and this doesn't strike you as odd?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

piss off a muslim week

It must be!

That or little green pixies have subtly been removing non-critical bits of Jack Straw's brain without anyone noticing until (and here' s the conceit) like a game of JACK STRAWS, the whole shaky edifice collapsed into itself yesterday when they removed the bit that stops you coming up with total shite. Some may argue that this happened a while ago and I missed it because I was frothing about another piece of bizarre randomness.
So Jack has in his sweet, not-quite-looking-like-the-demon-headmaster way, very politely (I must admit that) enquired if Muslim women might not fancy just taking off those silly veil things. Maybe there is a good reason for this - let us suppose he wants to make a point about women in some 'muslim' (or even muslim) countries who are forced to wear hijab etc and cannot speak out for themselves because of the inability of the people who run their country to have a sense of humour about such things.
Maybe - and that could be the start of an interesting conversation where I would learn more about the issue than I know right now.
Or what if he wanted to suggest the start of a totally secular state and eventually disestablish the Church of England. Well that might be one way to go - if an odd way to start.

Or - oh I don't know... I just can't think of any logical reason why an allegedly sane politician (rather than a member of the conservative party - I mean I can easily hear Boris Johnson coming out with that) would have an idea that is the rough equivalent of
'Can I ask if maybe the women of this country might like to wander round without any knickers on'.
Women of the Country: 'Err no thanks (what an odd man, let's get out of here before he turns violent)'.
But Jack DID have a sensible reason for this. It's because he feels a bit odd - intimidated even - when he has to talk to a muslim woman in hijab. Fair enough, then. Bollocks to religious beliefs, bollocks to social and cultural habit, bollocks indeed to the fact that many of us must feel rather queasy coming face-to-face with Jack Straw if he isn't wearing a veil. Jack doesn't like it.

And I still can't work out why he said it. I don't understand any of it. It's not his lack of comprehension of the issue (he has plenty of muslim constituents - he must have talked about the whole veil thing with some of them), it's not the fact that he can't come up with a reason beyond not really liking it; it's not even the fact he must have known he would offend someone...'s the simple fact that he has asked some people to do something that there was never ever even the vaguest teensy percentage of a chance anybody would consider doing.

That's why I think the little green fellers have been taking bits out of his brain.


  • At 5:25 AM, Anonymous Violet Socks said…

    I have no insight into this at all nor have I been following it in detail, but here's my opinion anyway:

    The sentiment Straw expressed didn't surprise me and in fact I sympathize with it; what's bizare is just that a politican, a national one, would come out and say it. It could only cause offense.

    To give Straw credit, I doubt if it's a question of his being intimidated by women in veils or it's just something that rubs him the wrong way. Have you ever tried to conduct business with a person draped in a blanket? I used to work at the IMF, and it drove the economists nuts trying to work in the countries where women had office jobs but were still in full hijab, nothing showing but the eye sockets. You couldn't understand a word they were saying through all the layers of cloth, the damn blanket kept getting in the way everywhere -- it would have been comic as hell if it weren't a Religious Tradition That We Must Respect.

    Anyway, I suspect Jack Straw just came out with the same thing many Western people have felt when dealing with this phenomenon. But it was incredibly stupid for him to actually voice his opinion, of course.

  • At 5:58 AM, Blogger manxome said…

    Seems this Straw man looks at the cultures of others through his own thick veil. How ironic. Perhaps he could remove his first, eh?

  • At 7:16 AM, Anonymous gordo said…


    I think you hit the nail on the thumb. It's one thing to get an involuntary "WTF?" feeling when you see a woman covered head to toe, or when you see a woman prancing around in a "business suit" that sports a micro-mini skirt. But that doesn't give you license to tell every woman who's clothing rubs you the wrong way that she's dressed improperly.

    So I agree with you, although I'm still intrigued by Richard's pixie theory.

  • At 12:10 PM, Blogger stormy said…

    I guess you could look at it as Straw having a go at Muslim men via 'their' women.

    My personal view is that I'm against the veil as it is symbolic of those women's oppression, under the guise of religious conviction. Just as I'm against the objectification of women in the west prancing around in bikinis or topless. Both are extremes, and both serve the same purpose. I am against it on sexist grounds, not religious ones. (Simple fact, if the veil is SO essential to the religion, why aren't the MEN wearing them?) Quite frankly, if some religion dictated that all followers should wear rubber chickens on their heads (both men and women), so be it. Clearly then it is religious belief, not sexist oppression.

