Why truth wears a veil

The veil issue in Britain was certainly fudged this week. But there is a wider point that you're now much less likely to be slandered as a "bigot" for pointing to its social and political significance

Who's who?
Richard Elliott
On 19 September 2013 07:56

You’ve no doubt heard about the events at Blackfriars Crown Court in London on Monday where Judge Peter Murphy asked a Muslim woman to remove her niqab while addressing judge, jury and lawyers, while allowing her to keep it on in court when in view of the public.

The half-baked attempt at fusing political correctness whilst upholding British law was hailed by some as a good "compromise", but it turns out to be something much less than that. As pointed out by Robin Shepherd, there is in the judge's apparent stand in favour of British values and the rule of law a larger than realised appeasement of so-called ‘multicultural values’.

This is the first time that a judicial figure has made a legal statement about the niqab and its inevitable collision with the British legal system.

Still, this kind of story has long been expected, and as it happens, it has come to light alongside many other incidents where Western governments and large parts of their populations have agreed to crack down on the the niqab and burka.

This recent trend across Europe of bucking the previous endorsements of multiculturalism qua multiculturalism may be justified by security reasons, judicial matters such as the case of the court room in Britain, for example, or access to banks whilst one’s identity is concealed.

It is true that concealment by clothing can act for criminals in the same way as a motorcycle helmet does in successfully hiding someone’s identity. Islamic garments have alrady been used to that effect, such as in the case of the Selfridges robbers who wore burkas to conceal themselves.

Many will argue that religious garments in the social sphere deserve no such privilege, and they are by and large right to say so. But there is a larger point, and there is no point trying to ‘veil’ it; the primary motivation behind this crackdown on the wearing of the niqab and the burka has been a growing fear of the very worst parts of multiculturalism.

This fear is now widely accepted as a prevailing concern of the general public. But why is this concern a "new" topic across the press? Hasn’t there been ink and sweat spent by many prestigious political authors, writers and commentators on this very issue?

Well, of course there has. But the reasons that these concerns were largely ignored in the public sphere was that criticism of Islam, be it theological or social, was deemed as ‘right-wing’, ergo "bigoted", irrelevant, and racist.

As well as the many figures on the political ‘right’ who have been voicing these concerns for a long time, there was a small minority of writers from a left-wing perspective who also shared these concerns, often in the loudest tones of all. I am thinking of Sam Harris, David Aaronovitch and the late, great, Christopher Hitchens in particular.

While small in number, no serious person can doubt that these left-inclined writers were and are powerful voices for justice and social cohesion.

So, with these popular figures of the left espousing criticisms of fundamentalist Islam, why weren’t they listened to? Because they were assumed to have “turned to the right”, rendering their arguments invalid. This kind of slander, that a serious political point is useless or even corrosive for a person to hold because of who said it in the first place or who else says it, is beyond belief.

All three of the aforementioned left-wing writers were and often still are denounced as ‘neo-cons’, as if such a simple ad hominem were enough to refute their points.

The problem now for those making the slanders is that the ‘neo-cons’ who have been criticizing fundamentalist Islam for some time have been vindicated, not only in the sense that they are right about its most extreme forms clashing with British values, but also that the vast majority of the general public shares this view.

It is one of the great disappointments about politics that, more often than not, ideology takes primacy over truth. There needs to be a serious reconsideration of the prejudices of those ‘leftists’ who espouse such garbage, before the truth, like the women often forced to wear the burka, is too veiled to recognize.

Richard Elliott is a writer and a journalist. He is a regular contributor to The Backbencher and an irregular contributor to many others

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