Tuesday, October 17, 2006

 

On Cooling the veil Row and the Manchester Blog Awards

Today a judicious leader in The Guardian calls for restraint over the Muslim veil issue. Jack Straw is a canny politician but even he cannot have foreseen the consequences of his intervention a week ago on the subject of Muslim veils. While some senior politicos argued the veils should make no difference to a constituency MP, others, including Harriet Harmon, Tessa Jowell, and, most importantly, Gordon Brown, weighed in on Jack's side. But the flood gates were, it seems, just waiting to open. Yesterday it was the Conservatives' turn, with David Davis asserting that 'There is a growing feeling that the Muslim community is excessively sensitive to criticism' and that they were risking 'voluntary apartheid' if they insist on cutting themselves off from the rest of the national community.

I have to confess that I could see merit in some of these injunctions. It is a fact that the British have a strong sense of fair play and feel that while the Muslims dish out criticism of their host culture, they seem to react with paranoid hysteria when any is offered in return. Anne Widdecombe on Sunday BBC TV illustrated this by pointing out that while Muslims showed placards outside Westminster cathedral saying 'Islam will defeat Rome', the reverse message shown outside a mosque would have been condemned as dangerously inflammatory.

The teaching assistant in Dewsbury, suspended for wearing a niquab in the classroom took the dispute to a new level however. While it is clearly wrong to expect children to be taught by masked teachers, it was also highly insensitive of Phil Woolas, the communities and local government minister, for goodness sake, to say: 'She should be sacked.' As the Guardian comments: 'Talk which leaves Muslims feeling adrift from mainstream Britiain may encourage the very alienation it deplores. Politicians ...should choose their words carefully... or they will only fan the flames'. Well said- but British Muslims should heed this advice too.

Manchester Blog Awards Well, I enjoyed the readings from the personal blogs, especially the airport diaries, but was only slightly disappointed not to win the prize for the 'political blog' category at the awards ceremony held last night at Urbis. However, I have no complaints that the legendary Norm should win the accolade as, over the years, he has surely done more for blogging than Guido and Ian Dale put together. I was just delighted to be shortlisted in the top three, along with Norm and the excellent Blood and Treasure. Thanks once again to Kate Feld, of Manchizzle for organizing the event so cheerfully and efficiently.

Comments:
I thought Toynbee was spot-on re the whole subject.
 
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Steve
I agree; read bits of her article out to my adult class this morning. I'm sure the 'female oppression' angle is the most important one ultimately.
 
I don't often agree with Polly but she was spot on here.
 
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