TCS Daily


The Straw That Broke the Multi-Culti Camel's Back

By Val MacQueen - October 27, 2006 12:00 AM

In the last few days in Britain, three events have caused what was already a small crack in the paper-thin edifice of "multiculturalism" in Britain to widen to a noticeable fissure.

First, 14-year old British schoolgirl Codie Stott was arrested for trying to get a good grade in her group science project. She had been placed with a group of students only one of whom spoke any English. When they began talking what she deduced was Urdu among themselves, she realized she had no hope of completing the project. She went to her teacher, and prefacing her request with a diplomatic, "I'm not trying to be funny, but ..." she asked to be moved to an English-speaking team. The teacher reacted violently, raising her voice in the classroom to shout, "It's racist! You're going to get done by the police!"

The 14-year old was reported to a police officer on the school premises and the next day she was arrested, taken to the police station and told to take the laces out of her shoes and take off her jewelry. She then had her fingerprints taken and she was formally questioned. "It was awful," she said later, when she'd been released, the police having shown more sense than her teacher.

This news item created a storm of anger in Britain. But, the incident was quickly followed by another. Aishah Azmi, a teacher's assistant in an Episcopalian school who was tasked with helping recently arrived Urdu-speaking children to learn English, was asked to remove her niqab (full facial veil) in the classroom. She refused. She was told that the children needed to see her lips and mouth as she pronounced the English words they were supposed to be learning. She refused on religious grounds. The school, conciliatory for fear of being accused of racism, told her she was free to wear the veil in corridors and the staff room, but she should remove it when teaching foreign children English. She refused again, saying that as there was a male colleague in the classroom, she could not remove her veil in his presence.

Ms Azmi was sent home and her salary suspended. There is a broad school of thought in Islam that wearing the veil is not a religious requirement. Indeed the full facial veil is banned in public by the governments of both Turkey and Tunisia. In Tunisia, a woman may not enter a public [government] building wearing even a headscarf.

Ms Azmi was interviewed on British television by seasoned newsman Peter Sissons, who did not give her any breaks. For those who find it difficult to understand her accent, her final sentence is, "Yes, but only for five minutes." Liberal London Times columnist David Aaronovitch described her as a black belt in passive aggression.

As night follows day, she took the school to an employment tribunal, which came to an atypically swift conclusion that her religious rights had not been abused, although they awarded her around £1,100 (around $2,000) for "hurt feelings". She is now requesting taxpayer-funded legal aid to fight her case all the way up. However, the local Labour MP, a Muslim, has backed the school.

The third incident that has shaken the wafer-thin facade of multiculturalism was the case of a Christian worker at a British Airways' check-in counter. She wore a small cross, barely the size of her thumbnail, to work and was sent home for refusing to remove it. British Airways cited their rule of no jewelry and no religious symbolism except if it is hidden under the uniform. Ms Nadia Eweida claims that the BA rule clearly means "no Christian symbolism" as Sikh male employees are allowed to wear their much larger steel bangles with their livery, unhidden. Indeed, they are allowed to wear their turbans to work if they wish. And Muslim women can wear headscarves.

Ms Eweida has announced her intention to defend her right to wear her miniature cross by taking BA to court. Meanwhile, she has been suspended without pay by an unrelenting British Airways, which also publicly reprimanded her for calling attention to the incident.

These three incidents, coming over a space of a few days, have torn wide open a fissure which became visible for the first time, when Member of Parliament Jack Straw, until last month a stout devotee of multiculturalism suddenly wrote an article in his local paper. Jaws dropped all over Britain when Straw wrote his defense of the reasons he has begun asking Pakistani women constituents who visit his office to discuss problems to remove their veils. His point, of course, is that it is difficult to talk to someone whose facial expressions one cannot judge. Tony Blair has also now admitted that the veil makes him uneasy. With the bandwagon gathering pace, London mayor and keen adherent of multiculturalism "Red" Ken Livingstone, knocked the population of London over with a feather when he said on BBC's Radio 4 that he would like to see Muslims giving up the veil, although he didn't think this should be imposed "from the outside".

Wearing the veil accords the wearer what British columnist Melanie Phillips refers to as a "radical imbalance of power" in that it gives the veil-wearer the advantage of reading the facial expressions of others, while keeping her own reactions hidden. It is beginning to be viewed in Britain not as a symbol of female subjugation, but as a weapon of aggression and radical Islam. The British-born mothers of these young Pakistani-heritage veil-wearing women did not wear the veil.

The author is a TCS Daily contributing writer living in Europe.

Categories:
|

TCS Daily Archives