    When this topic arises, we always hear from at least one woman defending the veil. I wonder, as I don't really know, is this truly representative of all or most Muslim women? It is commonplace for the media to skew things - just as they trot out one or two women defending porn or prostitution, and making that sentiment indicative of 'what all women feel or should feel' about the situation.

    I lived in East London for eight years. I didn't really have that much interaction with Muslim women, most were figuratively locked up indoors, but plenty of interaction with Muslim men, whose sexism was extremely overt (compared to western men, where it is usually covert sexism).

  • At 12:13 PM, Blogger stormy said…

    SW, see, I visited!
    Unfortunately, my daily bloglist is so huge now, that it has become a full time job.
    And WP lets you see the general stats of the site. I will tell you that the percentage of people who leave comments is tiny compared to number of hits.

    (for those reading this and thinking I'm completely mad (which I am), this was a response to SW's comment on another blog)

  • At 12:11 AM, Blogger simply wondered said…

    so many comments (well 5...)

    VS - Jack actually said he feels weird talking to a woman in a veil. There was no reference in his original article as to whether he was referring to hijab or niqab but he seems to have more of a problem with the latter - on grounds of not being able to read the language of the whole face; he asked women to take it off in face to face (he was aware of the irony of the phrase) meetings with him, but seems to have extended the request to women everywhere. He felt we had to have a debate and stifling it could only be wrong.
    Yes I think many westerners feel odd when confronted with it - but I think they (we) just have to learn not to.
    Indeed religious justification for veiling is debatable (from the little I know of Isalm); oddly it seems to be an assertion by younger muslim women of their own freedom.
    Some of the 'practical' reasons advanced by women who veil strike me as spurious (to avoid rape etc.). Ironically, just as Jack seems to lay discrimination against veiled women at the door of the women, so the 'avoiding inflaming men' reason does the same. The women I know who do it (admittedly not many)(err maybe two) say they feel happier veiled in public and I fully believe it is as free a choice as anyone has in this world.
    I too think it looks odd - but I don't like moustaches either...
    I think it looks fairly comical myself and as one who doesn't do a lot of respecting of religious tradition I would happily see it go - but I still don't see how it harms anyone if women choose to wear it.

    Manx - as ever 'ah yes!'

    Gordo - have to agree with you.

    Stormy - I believe it is a minority of muslim women who veil totally, but those who do seem quite passionate about it. Personally I feel it is oppression of the female in the guise of religious opinion but there you go. If people choose it (like the mars bar hill loons) then you can't do a lot about it.
    It may be that within the niqab, some women are finding the possibility of living within a society which does inded alienate and worry them. I wonder just how much of a feminist symbol it can be made to be.
    And stormy - don't worry - even if your comment makes you seem mad, the number of witnesses will be small.

  • At 11:31 AM, Blogger stormy said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Violet Socks said…

    Does anyone else feel this way?

    Yes. It's actually an ongoing difficulty, and the rise of choice feminism and complete cultural relativism has exacerbated it.

    Non-western (or non-white) women understandably bristle at advice from western/white women; issues of racism and colonialism always trump the hoped-for but virtually non-existent bond of sisterhood.

    The thing is, feminism always requires conciousness-raising. It has to be learned and discovered. Back in the 60s and 70s it was white western women sitting around saying, "But I love being a housewife, I really just want to obey my husband, and it's wrong for women to do men's jobs." It's brainwashing, and we need insight from other women to get past this cultural conditioning.

    But when white/western women try to talk to non-western women about cultural brainwashing...well, you know what happens.

  • At 1:51 AM, Blogger Sarah said…

    Perhaps, just perhaps it's like shops and banks asking kids to not have their hoodies up, baseball caps on and motorcyclists please remove your helmets?

  • At 12:22 AM, Blogger simply wondered said…

    i don't think so - cap/hoody combo and crash helmets are used to obscure the identity when committing crimes (as well as their practical/non-sinister uses) whereas wearing the veil commits the crime of looking odd and annoying people who are threatened by totally other things. like Jack.


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