We have all heard the same phrases in one way or another. ‘I have black friends down the road and we have nothing against them. But the family down the road do not fit with our area. They are………different.’ It is funny how this statement seems to have the same meaning generation after generation yet, is used by people who should know better and they should realise that the identity of our country is not under threat.
Some may regard people who make such statements as being inherently racist though I would suggest that their irrational fears have overtaken proper logical thought. That the difference they see in their area is viewed as a threat, rather than an opportunity and that fear generated so easily says something about the lack of identity within some of those local communities.
So, here we go! The Muslim community is under the spotlight again, this time for less than 0.5% of Muslim women in the UK covering their face. Yes, less than 0.5% and this figure is also being generous in the assessment. Judging by the raging debate, you would think that all Muslim women are covering up and that this is a matter of national significance. Yet, the assessment made by armchair pundits and those who will not accept Muslims or Islam in Britain is that this is not acceptable to British values. Well I find many things offensive like watching an overweight 50 plus male or female walking without a shirt or top and thinking that they are God’s gift to beauty. Or the bright make up that is plastered onto the face of so many people today and which looks like Ziggy Stardust is back in fashion. So cutting to the chase, what you wear is a matter of personal freedom and choice and whilst I may not like the rotund pink belly undulating with the owner waddling to the pool, it is my choice not to look at them.
There is however, another argument that personal freedom should not be at the expense of safety to the state. There has been one incident when the Niqab has been used by one of the 21/7 bombers when he fled the UK for Italy. This is one case to date and there have been no other cases which link the Niqab to terrorists or terrorism related incidents. Bearing this in mind, does this piece of small clothing pose a national security risk and the answer is clearly no. Does it also pose a risk to society? Well, I suggest that it only poses a risk if local communities are not at ease with themselves and further work on developing local identities and cohesion are needed. However, harking back to monoculturism is not the answer in a Britain whose strength globally is its diversity of communities.
Finally, the recent comment by Damian Green stating that the Niqab ban will not take place in Britain is the right call. For a coalition Government to rightly suggest that our freedoms were eroded by Labour and then to propose a ban on a piece of clothing would be a significant u-turn on the protection of personal liberties. It would also undermine the libertarianism which is core to the Liberal Democrats and which has some roots within Conservative philosophy. Thank God we have some common sense in our politics today and those who bring some logical sense into the politics of communities.