A senior politician was widely praised today after launching an attack on the kilt. Speaking to a national newspaper, the LabourConservative MP spoke about how a kilt was a sign that that the wearer subscribed to an extreme anti-English ideology: “Kilted men make me uncomfortable,” said the MP, “especially when it is windy.” He went on to point out that the modern kilt is not even Scottish, having been invented by a non-Scot who was a member of a religious group opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “What does this say about the wearers?” wondered the MP. “Some of them canâ€™t even speak English.”
Earlier in the week, an MP from the ConservativeLabour party attracted similar applause when he attacked men who wear suits: “Where I live, all you see are men walking about in the street in suits. Either they are off to Parliament to claim expenses, start wars and tax the poor. Or,” continued the MP, “they work in the City where they spend all day coming up with complex financial packages that benefit no-one, so that they can spend their huge bonuses on strippers. The suit is a badge of corruption, greed and moral degeneracy.”
Unsurprisingly, the above examples are fictitious. But this is what those who wear the hijab, jilbab, niqab et al have to put up with. Jack Straw said that the full veil was a â€œvisible statement of separation and of difference”. Apparently your type of clothing can indicate an acceptance or a rejection of British values. What about socks with sandals? Michael Gove claimed that wearing the niqab (full veil) was an endorsement of â€œIslamist politics.â€ No wonder women are supposed to take so long getting dressed, when their clothes say so much about their views. I wonder what my clothes (trousers, short-sleeve shirt), say about me?
It is unclear what business it is of politicians to lecture people on how they dress. The diversity of dress in Britain is immense, and how one chooses to dress outside work should be an uncontroversial topic; it is nobody elseâ€™s business. Jack Straw and Michael Gove werenâ€™t calling for veils to be banned, but both were insinuating, in that mode familiar to modern politics, that something should be done about it. The famous picture (which I canâ€™t find) of two Muslim women, clad from head to toe in black, sticking two fingers up at the camera, provoked outrage in some quarters, even if plenty of others would have done the same. With Britons the most spied upon people on the planet, from CCTV to council snoopers, going out in a veil seems more and more attractive.
Are there some Muslim women who are forced to dress in a particular way by family members, and/or in-laws? Yes, and of course that is wrong. But so is being told by politicians that the way that they dress is a negative political and social statement.
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Filed in: British Identity,Civil liberties,Culture