We spent time in the Middle East and Asia recently – first Dubai and then Thailand where a significant Muslim population resides in the south. It was an eye-opening experience for many reasons but one pertinent memory was the distinct lack of Muslim women wearing the burka or niqab face-coverings.
Instead the vast majority opted for the hijab, chador or khimar which still maintain modesty by covering the head, neck and shoulders but, crucially, doesn’t cover the face, eyes or mouth. This transported me back to previous experiences in north London, Birmingham, and Manchester where a far greater population of Muslims wearing the burka or niqab can be readily found wondering the streets.
Why is this? And are these restrictive face coverings really representative of Islam? Well not according to figures which show only Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have more than 30% of their populations wearing the burka or niqab. In Saudi that figure stands at a massive 74% whereas in Iraq it’s 12%, Egypt it’s 10%, Tunisia and Lebanon it’s 3% and just 2% in Turkey. So even in predominantly Islamic countries, with a couple of notable exceptions, these so-called religious garments are scarcely found.
While all versions of Islam suggest a woman should dress modestly, Saudi Arabia is one of the only Muslim-majority countries that legally impose a dress code which is enforced by religious police. The Saudi kingdom was founded on one of the most conservative interpretations of Islam, Wahhabism, which is based on a strict version of Islamic law and which we will explore in more detail another time. Wahhabism has proven to be fertile ground for the rise of radical Sunni Islamism and has been slowly transported to the West since 1979 by Saudi Arabia – through the exporting of billions in oil money which has been used by radical preachers to build thousands of mosques across Europe, the US and Britain. With it have come strict adopted cultural practices such as the wearing of the burka and niqab.
Canadian mother Raheel Raza is just one of many Muslims to condemn the wearing of these garments in public. She said: “As a Muslim mother who never saw a niqab when I was growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, I am astonished to see Canada’s judiciary caving in to Islamists who have nothing but contempt for Canada’s values of gender equality.
“I write this as a Muslim Canadian who does not have any specific political leanings.
“But in the 25 years I have called Canada home, I have seen a steady rise of Muslim women being strangled in the pernicious black tent that is passed off to naïve and guilt-ridden white, mainstream Canadians as an essential Islamic practice. The niqab and burka have nothing to do with Islam.”
Indeed, they are the political flags of Saudi Arabia, ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban and al-Qaida. They have become symbols of repressiveness, intolerance and religious fundamentalism.
The burka and niqab actively encourage divisiveness by discouraging interaction. After all, communication is far more than just verbal. In fact experts suggest that only 20-30% of communication is speech – the rest of our interactions are conveyed non-verbally through facial expressions, eye contact and general body language. How can these people ever be expected to integrate into Western society with a piece of cloth obscuring every facet of their body language and facial expression? It’s simply an impossibility.
And Dame Louise Casey cements this argument in her new integration report for Government which highlights a growing divide particularly among Muslim Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities and the rest of Britain. The report says: “I also found… cultural and religious practices in communities that are not only holding some of our citizens back but run contrary to British values and sometimes our laws. Time and time again I found it was women and children who were the targets of these regressive practices.”
At best the burka and niqab is impracticable and at worst they are helping to foster irreversible divisions in Western societies.
MPs in the Netherlands recently voted to ban the burka in public places while France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Egypt, Bulgaria and Chad also have some form of ban imposed after reaching similar conclusions. It is time we stopped obsessing over our liberal, politically correct British values which have been forcefully imposed by the metropolitan classes for so long and face the reality of the situation.
Critics weakly argue that by introducing a ban we are playing right into the hands of Islamist extremism. But the opposite is actually true. For far too long we have played into their hands by letting these divisive garments creep into our society and it’s time we put a stop to it. It’s time Britain banned the burka and niqab in public places.
Standing up for those without a voice in Britain