Monmouth MP says veil is ‘symbol of violence against women’
Categories: Latest News
Thursday May 12 2016
Local paper, the Abergavenny Chronicle draws attention to the contribution of Conservative MP, David Davies, to aparliamentary debate on Violence against Women and Girls and the Sustainable Development Goals on 27 April 2016 in which he refers to the veil as “a symbol of violence against women”.
Mr Davies, MP for Monmouth, made a number of remarks about Muslims in Britain referring to ‘sharia courts’, female genital mutilation, the visibility of Muslim women in communal institutions and guidance available on the website of a Muslim Association in Blackburn concerning travel restrictions on women.
Davies speaking in the parliamentary chamber said: “I have particular concerns about attitudes towards women within the Muslim community—not in general, of course, but certainly not enough is being done.
“I think the veil is a symbol of violence against women. It sends out a message to women that they are property and should not be looked at, and it gives men an excuse. It almost sends out a message that a man has a right to sexually attack an uncovered woman. I know that that happens on only a minority of occasions, although there was a dreadful instance of it in Cologne. The message has to go out to all men in all communities that they have absolutely no right to attack women under any circumstances whatever. The veil gets in the way of that.”
Quite how it is that the veil renders Muslim women responsible for male attitudes to women and violence against women is not spelt out by Mr Davies. The suggestion that Muslim women who express modesty by their choice of dress are wittingly rendering all other women ‘immodest’ and therefore legitimate targets of “sexual attack” is incredulous. Nor is there any evidence cited to suggest that there is, or could be, a causal link between some women embracing the veil with women as victims of violence.
Davies doesn’t back up his claims that by veiling Muslim women are signifying “they are property” or that veiling is the “excuse” men need to commit acts of violence against other women. It is disgraceful that an MP should prevail on Muslim women and suggest that the veil “gets in the way” of robust action on gender based violence. Are Muslim women now to blame for extremism and gender violence too?
Indeed, the MP for Bradford East, Imran Hussain, upbraided his fellow MP saying, “Does the hon. Gentleman accept that women have freedom of choice in exercising the right to wear a veil if they want to? The connection that he makes between attacks on women and the wearing of veils is worrying. I feel that he should retract some of those words.”
It is disingenuous to speak on a debate about integrating minorities and British values and then suggest that availing themselves of liberal values stops at the point where they choose to observe Islamic dress.
It seems the violence visited on Muslim women who veil as a consequence of political and media rhetoric that demonises the veil and casts Muslim women as an ‘errant other’ is lost on Mr Davies. A study conducted by Leicester University found that the banning of the face veil in Francehas “increased levels of anti-Muslim hostility towards veiled Muslim women in the UK.”
Moreover, a poll conducted for the BBC by ComRes in February 2015 found that nearly half of Muslims polled for the survey said prejudice against Islam makes it difficult to be a Muslim in the UK (46%) and more Muslim women (19%) than men (10%) said they do not feel safe as a Muslim in Britain.
Perhaps Mr Davies might reflect on those figures further before chastising Muslim women about how they dress and making spurious claims about their “get[ting] in the way” of fighting gender based violence.