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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Editorial 2 - Schizophrenic Society

The burning debate over the niqab, the flames of which the press is fanning daily, has thrown up more issues than whether Jack Straw should never be allowed to write a newspaper article again. It has exposed the schizophrenia of our society when it comes to such controversial issues. And it has also revealed the intolerance of a self-righteously tolerant Left.

From the media reaction to Mr Straw’s original comments, one would have thought he had just asked the constituent in question to go on a killing spree with him before spending the night at Legs 11. Some of the more right-wing press was disgustingly prejudiced in its coverage of the issue, with the Daily Express running a lead entitled, ‘Veil should be banned, say 98%’. (98% of what, one asks? Nick Griffin’s family?) However, a reader of one of the more left-wing newspapers would be forgiven for getting the impression that the idea of someone politely asking a Muslim woman to remove the niqab during a conversation was, in terms of offensiveness, second only to the idea that the Iraq war can be justified, or that Mikey from the last Big Brother has an interesting personality.

I argue that this exaggerated indignation is evidence of a schizophrenic society. Until two weeks ago, discussing whether Muslim women should wear the veil was a taboo, hence why Jack Straw’s remarkable comments breaking it were plastered across the front pages of the nationals. Now everyone’s at it. But we’re all remarkably self-conscious about it. We want to grab hold of our own little piece of free speech, but at the same time we’re excruciatingly aware of the cultural and political sensitivity of the issue, especially in the current clime. My question is: why? When Julie Burchill can spit literary poison at anyone who dares to believe that dishing abortions out like Boots Advantage points isn’t a good idea, and Jerry Springer the Opera is heralded as a slice of artistic genius, why are these same protagonists of secularism slinging mud at one man who dares to question the niqab, which is worn by an extremely small section of our society? Why can the modern ‘Left’ praise a musical that is deeply offensive to Christians and depicts Jesus in the most irreverent of ways, whilst at the same time using a piece of black cloth as a silencer for anyone who hovers near the boundaries of ‘political correctness’?

My point is not that, instead of mocking just one group, we should mock everyone. Neither should we be exempt from critiques of our views. I am merely highlighting the gross hypocrisy that exists in the ‘Left’ today. The gospel of modern Leftists is that of tolerance. To be labelled ‘intolerant’ in today’s society puts you in a class of people so hated as to include Ian Huntley or maybe even Trisha. But, tolerant of what? When these Ivory Tower occupants are faced with those who don’t embrace the same beliefs as them, their tolerance all but vanishes. I have seen too many articles written by so-called left-wingers that damn religious groups with such vitriolic language that they completely undermine their own calls for ‘tolerance’. As Voltaire said, in one of my favourite quotes, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.”

I do not know what the answer to the veil debate is. I doubt Mr Straw’s wisdom in making his remarks when he did. I certainly think banning the veil is a ridiculous, and bigoted, proposal. But I am not saddened that this debate has been raised; rather, by the media hysterics that have surrounded it. I do agree with Tony Blair (savour those words; they will not appear often) when he remarked that it is necessary for these dialogues to occur in order to facilitate integration amongst different cultures in Britain. But for this to happen, the dialogue must be given a mature environment in which to take place. At the moment, it seems that the press is intent on stirring up emotions and prejudices on either side of the argument. Until this stops, we cannot progress.

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2 Comments:

  • Tom Lehrer put it like this:

    'I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another, and I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings, and I hate people like that!'

    From 'National Brotherhood Week'...

    By Blogger Paul, at 4:31 pm  

  • Watching the news uneasily from a distance through Internet and BBC World has reminded me rather of Today's the Day 'Media War' sketch.

    By Blogger Cora, at 10:06 pm  

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