Political Promise

The Burka Debate

In Graeme Morrison on January 26, 2010 at 10:38 am

The Burka

Recent revelations that France could be about to outlaw the wearing of the Burka has reignited a host of debates within this country. They range from freedom of expression, the level of tolerance for religious belief, the treatment of women, of security concerns as well as preserving so-called British cultural norms. Although France has in recent days became more cautious on the issue, it has become a talking point in Britain, as was illustrated by the recent heated BBC Question Time debate, which surprisingly produced a few hostile voices toward the wearing of the Burka.

Of particular interest to me were the comments of former UKIP Leader Nigel Farage, who has identified the Burka as a symbol of Islamic fundamentialism. He was quoted as saying, “another culture is being forced on parts of Britain and nobody wants that”. Apart from sounding uncannily like the BNP, Farage makes a point in this statement which can be easily refuted. 

By saying, “another culture is being forced on parts of Britain”, Farage neglects that we now generally promote Britain as a multi-cultural society. It is true that we have a strong Christian tradition. This has not however prevented us from becoming a largely secular nation, with Christian church going falling as low as 6.3%, according to Christian Research in 2006. What we can see is that the UK is a constantly evolving country in more ways than one. We must ask the question: would the same debate be taking place about Jewish people with distinctive dress? I highly doubt it. Unfortunately for the Muslim community, September 11th and July 7th remain largely synonymous with the Islamic faith in the eyes of the public. Thus, it is not to do with any threat to the Christian tradition. Rather, it is a product of ignorance towards a group within our society whose reputation has been tarnished by extremists

To ban the Burka in the UK would not only erode our efforts toward a fairer, more diverse, and more tolerant society but would also create a feeling of resentment among that part of the population. Integration is not a process by where minority groups conform to other norms and traditions but one which results in the peaceful and respectful recognition of difference.

Graeme Morrison

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