CATALONIA TODAY (01/07/2010)
On the burqa controversy.
CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-EIGHT
I am islamophobic, christianophobic, hinduophobic, sikhophobic and judeophobic (in the religious not racist senses of these words). Religions fill me with anxiety at the thought they might still try and tell me how to behave, and amazement at the fact that they persist in existing. That said, I have never felt the need – as did so many Catalan anarchists within most senior citizens' living memories – to make bonfires of altarpieces, anymore than I feel the need – as have some European neo-fascists, more recently – to firebomb mosques. If people want to believe in resuscitated gods, occultated imams, transmigrating souls and transubstantiated wafers, then I – who used to believe in UFOs – am certainly not going to try and stop them. For the same reason, if people truly wish to wear wimples, mantillas, hijabs, turbans, veils, dog collars, skufias, yarmulkes or burqas, I would not be so presumptuous as to instruct them to remove said items. Which is more than can be said for the Lleida City Council, which at the end of May made the wearing of the burqa (though not the wimple) illegal in public buildings, thus encouraging right-wing councils in several other Catalan towns to consider doing the same. The official excuse for this targeting of a minority garment – that it goes against women's rights – hardly makes sense in those cases, of which there are a lot more than meet most politicians' eyes, where the burqa is willingly worn by the wearer. To stigmatise the burqa – unlovely though it might be – smacks of disingenuousness: why the burqa and the burqa alone, and not Islamic inheritance laws, or forced marriages, or the cloistering of nuns, to mention just three religious practices that really discriminate against women? Perhaps because its wearers are not considered to be full European citizens (whose right to wear anything they please has been guaranteed at least since the 1960s)? Certain Muslim countries have been accurately criticised here for their lack of sartorial permissiveness. To reproduce their methods and then hail it as a blow struck for democracy, is, surely, little more than a kind of finely-honed hypocrisy. The kind that Europeans have historically always been ever so good at.