- Posted July 19, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
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He argus that it is a ‘Saudi-Afghani fad’ imposed on British Muslims, who are predominnantly of Pakistani origin, where the burqa was never traditionally worn.
Dr Taj Hargey is the leader of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, and the head of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford (MECO). He is calling for Britain to follow France and Belgium in banning the wearing of the Burqa in public places, following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (EHRC) that the ban was legal. He has long been a proponent of progressive integration of the Muslim Community into British society and a strident opponent of Islamic extremism.
The French law, introduced in 2010, bans all face covering in public, including ski masks and balaclavas.
Isabelle Niedlispacher, a representative of the Belgian government which banned the burqa in 2011 said that social cohesion was the main issue.
She argued that “It’s about social communication, the right to interact with someone by looking them in the face and about not disappearing under a piece of clothing.”
A French Muslim woman appealed the law taking the case to the ECHR, but the ECHR upheld the ban. The final verdict stated “the Court accepted that the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face in public could undermine the notion of ‘living together’.”
These developments encouraged Dr Hargey to launch his own campaign. As he himself notes, his is the first Muslim lead campaign calling for a ban.
Dr Hargey made no attempts to hide his contempt for the Burqa. In the official announcement of the campaign on the MECO website he said of the burqa “This archaic tribal rag is pre-Islamic and non-Qur’anic, and ipso facto un-Muslim ” The announcement states that it is completely untrue that the burqa is integral to Islam and that such an idea was the result of propaganda from hardline sects.
He noted that “It is forbidden for Muslim women going on pilgrimages to Mecca to cover their faces. So if such a pre-Islamic practice is banned in Islam’s holiest site, why on earth would it be required on the streets of Britain?”
The campaign aims initially to gain 100,000 signatures for a petition launched on the UK government website. According to British law if a petition reaches over 100,000 signatures it must be discussed by Parliament in the House of Commons
In his piece in the Daily Mail explaining the campaign, Dr. Hargey argued that: “Everyone in Britain, including Muslims, should oppose the insidious spread of this vile piece of clothing, which imprisons women, threatens social harmony, fuels distrust, has grave health implications and is a potent security risk.”
He called on everyone to participate, saying “We invite both Muslims and our other fellow citizens to work together to rid Britain of this alien cultural monstrosity.”
This is not the first time that calls to ban the Burqa have surfaced in Britain. In September 2013 Birmingham Metropolitan College banned face coverings so that staff, students and visitors would be “easily identifiable at all times.”
They were forced into an embarrassing climb down a mere 48 hours later after an online petition organized by Muslim students was circulated online. Tory MP Philip Hollobone called the U-turn a shame, saying “People are frightened of standing up and speaking out in this discussion because of political correctness and the intolerant reaction from Muslim groups who jump up and down with fury whenever anyone says that it makes sense for people to go around with their faces perfectly visible to everyone else which is the way human beings were created in the first place.”
Later in the month a minister at the Home Office made national headlines when he said that Britain needs a national debate on whether or not to ban the veil. “There is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil when society deems children to be unable to express personal choices about other areas like buying alcohol, smoking or getting married” said the Minister, Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne.
“We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.”
Conservative MPs argued against the veil as well. Dr. Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes said that the burqa was “deeply offensive” and “makes women invisible.”
She called for it to be banned in schools and hospitals saying “We must not abandon our cultural belief that women should fully and equally participate in society.”
This issue has become more and more prominent in the British public discourse, amid rising fears over returning British Jihadis from the war in Syria and the so called ‘Trojan-Horse’ scandal, in which certain state funded British schools were taken over by hardline Islamist groups and used to preach radical ideologies and segregate Muslim pupils.
The British Government has also adopted a more robust approach to tackling Islamic extremism, mulling a ban the Muslim Brotherhoodand banning three groups affiliated to radical hate preacher Anjem Choudary.
One article in the Telegraph written June 11 clearly set out the changed mood, arguing, in the wake of the Trojan-Horse scandal for the supremacy of the rule of law with the headline ‘We Were Wrong: Not All Cultures Are Equal’
In that piece the writer, Alison Pierce, references the difference between the treatment of women and girls in Britain to places like Pakistan, saying “the reason irate Pakistani patriarchs are not chucking bricks at their errant daughters in the Birmingham Bull Ring is because Britain has a basically uncorrupt police force, a robust judiciary and an enlightened, hard-won system of liberal values that regards women and girls as equals, not third-class citizens.”
She demanded that Britain maintain those traditions, saying “For years, we all turned a blind eye to the segregation of Muslim pupils. Now it is time to stand up to propagators of barbarism and ignorance.”
Dr Hargey expressed similar concerns in calling to ban the burqa alongside other face coverings. He called the Burqa “an affront to the concept of gender parity in the UK.”
He said that men had imposed the burqa on women, saying it was a pre-Islamic practice dating back to the era of Cyrus the Great that the aristocracy used to prevent their women from being “seen by the peasantry.”
In the official campaign announcement he called it a “non-Qur’anic patriarchal custom”
He also recognized that the burqa makes many people feel uncomfortable and increases social divisions, but that the government was too fearful to act. He said: “Despite growing concern from the British public, our pusillanimous politicians have refused to address the burgeoning prevalence of the burka in our midst, as they fear accusations of Islamophobia from the militant fundamentalists and their PC (politically correct) allies.”