Straw’s View Towards Veiled Women between, Roy’s Theory and Putnam’s Prophecy
Saturday, October 14,2006 00:00
By Yousra al-Sharkawi, Al-Ahram

Straw’s View towards Veiled Women, between, Roy’s Theory and Putnam’s Prophecy

In his book, Globalization of Islam, the French Oliver Roy argues that the Jihad ideology that worries the new Europe is the product of Islam’s migration outside its geographical framework; hence, it isn’t related to the moderate religiousness of most nations in the Islamic world. The current terrorism phenomenon- according to Roy- is blamed on the Muslims working in Europe- not on reviving the old religion- but on laying down a new Islamic project that goes beyond cultural and geographical frontiers so as to realize their missing identity. Does Roy’s theory explain Straw’s latest criticisms against the clothes of the veiled women and will Britain follow its European neighbor in being strict towards Muslims, as London bombs, after Madrid’s bombs, prove the credibility of Roy’s theory, that the clash is not between civilizations, but inside European societies themselves?

It is right that the political ambition overshadows Straw’s demand to veiled women in his constituency to remove their veils before meeting him, and his confirmation that it hinders communication among sections of the British society. The man seeks to be the new Deputy Prime Minister; Islam issues are the best to attract media and voters after he described the war on Iraq as disastrous, although he was a prominent proponent of the war when he was Blair’s Foreign Minister .‏

But this proves also a British approval to the theory of the domestic enemy. The successive reports of terrorist plans confirmed that the British jihadists move freely and are independent from Al-Qaeda and others, and that having all criteria of citizenship will not prevent them from being enemies to the society and blaming it for the government sins. The most fierce attackers of the Middle East policies and those who understand well that the Muslims are afflicted by crises of unemployment and the ambiguity of identities, start to lose their logic in interpreting the increasing number of those weren’t well prepared though grown up in a liberal society, to resort to debate and political mobilization as instruments to protest instead of explosive belts .

The domestic enemy is also a social model that collides with the British mainstream; while allowing jihad is questioned regarding Islam, the status of women is questioned and wondered. While the Britons consider the veil as a hard-line oppressive aspect, they are amazed in front of files of beating wives, marriage of relatives, obliging girls to abandon education. They wonder- if confirmations of Islamic leaders that these phenomena are merely wrong traditions are correct, why Muslims hasn’t achieved the expected balance in a multiple society between their religion’s duties and their society’s duties? and why- while are keen on staying- they have settled in what has become similar to their original societies in form and content, although they escaped from them .

The domestic enemy is also violating the sacred freedom of expression in Britain. Although the government and its ministers confirmed that women in Straw’s constituency have the right to wear whatever they want, they agreed unanimously on his right to discuss any issue that can be rationally debated. The stormy criticisms against Straw renewed worries that attempting to discuss any Islamic issue will be faced with threat and more political caution or the so called Political Correctness; these policies are now considered an extension of the complex of the empire that seeks to appear in the image of a tolerant country, leading it- according to the report of the church of England- to making it more divided. The report went on to question applying the term of multiculturalism on Britain, pointing out that most British citizens are still Anglo- Saxon Christians and that attempts to merge others failed .‏

Some will doubt the credibility of a report issued by a religious institution whose role is retreating in a secular liberal society, but actually these views started to be adopted by some people outside the church and far-right movements during the last days that witnessed- in addition to Straw’s crisis- disclosing the incident of the Muslim officer who refused to serve in Israeli embassy at the time of the war on Lebanon, and resuming routine-like clashes between young men of Muslim and Asian communities. These incidents reminded the British of the warnings of Harvard’s professor Robert Putnam, that members of multiple societies are doomed not to enjoy relations of confidence and intimacy.
Thus, does Britain follow the French steps?, No, the Britons still want to make their experience succeed; when Straw spoke about removing the veil, he did not make it a binding condition for meeting women in his constituency. Also, he rejected banning the veil legally like the French model, to respect personal freedoms lest the number of those wearing the veil and retreaters increase as a protesting reaction. Parallel to this, others

like Salma Yacoub, the member of Respect party- move with her traditional veil and baron Odienne, moves with her loose hair. They move and argue with confidence to prove that not all Britain female Muslims are helpless, and that there are Islamic voices that can discuss and argue, not protest, facing retreating movements inside their community.

They remind the government that women’s decisions are mostly optional ( to confirm identity or out of a personal conviction) and that removing the veil- although some Muslim communities showed their understanding to its effect on the British impressions- will not defuse Roy’s theory if the crises of unemployment and poverty and some racial policies weren’t solved first. Also, the second half of Putnam’s prophecy won’t materialize, that restructuring the emigrating communities will not be sufficient on its own to solve the crisis of confidence in multiple societies, but restructuring the hosting societies and educating them of conditions of their new citizens will support lead to this.

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The above article was translated from Arabic by IKhwanweb, all rights reserved.