Still have your doubts about whether WE should allow the Islamic veil in public?

Sunday, December 03, 2006
Then read this cry from the heart of a British Muslim woman, Yasmin Alibahi-Brown (ht Pastorius).


chuck said...

I don't much give a darn what people wear. I also have no quarrel with a restaurant that posts "no shirt no service". I just don't think it's the government's business. And there are plenty of places to run to in this country if you need to escape and start over.

Seneca the Younger said...

Tru, you've convinced me: we shouldn't allow any of those sartorial symbols of oppression. Veils, brassieres, high heels, skirts, bright colors, shaved armpits and legs. Oh, and people shouldn't be allowed to possess any written or photographic oppressive material: pornography, Vogue, Glamour, the Quran, or the Bible.

truepeers said...


You continue to miss the point that it isn't about the symbol as such, as if reality and our freedoms therein were only a construction of symbols, of discourse, of language, with no underlying existential reality or struggle. Rather, it is about what a specific symbol refers to, and stands for, in a specific historical place and time. In pragmatic political reality, symbols are sometimes lines drawn in the sand and the only choice is to cross the line or back away.

I don't want to argue this in search of some universal principle detached from context - what could that "principle" be beyond the pragmatic question of what to do if you come sincerely to believe, as does this writer (why not accept her point of view on today's reality, just for a thought experiment), that the kind of relatively free society in which you want to live is now threatened by those who take advantage of a society's freedoms to undermine it?

The article linked is a cry from the heart of a very real, intelligent, woman who feels her existence as a relatively free Muslim woman in a western country is under threat (and readers know that there are many others who see something fundamental under threat in the present crisis). First of all, we might discuss whether her fear is rational or not. From what I read about the scene in England and other places today, I think it is. From muy perspective, you, who previously argued that the only people seriously threatening western society number a few thousands may have a weaker grasp on the reality on the streets of London. But let's leave that empirical question aside for now.

Will you accept that in theory there could evolve a situation in which this kind of woman writer would find herself and her kind of life seriously under threat and that the fight over symbols was a test of a side's willingness to engage some larger fight about the existence of entire forms of society and culture?

Lets just assume that what she says about an existential threat on her kind of life is now the reality in much of Europe, if not America. It's not a perfect world; it never is. Usually, our only choices in matters of government are between bad or worse and there is no avoiding a serious fight between tough choices by appeal to some high-minded utopian ideal. It is a question of one kind of society, with its favorite symbols, defending itself from those who would compromise it by using the freedoms allowed them to practice various forms of intimidation and victimary moral blackmail, as symbolized by both group and individual actions which will never add up to some consistent or discrete ratioanl meaning - symbols never do - but only point to the reality of some existential struggle between two kinds of society with incompatible forms of the sacred. And, as it happens, it seems it is women - the physically and often socially weaker sex it must be admitted in situations like this - who are first in line to pay the price of this struggle.

Again, standing up for some absolute freedom without compromise isn't a choice in this kind of scenario. If you think it is, what you are really doing is refusing to take sides. Otherwise, you can side with those who would compromise some total freedom - as imaginable only in libertarian dreams - in one way, or those who would do it in another. If Britain more clearly divides between those who would ban the veil and those who would sympathize with the forces of an imperialist Islamism and leftist victimary blackmail, are you going to continue to sit there and insist there is a third way? are you going to refuse sides and stand above it all, because in your mind there should be another choice, another kind of world, even if there isn't in this place and time?... as I will think will only become clearer as this world-wide war unfolds.

truepeers said...

But what Islamists use most is intimidation. A survey conducted in France in May 2003 found that 77 percent of girls wearing the hijab said they did so because of physical threats from Islamist groups. A series in the newspaper Libération in 2003 documented how Muslim women and girls in France who refuse to wear the hijab are insulted, rejected, and often physically threatened by Muslim males. One of the teenage girls interviewed said, "Every day, bearded men come to me and advise me strongly on wearing the veil. It is a war. For now, there are no dead, but there are looks and words that do kill."

not to mention acid in the face as this brutal article goes on to tell.

Seneca, do you really want to play the conscientious objector in this war?

Coisty said...

Yasmin Alibahi-Brown may be the most vile leftist in all of Britain. I'm surprised she took a break from her usual anti-British, anti-American, anti-Israel hate-mongering to comment on her own people.

She usually takes the most totalitarian line in every public issue unless it has something to do with crime or Muslim terrorism. No doubt in the coming weeks she'll find a way to blame the oppression of Muslim women on British racism.

truepeers said...

So, Coisty, is the joke on me? Maybe in taking the side of a totalitarian leftist I am living up to my intuition that there really only are two sides in the veil wars, at least in any place where the numbers are such that a conflict between Islam and the West, in increasingly plain terms, is inevitably staged.