Five years after the French parliament passed a law forbidding children from wearing the headscarf or any other “conspicuous” religious symbol in schools – read forbidding Muslim girls from wearing the veil in public schools, the French government has recently indicated it was prepared to legally ban the burka. In guise of defending Muslim women from what is seen as a ‘submissive act’, the French government spokesman Luc Chatel argued that women’s rights were compromised by the garments, suggesting that the government is seriously considering bringing in legislation to prohibit full veiling in France .
It seems that only several thousand French Muslim women, out of a Muslim population of five million, wear full veils, which politicians have described as ‘walking coffins’. This assumes that all Muslim women are coerced into wearing the veil, though research has shown that outside countries where veiling is mandatory, such as Afghanistan or Iran , Muslim women veil for a variety of mostly political reasons. Some veil in reaction to their more assimilated parents, others in response to the westernisation of society; and for many others veiling spells not deprivation but rather freedom from male harassment. Continue reading “Veiled threats?”
When ‘post conflict’ Northern Ireland was dubbed by the BBC the ‘race hate capital of Europe’ in 2004, Robbie McVeigh’s analysis made the point that it was wrong to say, as many journalists did, that racism escalated simply because Protestants and Catholics had stopped fighting each other. Rather, McVeigh insisted, racism was not a new phenomenon in Northern Ireland, but was rather part of a legacy of intolerance built into Loyalist areas and into Unionism itself.
The racist violent attacks against a group of Romanian Roma in Belfast confirms McVeigh’s analysis that racism, rather than being the consequence of neo-Nazi BNP sympathisers – a claim made all too easily by Northern politicians including MLP Anna Lo (who by the way, as the only minority ethnic representative, received death threats because of her support for the Roma) – is built into northern Loyalism. It’s true that the attacks happened only a few weeks after the victory of the BNP in Britain’s European and local elections. It’s also true that both the UVF and the UDA denied their involvement with both the BNP and the attacks against the Roma families. Yet according to journalist Peter Geoghegan, the ‘Village’ area of Belfast, a run-down area of Loyalist terraces which became popular with eastern European migrants has seen many racist attacks of which the attacks on the Roma last week were only the most recent. Continue reading “Racist attacks not just result of extreme right”