestment and Sanctimony

I think it’s fair to say that the subject of the French burkini ban and subsequent un-ban has been exhausted; but the melody lingers on.

The ban had to go. It put the French police in the ridiculous position of having to publicly order a burkina-wearing Muslima who was innocently lying on the beach  - sunbathing? - to take her top off, (while being filmed). The whole scenario looked so unnatural - but so do millions of other things these days - that the consensus seems to be that this particular incident was staged.

Over the past few days the online commentariat have said everything there is to say about the matter. They’ve drawn comparisons between the potential offensiveness of Islamic dress and Nazi uniforms or KKK hoods, and the implications and legality of wearing statement uniforms in public. 

Some have supported the ban because they fear creeping Islamisation, others have objected to it because they fear the ever-increasing infringement of personal liberty.  Some have suggested that lifting the ban amounts to appeasing Islam and encourages separatism and illiberalism, and leaves moderate Muslims at the mercy of their conservative co-religionists. Upholding the ban, they say, would have protected the Muslims who wish to modernise and assimilate, which everyone agrees would be a Good Thing.

Banning Islamic dress puts us, the non Muslim majority, in the wrong. It’s forcing us to look intolerant and racist, when it’s Islam that epitomises intolerance and racism. It’s as though the Muslims have come west, staked their claim, and thenceforth every single conflict between clashing customs is argued on their terms. 

“Wearing a burkina gives me the freedom to go for a swim” they plead, as though adhering to the strictures laid down by conservative Islam is sacrosanct and unchallengeable. Yet why should they have the freedom to swim when they haven’t got the freedom to soak up the sun, display their hair or  enjoy a pint of beer and a packet of pork scratchings?

As if all that hasn’t been said before, at length, discussed this way and that, inside, outside and upside down.

The BBC is one of the chief meddlers. They go about their daily business, manipulating the public, enabling manifestations of Islam we could well do without and relentlessly normalising them.  

You can’t win this one. The real problem is much deeper, as everyone knows but cannot say. 

Take a couple of recent examples of how the BBC has presented this current French fiasco. I’m sure there have been more, but as I have avoided watching as much of it as possible, I can only cite these.

First, a widely disseminated Newsnight interview, which I’m sure you’ll have already seen many times, starring Evan Davis, Douglas Murray and a hijab clad female named Shelina Janmohamed. Douglas Murray used this clip to illustrate  his Spectator article: “The burkini ban is a political ruse”

Here we have two openly gay men discussing Islamic dress with a lady whose head and shoulders appear to be wrapped up in several shimmering yards of fabric of a curiously saccharine colour and texture, weirdly reminiscent of icing-sugar frosting on a wedding cake. Someone described her as a talking cake. She regards her hijab as a means of self expression.   

Ludicrous doesn’t begin to describe the whole scenario. The personification of western liberalism - two high-profile, openly gay chaps - taking this religiously inspired fancy dress seriously. That is itself cognitively dissonant, for a start.

What’s more, at least one of the two is accepting the premise that compulsory Islam-inspired modesty is a Muslim’s inalienable right, while they both must know that alongside this person’s religiously inspired opinion of modesty, undoubtedly lies some very negative opinions on homosexuality. 

Still, if we can accept Grayson Perry dressed up as little Miss Muffet, perhaps we should accept all ‘uniform’ type statements, including swastikas, and welcome them as freedoms of expression,. We’re half way there as it is, what with bushy beards, hijabs and burkas.

Shelina Janmohamed is an author, by the way. She’s well educated too. Been to Oxford. Here she is Tweeting about a new release. “Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World”

Shelina is jubilant that young Muslims are changing the world, and she’s probably ecstatic that we are letting them.

The other example that I failed to avoid hearing was on the Today Programme the other morning. Mishal Husain got the hijab hebe jeebies topic of course. She has to have it, ‘asaMuslim’, otherwise one of the infidel presenters might come across as racist. 

Being a Muslim, Mishal Husain has free rein to probe hijab-wearing Muslims as well as Muslims who have decided to give it a miss.
“France's highest administrative court is being asked to overturn beach bans imposed by 26 towns on women in full-body swimsuits known as "burkinis". Nadira Mahamoud has stopped wearing her hijab after being racially attacked and Duree Tariq wears her hijab proudly.”

I assume the two women featured represent the young Muslims who are changing the world.
You might want to listen to the first speaker, Nadira Mahamoud who had been experiencing unpleasant reactions to her hijab, culminating in one physical incident. She was pushed from the platform into the tube train by a stranger, which she saw as an Islamophobic attack. It’s hard to tell if it was intended as such an attack, but she deserves the benefit of the doubt. After this, she decided to stop wearing her hijab, and now her life is much easier. She is still a Muslim though, and if anything, more devout than before. 

This raises the obvious question, how essential is 'extreme' modest dress for a practicing Muslim? Maybe it would be easier if they gave in on the necessity of wearing the burka and its variants, and called it quits. The weirdest thing of all, for me anyway, was the incongruity of this girl’s religious language and her street-wise delivery. She said she wanted to emulate “the prophet’s” wives, but she said it in the kind of affected drawl that young people from, say, “Essex” might use. She came across (in my opinion) as affected, quite unnatural and very whiney.  Grievance mongering. Yet Mishal Husain questioned her gently. No schoolmarmish tones from her today.

I cannot imagine how that degree of sanctimonious religiosity would have sounded if it been uttered by a young person from any other religion.  

Which brings me to Sunday Morning Live (SML). See Craig. They also discussed the burkini farrago, but with nothing new to say, apart from some staggeringly dumb comments from Kate Williams, TV historian and fashion expert
Even Deborah Orr, the controversialist spouse of controversialist intellectual Will Self, had the courage to say she just didn’t like the burkini. 

Tommy was there as usual, improvising some of  the inane comments from ‘YOU”. I suspect he added at least ten imaginary words, which we could all see weren’t on the screen. 

I do actually think this subject has just about reached its use-by.


  1. On the website of the BBC's antipodean equivalent the ABC, an opinion piece by a Durham University PhD candidate blaming the post-colonial West - fits in with the author's pro-Palestinian activism I suppose, but this piece shows how hand in glove the two broadcasters are (both leftist, both islamophiliac)

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