The Battle of the Burqa
by Enza Ferreri
Britain is reaping the fruits of its multi-decennial multicultural policy and of what is euphemistically called “tolerance” – and realistically “bending over backwards” – to Islam.
If anyone doubts that Muhammadanism is a supremacist doctrine, this doubting Thomas should take a look at what’s happening in an English school which has been in the news for a few months.
Britain’s first Muslim “free school” (namely, government funded but outside local authority control), Al-Madinah School in the city of Derby, underwent in October a two-day inspection by officials of the government’s education regulator Ofsted.
This is how Al-Madinah describes itself:
A strong Muslim ethos will give the school its uniqueness… At the centre of our school is a community of pupils, able to enjoy learning in a caring Islamic environment.
The school is said to be controlled by Islamic hardliners who ban children from playing stringed instruments – forbidden by Islam -, singing except Islamic faith songs, and reading fairy tales as these are ‘non-Islamic’.
The school’s former head Andrew Cutts-McKay and former deputy Suzanne Southerland claim they were ‘bullied, sidelined’ and forced to leave by members of the school’s trust, which is predominantly Muslim.
Al-Madinah, established in September 2012, denies it. But only days before those claims, female teachers had alleged that they were told to sign new contracts forcing them to wear the hijab — covering head and neck – and forbidding jewellery, regardless of their religion. They had expressed concern about other practices, like banning non-halal food and forcing female pupils — even 4-year-olds – to sit at the back of the class away from boys.
Even devout Christian teachers were compelled to wear Islamic garb, and in the end quit the school.
One woman claimed she was told not to shake hands with male teachers to avoid “insult”, while another said that girls are allowed to have lunch only after boys have finished eating: “It is like being in any school in Pakistan. That is why it was founded, that is the idea”, she added.
An employee told The Sunday Times newspaper: “When teaching children the alphabet, you could not associate the letter ‘p’ with pig.”
About half a dozen teachers, who risk their jobs if they don’t comply with the rules, are seeking legal advice from the National Union of Teachers, which commented: “It’s one thing to have a dress code which we can challenge and quite another to build it into a contract.”
The Union’s Sue Arguile explained: “We have always had a number of concerns about this school ever since it was first set up, as essentially they can do what they like.”
The problem with Al-Madinah is its “free school” status which means that, although it received Â£1.4 million from the government and is expecting more, it sets its own rules, curriculums, dress codes, teachers’ pay and conditions. In short, a lose-lose situation for the taxpayers, obliged to sign a blank check to the Islamization of their country.
“But”, Arguile points out, “forcing people to agree to contractual changes or face being out of work could breach employment law.”
The Derby school was already under investigation, the Department for Education revealed, before the allegations against it became public, followed by an immediate inspection. “We are waiting for Ofsted’s final report and considering all legal options” a spokesman said.
Separate official inspections resulted in an ultimatum by the government, threatening to shut down the school unless it improved by November 1. Among the many concerns were health and safety and financial irregularities.
The school published changes in its policy regarding the wearing of hijab and said it did everything it could. Obviously it must not have been enough, because a further inspection found “no signs of improvement”.
Al-Madinah is not the only case. Another state-backed school, this time in in Blackburn, has imposed strict rules under which pupils must “wear the hijab outside the school and at home, recite the Koran at least once a week” and not have stationery with “unIslamic images”, like pictures of pop stars.
And it was discovered that many Islamic schools in Britain force girls as young as 11 to wear burqas – covering the whole body and face, sometimes with a mesh screen to see through – as the “desired dress code of a Muslim female”, while many others – including about a dozen state-funded schools – demand that female pupils cover their hair.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the government should back institutions on banning face-covering veils, as in this BBC interview:
We are a free country and people should be free to wear whatever clothes they like in public or in private.
But we should support those institutions that need to put in place rules so that those institutions can work properly.
So for instance in a school, if they want that particular dress code, I believe the Government should back them. The same for courts, the same for immigration.
Obviously, in court the jury needs to be able to look at someone’s face. I’ve sat on a jury, that’s part of what you do.
When someone is coming into the country, an immigration officer needs to see someone’s face.
In a school, it’s very difficult to teach unless you can look at your pupils in the eye.
Cameron was referring to the recent case of a London judge who ordered a Muslim defendant and witness to remove the niqab – covering all the face except the eyes – throughout her evidence, while allowing her to wear it during the rest of the trial. He ruled that it’s crucial for jurors to see a witness’s face so they can assess her demeanour and expression in order to establish credibility, that some restrictions to Muslim garb are necessary, and that no tradition or practice is above the law.
He ended with a pun, “The niqab has become the elephant in the courtroom”, and called for Parliament or a higher court to provide a definitive statement on it.
Similar public unease has been manifested concerning hospital nurses” wearing headscarves and veils.
It’s clear that a certain discontent with Islamic dress is growing in Europe. France in 2011 banned Muslim as well as non-Muslim face-covering clothing because it prevents the identification of a person, on the grounds of both security and social communication.
Ban opponents claim it breaches individual freedoms. It does, and so does having a number plate on your vehicle, so if you want to use your car for a get-away after a bank robbery you can’t. That’s a limitation on personal freedom we all must accept in order to live in a civilized society.
The French concern is totally justified. In June this year six men in burqas raided London’s Selfridges department store, smashing glass cabinets and stealing high-value watches.
The same ban was attempted in Britain in 2010 with Conservative MP Philip Hollobone’s bill, unsuccessful due to claims that it would breach the Equality Act.
In September the Italian Swiss canton of Ticino voted in favour of a burqa ban.
It will be a difficult battle, with two steps forward and one step back. In France the ban has caused riots and violence. Back in Britain, the city of Birmingham’s Metropolitan College, which had for some time had a policy forcing students to remove veils, hoodies and hats while on its premises to be identifiable for security reasons, was made to retract it in September by a planned mass demonstration against “‘Islamophobia” and an online petition signed by 9,000. A prospective student started the row by complaining to her local paper that she was being discriminated against.
While the debate over female Muslim attire has in recent weeks dominated UK headlines, a student in South London’s Bromley College, asked to remove her cap for identification and security reasons, refused to do so unless Muslim women removed their headdresses too, rightly complaining of double standards.
When defending their presumed “right” to act like Muslims, the followers of Muhammad sometimes let their guard down and reveal something about themselves.
Britain’s Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne, pointing out that the government should consider an Islamic dress ban, did something that you don’t see often. Very timidly, he hinted at reciprocity, a thorny issue for Muslim sensitivities, by saying:
That would apply to Christian minorities in the Middle East just as much as religious minorities here in Britain.
The chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation Mohammed Shafiq responded that he was “disgusted” by Browne’s comments.
What disgusted him? The proposed, very mild exception to the kid-glove treatment that Muslims receive over here or the slight indication that Christians should not be massacred over there?
Enza Ferreri is an Italian-born, London-based Philosophy graduate, author and journalist. She has been a London correspondent for several Italian magazines and newspapers, including Panorama, L”Espresso, La Repubblica. She is in the Executive Council of the UK”s party Liberty GB.
She blogs at www.enzaferreri.blogspot.co.uk.