So now Syria has banned the Niqab. What will Western leftists and liberals make of that? An officially secular but largely Muslim country has decided on the ban – like Turkey before it – in order to protect that secularity and discourage a growing Islamic conservatism. I was in Syria quite recently and was told there that the government was seriously concerned by the growth in this grassroots movement. Sure enough, veiled women could be seen everywhere.
And for once I agree with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown,when she writes of her exasperation with Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, who has talked of the freedom and empowerment the veil affords. This comes on the tail of the remarks made by Damian Green, the Immigration minister, that a ban would be ‘unBritish’.
Last week I found myself talking twice about the veil – on the BBC’s Moral Maze, and then on Sky News. Such discussions usually take place in a framework which puts great emphasis on the ‘choice’ involved in wearing the veil. Useful idiots refuse to countenance that most veil wearing is forced. This would of course imply criticism of Muslims, and would mean that liberal feminists would have to break their disgraceful silence and take a stand on the issue.
I am unhappy with the idea of a ban purely because, like all censorship, it symbolises cultural weakness. What we should be doing instead is encouraging our cultural and political leaders to speak out on why our way of life, and our values, are infinitely preferable and worth defending. We must recover from the colossal collapse in cultural confidence which has been exploited and abetted by far too many in our cultural and political elites. What we don’t need is the likes of our senior Churchman talking in lofty terms about the inevitability of sharia law, or stupid, ill-informed cabinet ministers spouting ingratiatingly about empowerment.