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Tuesday, March 20, 2007 

Scum-watch: Veiled exclusives.

Light blogging today as I've just had a thoroughly enjoyable visit to the dentist, but I can't pass up highlighting the Sun's sheer joy at seeing that Alan Johnson, the education secretary, has laid out the potential banning of the wearing of niqabs by pupils in school. Of course, it's even better when they're given the news as an exclusive and splash it all over the front page:
VEILS will be banned in schools to help pupils learn and to keep them safe, Education Secretary Alan Johnson has ruled.

His decision will affect thousands of Muslim girls who wear clothing like the full niqab.

He will publish details of his guidance to headteachers in the Commons today. The wearing of full-length robes may also be affected.

Thousands? Really? This is what has always been so perplexing about the whole debate on full veils - the numbers of women who wear them in this country is incredibly low. Only towards the end of the article does the Sun give a ball-park figure:

The ruling will be used to scupper any counter-bid by Muslim parents. It is estimated that 2,500 girls wear full-length Islamic dress in class in England and Wales.

Even here it's not clear whether this figure refers to girls who wear the niqab or who the wear the jilbab, as the Sun willfully conflates the two by bringing
Shabina Begum into the equation.

I actually think that the decision is a good one - some girls may indeed be troubled by the implications of the ban on their own interpretation of their religion, but they can still wear the hijab in school and the niqab outside of it if those are their wishes. I would rather that no one felt the need to cover their hair or body because of what any religion teaches, but the problems posed by the niqab are such that their limited banning in schools is justified. What I don't agree with is the condescending tone taken by the Sun leader, which seems to know better than Muslims themselves about the teachings of the religion:

WHATEVER arguments there may be for the veil, schools are not the place for them.

So we welcome Education Secretary Alan Johnson’s classroom ban.

He cites security, safety and the need for teachers to see a response on the faces of their pupils.

But he could equally have argued veils are divisive, provocative and have no justification under the teachings of Islam.

Divisive? Possibly, but the aftermath of Straw's comments on the niqab showed that it's more the tabloid press and Express readers that find them provocative and divisive. Actual women who wore them and spoke out showed that the casual assumptions made about veil wearers were far from the actual truth. As for no justification, that's a question that ought to be left for the Muslim community itself to debate, not for a tabloid newspaper which has done so much for community relations to state unequivocally.

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Interesting that The Scum has this headline as a front page. The only example of a positive story about Health and Safety 'fascists'??? And is this a case of political correctness gone mad??

Well, you know, you could get your niqab caught in a door, or it could get set on fire by a bunsen burner, or they could be skullfucking someone in the toilets and not get caught by the cctv thanks to their choice of religious dress. It all makes sense!

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