“The colonialist administration invested great sums in this combat. After it had posited that the woman constituted the pivot of Algerian society, all efforts were made to obtain control over her.”
“This woman who sees without being seen frustrates the coloniser”
~ Frantz Fanon
“When you’re in a position of power for a long time you get used to using your yardstick, and you take it for granted that because you’ve forced your yardstick on others, that everyone is still using the same yardstick. So that your definition of extremism usually applies to everyone, but nowadays times are changing, and the center of power is changing. People in the past who weren’t in a position to have a yardstick or use a yardstick of their own are using their own yardstick now. You use one and they use another. In the past when the oppressor had one stick and the oppressed used that same stick, today the oppressed are sort of shaking the shackles and getting yardsticks of their own, so when they say extremism they don’t mean what you do, and when you say extremism you don’t mean what they do. There are entirely two different meanings.”
~ Malcolm X
Unable to tolerate cultural heterogeneity, the racist David Cameron followed up his Michael Gove-inspired Macaulayism with colonialist calumnies to yet again apply the full brachial force of “muscular liberalism” upon the Muslim woman, and more specifically, the even smaller minority in which resides the veiled Muslim woman. Bravo Mr Cameron! Your machismo impresses.
Cameron announced plans to allow public institutions to ban women from wearing veils in schools, courts and other British institutions. Whilst actually presenting nothing substantially new in terms of proposals, it did release a torrent of self-righteous fulminations and liberal rectitude, as a piece of fabric was attacked from the biodegradable “liberal” left to the nuke “Eye-ran” right in the comment sections of various spreads. Which is fantastic news for a minority that is already being physically and verbally attacked on the streets of Britain.
Following Cameron’s disgraceful demagoguery was Gove’s politically incestuous ideological mate Michael Wilshaw.
Wilshaw, now fully aboard Cameron’s Macaulayism, unleashed his inner vehemence of Islam and latent liberal insecurity as he strained his words through passive aggression about the veil and what Muslims “need to do”. With a heavy dose of equivocation he stated that the veil was “possibly” stopping teachers and pupils, and that his inspectors “on occasion” see “there are problems with communication”. It is perhaps worth bearing in mind that this is coming from a man who has thoroughly demonstrated his prejudice against Islam, whilst his little inquisitors have implemented this sentiment during inspections. He continued patronising Muslims thusly:
“The prime minister’s view that we have got to make sure that our liberal values, our liberal west values, are protected, people need to listen to that… The Muslim community needs to listen to it as well. We have come a long way in our society to ensure that we have equality for women and that they are treated fairly. We mustn’t go backwards.”
In other words: you backward, veil-wearing Muslims need to protect “our” liberal values – the ones neocons define, interpret and ultimately reject. Once again the colonialist theme runs through Wilshaw’s statements: Muslim practices are “backwards”, and liberal values are the “progressive” cure. Welcome to the 19th century. Wilshaw clearly thinks the Muslim minority is one big class at the Doon private school in colonised India, where he, as the civilising “teacher”, imposes his will upon the inferior “backward” subjects.
And Nicky Morgan? The token minister joined in the burka-bashing too, of course, with her statements probably being “back-seat driven” by Cameron’s inner circle and specifically Gove.
The Etonian Legacy
Understanding the prevalent anti-Muslim attitude, and the structural “soft apartheid” against Islam and Muslims, it is as though the neocon cabal is egging institutions on to make the lives of a tiny minority – already targeted and vulnerable thanks to state-backed prejudice and bigotry – that much more difficult to engage in democratic activities. The statement made by neocon hate-preacher Douglas Murray, whose bigoted anti-Muslim Henry Jackson Society has been influential on UK security policy, comes to mind:
“Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board”
The spirit of this statement is a disconcertingly reality today.
Whilst the rhetoric emanating from the state elite has clear racist and colonialist undertones, it seems the impulse for this sort of pomposity stems from education and history. Aside from the fascist neoconservative element which promotes an imperialist foreign policy, Eton – the private educational institute at which the (all-male) Bullingdon club members of our government like Cameron have been indoctrinated at – has a historic connection with colonial India. It fostered statesmen to lead the affairs of the British Raj. George Curzon (d.1925), the Viceroy of India, was educated at Eton. Among his statements are the following,
“Turkestan, Afghanistan, Transcaspia, Persia—to many these names breathe only a sense of utter remoteness . .. To me, I confess, they are the pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the dominion of the world.”
