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Taj Hargey launches UK campaign to ban the burqa

Taj Hargey launches UK campaign to ban the burqa

Categories: Latest News

Monday July 21 2014

The Daily Mail last week published a column by Taj Hargey in which he announced his plans to launch a campaign to ban the burqa in Britain.

The launch of the campaign has been primarily driven by the legal precedent set by the European Court ruling earlier this month, upholding the French niqab ban introduced in 2010. Hargey, someone who has fulsomely railed against the right of women to wear the niqab and burqa, appears to be exploiting the ruling of the ECHR to suit his own ends.

Describing the burqa as an “increasing fashion” adopted by young Muslim women in Britain, Hargey argues it is “one of the most sinister developments of our times” and “another weapon in the jihadist arsenal of misogyny, like forced marriage, female genital mutilation and sexist discrimination.”

Similarly to his letter in the Times and his previous condemnations, he reiterates his claims that the burqa is “an archaic tribal piece of cloth” and “a cultural fad imported from Saudi Arabia” that is used by “fundamentalist zealots to promote a toxic brand of extremist non-Koranic theology”.

Hargey states that he is launching a “nationwide campaign for a blanket ban against “all types of covering”. The campaign includes leading a formal petition calling for a ban in order to compel Parliament to debate the issue. Petitions attracting over 100,000 signatures meet the requisite conditions to force a parliamentary debate on the subject.

While he calls on all people in Britain to oppose the burqa, he proclaims that “mainstream Muslims should be at the forefront of the campaign” because the burqa apparently “undermines the credibility and reputation of our faith”.

He repeats his belief that “there is no religious requirement on Muslims to don the burka”; that “the burka is not a feature of Pakistani culture, where 90 per cent of women do not wear it”; and that “there is no unqualified human right to wear whatever we want in public.”

In an attempt to engage with Islamic religious sources to bolster his argument, Hargey states “Nor is there any evidence in the Koran to support the wearing of the burka. Indeed, the Holy Book stipulates that men ‘should lower their gaze’ when meeting women to avoid lecherous staring (verse 24, chapter 30). So logically, if women were fully covered up there would be no need for such an instruction.”

He goes on, “Some Muslim clergy claim that the burka is religiously necessary. They assert this because the Prophet Muhammad’s wives allegedly hid their faces in public.

“These puritanical clerics do not base their theological misrepresentations on the Koran but on the subsidiary and suspect hadith (a collection of books containing the reputed sayings of Muhammad, written 250 years after his death).

“In any case, this is a wilful misreading of scripture. In fact, verse 32 of chapter 33 in the Koran explicitly states that ‘the Prophet’s wives are not like other women’. So there is no reason to emulate them.”

Yet his comments seem profoundly contradictory. In arguing that there is “no reason to emulate [the wives of the Prophet (saw)]”, he seems to accept the veracity of the traditions of the Prophet’s wives that are outlined in hadiths and which inform the practice of emulation adopted by Muslim women who aspire to follow in their footsteps.

Moreover, for many women, the distinction made between the Prophet’s wives and other women merely signifies that the Prophet’s wives are role models. It may not be to Hargey’s liking, but to dismiss other interpretations of texts in order to compound his own position is tantamount to the same “fundamentalist zealotry” he accuses conservative scholars of practising.

Indeed, Hargey ignores the fact that many women who wear the niqab or burqa do so of their own free will and based on their own interpretation of Islam. Something that contradicts his view of it as another “weapon in the jihadist arsenal of misogyny”.

Hargey further adds that the burqa “threatens social harmony, fuels distrust, has grave health implications and is a potent security risk”.

While the European Court ruling upheld the French ban based on the claims the face coverings undermined the notion of “living together”, the ruling was widely criticised by human rights organisations as well as two dissenting judges for not being based upon any legal concept. Arguments in defence of security were rejected by the Court. 

Hargey asserts that “Our society is already seeing rises in rickets and other bone-related diseases for the first time since World War II.” Something he links to Vitamin D deficiency as a consequence of covering but given the negligible numbers of women who actually wear the niqab and burqa – a very small minority of Muslim women – to infer that this is the singular cause of the rise in bone-related diseases in the UK is to wildly overestimate their actual numbers.

It is ironic that given the upward trend in malignant melanoma arising from skin related diseases since the 1970s, there have not been moves to enforce upon individuals protective clothing or sun protection to ward off skin cancer which research has shown to be caused by excessive exposure to the sun. If Hargey believes that a burqa ban should be imposed to ward off medical conditions aggravated by lack of Vitamin D, should he not, by the same token, undertake to front a campaign tackling a problem that affects far more Britons and set about getting people to cover up?


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