Hollobone’s ‘burka ban’

July 14, 2010 at 8:22 am | Posted in British Politics, Conservative Party | 12 Comments

JR-hollobone4 1378941c

Update: photo courtesy of http://www.jr-photos.com/ Also, see the comments section to see me getting a well-deserved upbraiding.

Whilst the success of a measure to ban Islamic veils in France should rightly be looked upon as a troubling victory for bull-headed illiberalism, we shouldn’t allow our disgust with the French parliament to distract us from those in Britain who would do the same thing.

Take Tory backbencher Phllip Hollobone, who took to the BBC the other day to shill for his euphemistically titled ‘Face Coverings Regulation Bill’.

The grounds that Hollobone seeks his ban range from frivolous to feeble to flagrant scaremongering: he claims that Emmeline Pankhurst would not have approved, that deaf people find it harder to lip read, that the burka must be awfully uncomfortable to wear on hot, sunny days and, if that wasn’t enough, that the women wearing them may pose a threat to national security.

You see, it’s not enough to argue that Muslim women must dress to suit the presumed wishes of some long-dead historical figure, nor is it enough to suggest they do their bit for old fashioned civility by flashing smiles at passing strangers. No, for Hollobone’s argument to have any weight at all, he must also argue that we should fear the burka, and the ‘women’ (if indeed they are women!) who wear it as a symbol of the horrors wreaked upon us by mad men.

Let’s face it, without having the terrorism card to waft in our faces, Hollobone’s featherweight arguments wouldn’t have even found their way in front of a TV camera. None of his ill-made justifications are adequate reasons to legislate in this or any other Parliament, and aside from some superficial doff of the hat to the matriarch of women’s suffrage, he doesn’t even bother to engage with the valid concerns that people have about what such a dress symbolises.

What’s more, does anyone really imagine that we can have an honest & revealing debate about the burka, its symbolism and the position of Muslim women in society by banning the religion’s most contentious items of clothing? Does anyone really believe that reactionary legislation designed to force integration will achieve its desired end? I thought it was just the left who did ‘social engineering’?

The sign of a ‘big society’ isn’t in the legislation we pass to try to pull people into line; it’s in the civic discourse between people from vastly different backgrounds who can communicate openly and freely, unimpeded by the senseless threat of legal sanction. We don’t need to like the face veil, we don’t even need to tolerate it, but Parliament certainly has no place banning it.


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  1. “The sign of a ‘big society’ isn’t in the legislation we pass to try to pull people into line; it’s in the civic discourse between people from vastly different backgrounds who can communicate openly and freely, unimpeded by the senseless threat of legal sanction.”
    Pretty much. I wrote a post making the same basic point- that this type of social problem is best left to voluntary relations rather than coercive state ones- back when UKIP put forward a similar policy.

    I very much doubt Old Holborn would be happy being told to remove his mask. Things would get ugly, fast.

    • Heh, indeed. I dread to think the mess he would make.

  2. I agree that Phillip Hollobone does come across a a bit feeble and so might some of his arguements, but they are legitimate issues that need to be debated thoroughly in parliament, which is why we elected people like him. He also might seem a bit timid because he is facing up to a big issue in our modern society, when a lot politicians are too frightened to do so, some frightened for their lives probably. So, good on him I say.

    I do think it is possible create some sort of ban on face coverings when a person enters the premises of a private business or the provider of a public service. There are serious issues about the safety of workers getting into a potentially confrontational situation if they have to ask a person to remove a face covering. They shouldn’t have to ask, it should just be he accepted courteous thing to do, so it can be enforced by law.

    I doubt that the law could be applied out of doors since we all tend to cover ourselves when the weather demands it.

    When it comes to children being expected to cover their faces in schools or their teacher covering her face, we really are getting into he area of child welfare and the maltreatment of children, and there is plenty of existing law covering that. If children learn early on about how to dress in public then they take that with them into adulthood and it just becomes the done thing.

    And further in schools there is no reason why every school in the country shouldn’t demand that every child remove any head coverings in class, it applies to all kids not just muslims.

    • Well, I have no problems with politicians debating things like this, I just have a problem with them passing laws when the case hasn’t been made that a law is necessary.

      The thing is, Dan, the situations you’ve described can be handled without resorting to new legislation.

      Take private businesses, for example. They are perfectly within their rights to set the terms and conditions upon which an individual can enter their premises and purchase goods or services. When there was a bit of a public panic about kids with hoodies, Bluewater shopping centre didn’t start lobbying ministers asking for hoodies to be made illegal; it just went banned kids with hoodies from entering their premises. Likewise, if a business would prefer for people to remove facial coverings when trying to procure goods or services, they’re within their rights to do so. To that end, there’s really nothing wrong with the law that we already have.

      Bottom line: I’m not in favour of us having any more laws than the ones we absolutely need, and I’ve yet to see a compelling argument for why this law is necessary for Britain.

      Cheers for the comment.

  3. during the 2005 election campaign Phillip Hollobone came to a Muslim Prayer Hall in Kettering and asked for votes .I was there . Kettering was a Labour seat at that time ,
    now he wants a ban on burqas , what a hypocrite .!!!!

  4. What a shame you decided to use my photo shot for The Sunday Telegraph and their joint copyright, without my permission. Copyright theft is still theft.

    Not even a byline, and certainly no payment :-(

    See you in court!

    • Yes, a serious lapse on my part, john. I’m actually not sure i did get it from the telegraph, as it was a fairly rushed Google image search, but i could certainly be wrong. Either way, i will happily take the image down completely or offer full credit. Let me know which you would be most satisfied with.



      • Well, thanks for the apology…that’s something I guess.

        On this occasion I will settle for a byline…. Photo courtesy of http://www.jr-photos.com

        The operative word being courtesy!

        Too many people are just stealing images found via The Google.
        I’m a professional photographer. I make my living, pay the mortgage, feed my children using my skills as an image maker.
        Would you call into Waitrose and nick a couple of pints of milk and a paper because you needed them?

      • No, the apology was the least you deserved. I am normally a lot more careful when i look for images, but on this occasion i was careless, cut corners and deserved to be pulled up on it. You’ll have the credit you deserve by the end of the night.

  5. Thank you Neil.
    We Robertsons should stick together :-)

    • I think you have been very fortunate that your ‘lapse of judgement’ happened to be with a (very) reasonable man like John and not with someone like Getty or Corbis who would have insisted on full payment, and wouldn’t have sued to get it.

      Take it down or give a credit? Mortgages don’t pay themselves you know! Using an image without permission is actually theft, no different in principle to walking off with a pack of sausages from the local supermarket.

      It should be a matter of procedure to ask permission before using any image, even if you are acquainted with its creator, and an absolute necessity if you don’t.

      • Pete,

        There’s not really a great deal more i can add to what i’ve said already. I should have been more careful, i could have just posted without an image. I didn’t, i regret that, and i thank you both for standing up for your economic rights. Whilst it doesn’t make any difference whether there was any malice intended, I’d just like you to know that the theft was thoughtless rather than intentional.

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