Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Shabina Begum case never had anything to do with modesty

I rarely disagree with Boris Johnson. That his personal presentation rules him out as a Tory leader is a matter of much regret. He's utterly sound, politically. I think he's wrong about this though. I think the school has made an issue out of nothing.

If someone, as a matter of religious observance of a recognised faith, wants to wear particular clothing - be it a Jewish yarmulke, Sikh turban or one of the many variations of Islam's ludicrous and misogynist hijab, then good luck to them. Our civil society should respect that choice. Of course no-one should be compelled to wear religious garb. Nor should those who choose to wear it object to the choices of others or complain about any ridicule their choice may attract in a free, modern, secular society.

Many, perhaps even Boris, are becoming irritated with the Muslims' constant demands that we change our way of life to accommodate them. This story is not an example of that, however. I have no doubt that we will have to draw a line in the sand with Britain's Muslims soon. This is just not the place to do it.

Telegraph | Opinion | The Shabina Begum case never had anything to do with modesty


Anonymous said...

On the face of it, everyone should be allowed to wear what they wish, but my main concern is that for every 100 Muslim girls turning up at school dressed from head to foot in a burkah, there will be something approaching 100 sets of parents, and several religious fanatics in the background forcing these girls to exercise their "human rights".
I've yet to meet a mentally healthy, unbrainwashed teenager with a desire to cut themselves off from modern life, modern fashions and their peers.

ContraTory said...

Like so many battles, I suspect that the "engagement" in this case was by accident. I do not think that either side envisaged such a prolonged struggle ensuing, or the decisiveness of the outcome.

On the purely "school uniform" point, I have a soft spot for the idea of a uniform being worn at school, so I have always thought that the school was "in the right" in this particular case. Of course, nowadays most pupils (or are they called "students" now?) would prefer to be casual at school, so they would no doubt want to lynch me for having such a view!

Tom Paine said...

John, let's assume for argument's sake that you are right. So what? Simple-minded ideologues will promote all kind of views to their children. It was a tough kid where I grew up who could resist his parents' pressure to vote Labour. One mother in my extended family sent her own son to Coventry because he admitted once voting Conservative.

I would rather respect a whole range of wacky views from parents, than have the State, through the education system, promote whatever is the current orthodoxy. For me that is a matter of principle and not just (though it is a thought) because such an approach could lead to a Muslim orthodoxy in my own country before I die. Of course some children will mindlessly follow their parents' views, religious and political, but many will form their own. The State has no business intervening in this - or in religious matters generally.

Of course, as a classical liberal, I have no problem with private schools requiring a particular religious viewpoint from pupils' families. I had to sign that I was ready for my children to have a Christian education in order for them to go to their school. Interestingly, quite a number of "Muslims" have done the same! Not all put religious fanaticism before education, evidently. Equally, if they want to form Muslim religious schools and exclude my children, they are most welcome - as long as no taxpayers' money supports them.

State education should however be secular. Religious assemblies and Religious Education should be scrapped, not because of the offence they may cause in a "multi-culti" society, but because of the principle that religion should have nothing to do with the State. I would like to disestablish the Church of England and exclude all religion from public life, leaving it to families to arrange their religious affairs through their chosen Church, Temple, Mosque or coven.

Anonymous said...

“It was a tough kid where I grew up who could resist his parents' pressure to vote Labour.” Good point Tom.

I was going to say that religious brainwashing is an order of magnitude more dangerous than being influenced to vote labour, but on reflection, and considering the history of socialism, it is debatable. They both appeal to the same emotions.