Fully veiled women hinder progressive Islam by Yasmin Alibhai Brown

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a founder member of British Muslims for Secular Democracy and argues that when firstly a British judge and then dedicated educationalists running a British college are defeated by the aggressive guerrilla army of Muslim Salafists and their misguided allies problems arise. At Blackfriars Crown Court, Judge Peter Murphy ordered a 21-year-old, veiled defendant to show her face. The accused had been charged with witness intimidation and pleaded not guilty. Whatever the results of that case, she and her supporters certainly intimidated the judge, who backed down so the trial could proceed.

 

Birmingham Metropolitan College was similarly cowed and had to reverse a directive forbidding students from covering their faces. One hooded lady crowd sourced a protest against the college. Some overexcited student union members, Muslim objectors and online petitioners have forced a U-turn. Shabana Mahmood, MP for Ladywood, Birmingham, welcomed the capitulation.

 

Muslim women can now to go to courts and college in shrouds. That all-covering gown, that headscarf, that face mask – all affirm and reinforce the belief that women are a hazard to men and society. These are unacceptable, iniquitous values, enforced violently by Taliban, Saudi and Iranian oppressors. They have no place in our country. So why are so many British females sending out those messages about themselves?

 

Some think they are outsmarting anxious Western institutions by covering up, winning dispiriting culture wars which will give them no advantage in our fast moving world. Young women in niqabs are either testing the state as teenagers do their parents or think their garb is political action – but for what? Many women, mothers in particular, have been brainwashed by proselytisers who want to spread conservative Islamic worship across Europe and North America. They are well funded by sources based in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

 

The woman before the judge must know that she or others like her will never be judges or barristers. Will she make her daughters do the same? The system wasn’t picking on her – a defendant in a micro mini would have caused as much disquiet. And the aggrieved college student, what future does she imagine? She denies herself jobs for the sake of what? They keep apart from fellow Britons by withholding proper human interactions. It’s not right or fair.

 

None of our sacred texts command us to cover our faces. Some branches of Islam do not even require head coverings. These are manmade injunctions followed by unquestioning women. We are directed always to accept the rules of the countries we live in and their institutions, as long as they are reasonable. For security, justice, travel, education and health identification is vital. Why should these women be exempt? We Muslims are already unfairly thought of as the enemy within. Niqabs make us appear more alien, more dangerous and suspicious. If it is a provocation for Ku Klux Klan to cover up so they can’t be recognised, it is for Muslims too. The clothes symbolize an attempted takeover of the religion just when believers are looking for liberty, autonomy, democracy and gender equality. Malala Yousafzai doesn’t hide her determined face. Nor do our female Muslim MPs and peers or civil rights lawyers.

 

Some of the bravest human rights activists are Muslim women. Take Tamsila Tauquir awarded an MBE for her charitable work with Muslims and Tehmina Kazi, director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, which I co-founded seven years ago. The two of them, with other idealists, have embarked on an “inclusive mosque” initiative, with pop-up prayers in various venues, where men and women, gays and straights, humanists and modernists can pray together.

 

Many others are trying to promote progressive Islam, which fits our times and needs.

Islamic zealots must fear these developments and want to crush them. Whether they know it or not, fully veiled women are part of this reactionary mission. Our state must not aid and abet them. The judge and the college should not have retreated and handed them this victory.

Woolwich: Muslims are just as afraid as non-Muslims that these attacks will never stop

Radio or television news programmes soon turn to Woolwich, Lee Rigby, Michael Adebolajo, Michael Adebowale, and Muslims. So-called experts are quick to pass comments, thankfully most speak a great deal of sense, and members of the public call in with their opinions.

 

The English Defence League (EDL) wasted no time. They took to the streets and the internet within hours, stirring up support and spreading false rumours, causing further terror in a society which had been terrorised enough. Yes we can say they are ignorant and we should not pay any attention. But wasn’t it ignorance and lack of understanding that led to the horror on the streets of Woolwich on Wednesday afternoon?

 

As the days progressed and the press attention showed no signs of subsiding, fear turned to anger. Not only did the press continue to scaremonger, but members of the Muslim community began acting irrationally out of fear. A checklist posted online “for Muslims” on how to stay safe, with advice including don’t walk down a dark alley alone, don’t let the elderly, the young, or women walk the streets alone. We are quick to point the finger over issues of “us” and “them”, but we are just as guilty of it. Such behaviour can only lead to more divisions within society, when this is the time we must all stand together.

 

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown put it perfectly when she wrote, “We hate Islamicist brutes more than any outsiders ever could. They ruin our futures and hopes.” And she is right. If there is anyone who will benefit the most from the expulsion of these extremists, it is the law-abiding, everyday Muslim. But until that day comes, we must not separate ourselves. Yes we are Muslims, but we are also British, and it is up to us to decide which way this goes.

British debate on banning Islamic dress unlikely to resemble the French

The French burqa debate has crossed the Channel. Despite calls from some groups for a full or partial ban on veils, there is currently no ban on Islamic dress in the UK – although schools were allowed to set out their own dress code in 2007 after several high-profile court cases. In January 2010, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was “not British” to tell people what to wear in the street.

But writing in the Independent, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who chairs the group British Muslims for Secular Democracy, said she supported restrictions on wearing the face veil in key public spaces. “This covering makes women invisible, invalidates their participatory rights and confirms them as evil temptresses.”

Stop pandering to Muslims says ‘silent majority’

The government’s attempts to placate Muslims will cause long-term damage to communities, a charity said yesterday. The warning came from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, chair and co-founder of the British Muslims for Secular Democracy, a new organisation claiming to represent the “silent majority who feel no conflict between their faith and democracy”. Speaking before the launch, attended by Baroness Kishwer Faulkner and former Islamist Ed Husain, the journalist said the government was pandering to Muslims by granting too many concessions, fuelling their separation from the rest of society. “The government has found a way of placating Muslims in a way that will only damage us in the long term, Muslims wanting separate schools or different measures. There must be one law for all. “This differential accommodation leads to us being pushed to the edges. How is it that the Sikhs and Hindus can live in democracy but not Muslims?” Riazat Butt reports.