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Thursday, 9 August 2018

Ruth Davidson and the Burqa

The Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is usually credited with having more brain cells than the entire Westminster government front bench put together. But today she is reported as saying that for a woman to wear a burqa is in the same category as for her to wear a crucifix.

That is either breathtakingly mindless or insincere, or both.

Leave aside the fact that there are men who wear crucifixes, there is a big difference between something which in no way interferes with your everyday mobility and ability to interact with those around you (including your own children) and something which does. The burqa clearly does, which is one reason that women take it off the moment they get indoors (read the books about Afghanistan). And it interferes to a much greater degree than, say, wearing high heels – which some employers compel because there would be no voluntary compliance.

The suspicion which I think most of us have is that women in the UK who wear the burqa do not do so of their own free will. They do so because they are compelled by men in tee shirts and jeans and trainers who basically think they own the women. In a British high street, the burqa is not a sign of religious piety; it looks like a sign of modern slavery. And sorry, very conservative Ruth Davidson, that is something which should be investigated before we give the burqa a clean bill of health.

The big problem is that we are not really prepared to find out whether our suspicions are well-founded. It is quite hard to find out. The women who wear burqas are not all available for interview; it seems that some are prevented from learning English. The men may not be reliable sources of information. The idea of “freedom of religion” blocks proper investigation  in this case just as it does when it comes to child abuse by Anglican or Catholic priests.

The feelings people in the street have are little to do withe their feelings about Islam. People who are very uncomfortable about the burqa have no similar feelings about the hijab, and nowadays are all used to having  perfectly ordinary, everyday conversations at supermarket check outs and so on with women who wear the hijab. 

Am I really to suppose that women who wear burqas in the UK never feel disadvantaged by the rules they follow?

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