“I detest the niqab and the BNP: what does that make me?”

niqab 2For anyone who has read the post by Gary Younge on Comment is Free entitled, ‘When you watch the BNP on TV, just remember: Jack Straw started all this’, many I’m sure will conclude that he makes some good points. Not least when he notes that:

…there is little doubt that once the BNP is on Question Time, Jack Straw – or indeed anyone in the New Labour hierarchy – is in no position to take the fight to it. The same is true for most of the rest of the British political establishment that will be represented on the panel – they have either actively colluded or passively acquiesced in the political trajectory of the past decade.

But it is no accident that this happened on New Labour’s watch and no small irony that Jack Straw should set himself up as Griffin’s opponent.

In fact I couldn’t agree more. Why put up against the BNP’s Nick Griffin the very man that started the whole niqab furore a few years ago?

As a result, I’m convinced that Griffin will systematically pick that carcass to death as a means of making Jack Straw repeatedly back-track and contradict himself. At the same time, Straw himself will offer the pointless and banal mainstream political party mantra of  ‘the BNP are bad’ in the hope that the growing number of people listening to the BNP will suddenly see the metaphorical light. In sum, it will deteriorate into farce.

But it is none of this that struck me most when I read Gary Younge’s post. Instead it was the comment posted by ‘hermionegold’ that had the greatest impact. In a time when we increasingly see – or at least believe – that everything is black or white, right or wrong, ‘hermionegold’ asked the question:

I detest niqab and the BNP. What does that make me?

Is it possible in this day and age to be able to say this in public without provoking a vitriolic backlash?

Is it possible for people to say that they detest a part of a particular religion or at least an interpretation – cultural or otherwise, I’ll leave that for everyone else to debate – of that religion?

And is it possible to be able to say that and not immediately be tarred with the assumption that you are little more than another neo-Nazi in waiting?

And if I or indeed anyone else detest both the niqab AND the BNP, what exactly does that make me?


3 thoughts on ““I detest the niqab and the BNP: what does that make me?”

  1. Good blog. It’s a tricky issue isn’t it.

    It’s interesting you picked up on that particular post on the Guardian. Earlier this morning I read (or skim-read) George Younge’s CIF article whilst having breakfast. I scrolled down the comments but I have to admit, after reading that same comment I stopped, shut the window and read about something else instead.

    I think deep down I am uncomfortable with such strong reactions. Can one truly ‘detest’ a practice without detesting the practitioner? For my part, some of the practitioners in this case would be people who are very close to me. I might not approve of the niqaab and see little in the way of justification for it either in religious sources or by any other reasoning (and I wouldn’t want to pretend to be an authority in either) but I’m also aware that many of the people expressing such strong opinions against the practice have probably never really known anyone who does choose to wear it, let alone having any familiarity with the wider cultures of conservative Muslims. To those people, the niqaab is a symbol; to me and to others, it’s a person.

    That’s probably why I’d be extremely reluctant to lend any support to anyone using such strong language against the niqaab. If I did, I fear it will increase the chances of people I know getting abused as they walk through the streets of their own town.

    I’m not saying its an issue that shouldn’t be debated and discussed, but I do think its its an issue which has to be discussed sensitively. There’s a gap between the ideological and conceptual discussions we have on blogs, in seminars and so forth – and the ways in which those discourses may directly affect the lives of people. That itself is an interesting area to investigate, not least because it gives a chance to anticipate the consequences of our expressions.

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