Dress Down Friday

Circle the Wagons, Boys

I’ve already said a little about the unedifying spectacle of politicians queuing up to deliver their ha’pennyworth views on the appropriateness of wearing veils. In short, it strikes me that the manner in which a person dresses is not a matter for the state. Individuals should, in my view, be protected from discrimination on the grounds of their personal beliefs or hobbies, religious or otherwise: except to the extent that their conduct hampers their ability to do their job.

Like most people, I’d rather hoped that the increasingly tedious Great Veil Debate was finally over.

No such luck. Here is Round Two.

The Muslim Council of Britain has put together a joint response, in concert with its favoured “Muslim groups, scholars and leaders”: including the extreme right wing group Hizb ut-Tahrir, the post-MAB “Kaboom” Tamimi vehicle, the British Muslim Initiative, the Muslim Brotherhood youth movement, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, and the pro-Khomenist Islamic Human Rights Commission.

Here it is.

What an unedifying document.

In summary, its advice is as follows:

1. “The Muslim community should remain united regardless of its differences and opinions about the veil.”

2. “We strongly condemn any attempt by any individual or organisation to create disunity in the Muslim community.”

3. “The veil, irrespective of its specific juristic rulings, is an Islamic practice and not a cultural or a customary one as is agreed by the consensus of Muslim scholars; it is not open to debate. We advise all Muslims to exercise extreme caution in this issue, since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief. Not practicing something enjoined by Allah and His Messenger … is a shortcoming; denying it is much more serious.

4. “We recognise the fact that Muslims hold different views regarding the veil, but we urge all members of the Muslim community to keep this debate within the realms of scholarly discussion amongst the people of knowledge and authority in the Muslim community.”

5. “Furthermore, we warn Muslim individuals and organisations to avoid seeking to capitalise on this debate in order to further political or personal interests. Such despicable tactics are judged by Islam as working against the interests of our faith and the Muslim community, and are, accordingly, a matter condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

6. “We would like to call upon all members of the Muslim community to show solidarity against criticising the veil or any other Islamic practice as this might prove to be a stepping-stone towards further restrictions. Today the veil, tomorrow it could be the beard, jilbab and thereafter the headscarf!”

7. “We understand the viewpoint of those who may find the veil a barrier to communication. However, we believe that the level of discomfort caused is insignificant, particularly when compared to the discomfort and problems that result from other common and less widely condemned practices such as sexual promiscuity, nudity and alcohol consumption by other segments of society.”

8. “The unexpected and ruthless reaction of the media over the past few weeks on this issue gives an indication that there is a political agenda behind this campaign. …Therefore, Muslims should take this matter seriously and defend the veil with all their ability.”

Or – in super summary:

The veil is an Islamic practice, ordinary Muslims have no right to their own opinions, and must defer to us scholars. You’re free to disagree, but if you do, you should be aware that you’re a traitor who treats the primrose path to atheism. Britain is awash with drunken whores and hates you. We’re the only ones who will stand by you.

PS – We’re really surprised by this sudden and unexpected focus on Muslim issues.

PPS – Keep your head down. And if you’re a woman, cover it!

I don’t think I’ve ever read a more ill judged document. It is, of itself, evidence of the unfitness of the signatory organisations for leadership. Their core instinct is to censor and censure, and then to demand respect without the faintest idea of how respect might be earned.

I both expect that British Muslims will regard this position paper as a transparent scaremongering attempt, by fringe organisations of which only a tiny proportion of British Muslims have ever heard, to grab power and influence.

It underlines the fundamental lack of seriousness and good sense that characterises religious politics.