Another Etonian residing in India wrote in his diary in 1858 about the freedom fighters engaged in struggling against the shackles of colonialism:
“What fun it is to shoot mutineers. It’s almost like shooting partridges.”
Is it any wonder then that the Etonian neoconservatives today dehumanise and denigrate Islamic practices and target Muslims from the Indian subcontinent?
The “I am Muslim” Brigade
Of course, as expected, the “I am Muslim – Islam is horrendous” burka-bashing brigade came out in full force too. Yasmin Alibhai Brown – a writer for the Independent – led the charge and took to the Daily Mail to vent her feminist frustrations. In sum, the article was designed to lend credence to the preceding two days of Cameronialism:
“Many, I believe, felt they had to stay indoors unless they were accompanied by a male member of their family. And most spoke little English.”
This is unsurprising, given she was identified as a member of the British American Project (BAP) by noted journalist John Pilger. BAP is an outfit linked to US neoconservatives (like Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz and Norman Podhoretz) which acts as a Trojan horse for US influence on security matters. Listed among its members was notorious right-wing neoconservative Charles Moore, former editor of the Telegraph and current head of neoconservative think-tank founded by Michael Gove: Policy Exchange.
In attacking the veil, she utilised her trademark incoherent drivel of personal experience and prejudiced, empirically baseless claims. Actually, she did use evidence at one point in her piece:
“If you want proof, watch East Is East…”
Yes ladies and gentlemen, Alibhai’s proof for her claims is an insipid movie depicting caricaturised Asians. The rest of the article sees her crying over the fact that Muslims aren’t living on the film set of East is East, and mourning the increase in religiosity of Muslims.
Islam, despite declaring herself a “Muslim” and elsewhere “a practising (though flawed) Shia”, is clearly not at the top of her “like list”. Debasing fundamental ritual purification laws of Islam, she writes,
“I have seen the rubbish girls are taught at Muslim faith schools – lessons that last half a day, devoted to ritual washing before prayer.”
Quite. Further exemplifying the paragon of nonsense, Alibhai explains, whilst thoroughly exhibiting British value of “mutual respect”, that wearing veils encourages Islamophobia:
“But I go back to Tower Hamlets… the women wear full veils that make them look like angry bats… That encourages Islamophobia.”
To claim the veil increases Islamophobia is frankly absurd. The logic used is akin to blaming the one raped for dressing “provocatively”. Alibhai is sickeningly blaming the clothes of a Muslim woman for her being attacked. On the contrary, it is vile statements like these which encourage and legitimise violence against a minority (veiled), within a minority (women), within a minority (Muslim).
The speciousness continues: the veil apparently shuts them off from the wider world because they are afraid and because of the “ugly looks they attract”. This seems to be more a problem of a prejudiced and bigoted sections of society with “illiberal views” rather than the choice of attire.
Suddenly, and rather out of the blue, Alibhai claims mosques are where “segregation” begins, and hence why English is so important. The irony of this claim is that mosques in London, like the East London Mosque and Finsbury Park Mosque, have been centres where men and women could enrol on ESOL and ICT courses.
The reality that Muslim women may actually choose to adopt the veil due to their devotion to their faith, to unplug from a consumerist, hyper-sexualised, and increasingly plastic society, and focus on the inner spirituality as opposed to the fluctuating demands and norms imposed by cosmetics corporations and magazines, simply fails to dawn upon the woman. Or upon Cameron for that matter.
In Cameron’s neoconservative world where a hypocritically applied conception of freedom is the politically expedient tool for defining an aspect of national identity, the attempt to calibrate reconciliation between freedom and coercion by encouraging and allowing public institutions (excluding security requirements) to ban the veil meets an inevitable impasse. Rights or active discrimination? Integration or state-approved, coerced isolation based on prejudiced, bigoted views? “Save” the Muslim woman from –ironically – her choices only to shove a wall built of gross stereotypes and unfounded “problems” in front of her when engaging in democracy?
Despite the fact that we are dealing with those who seems to be the successors to the colonialist oppressors of India, I would suggest that instead of demonstrating a secular liberal breakdown and polarising society, Cameron and his cohorts in Government and his associates would do well to actually reflect from the perspective of those being discussed and avoid the propensity to whip up hate of a tiny section of a minority thereby becoming complicit in the inevitable violence that follows. Rather than listening to those who are paid to massage and stroke neoconservative egos, the sensible thing to do would be to listen to the masses of Muslims who are now opposing the draconian policies which are providing the structure to justify such odious diatribe.
 Fromkin, D., A Peace to End All Peace The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, Henry Hold and Company: New York, 1989, p.27