So, Boris (the buffoon?) has upset many with his comments on burkas. I managed to catch a bit of the debate on the Jeremy Vine show the other day; completely by accident, I might add, as I actively avoid news and talk shows as much as possible but I'd left the radio on while I was out doing a bit of gardening and had come back in for some lunch. Of course, many were getting very self-righteous and demanding he apologise, but it seemed that equally as many were in support with the media, as ever, getting hysterical and doing its best to whip up a frenzy. I'm not a fan of Boris Johnson and although we were on the same side in the Brexit referendum, he would definitely not be a natural ally. I would, however, be a huge fan of his mother’s art and if you ever get the chance to go see it, then I would highly recommend it. Her name is Charlotte Johnson, for anyone who’s interested.
On the whole burka debate, I have to confess having had similar thoughts myself on the whole, head to toe in black, garb but it wasn't letter boxes that came to mind. I remember the first time I saw a picture of a fully veiled woman, I was immediately reminded of a show I watched when I was young, Bentine Time, with the inimitable, Michael Bentine. Now, I don't remember many details but I do remember he used to do these little puppet shows and there was one with spies or some such, and they were all in black with only their noses visible and that was the first thought that popped in to my head when I saw the picture. Is that racism or Islamaphobia? I don't think so, it's not racism because Islam is not a race. Islamaphobia? Hardly, it’s just a thought, my mind making a connection between two things that had similarities. I get the same thing here when the Orange Order or any other group starts on about marching and their right to march. The first thing that pops into my head is Barney the Dinosaur, my daughter was a big fan when she was young, saying march, march, march! Maybe it’s just my natural instinct to draw comparisons between the absurd, the farcical and the comic, I’ll leave you to decide which is which.
This whole debate centres around what Muslim women wear and their right to choose and this is the problem I have with the burka. In many cases, it is not a choice, it is an imposition, a cultural imposition in a patriarchal society dressed up as the ‘will of God’. Now, there are those who say they choose to wear the niqab, hijab or burka as a symbol of their faith and they should have the right to do so, but I am not convinced. I do, however, understand the mentality of women who defend that decision. I remember back in the worst of the troubles when the British government took up a stance against all things Irish Republican and banned Gerry Adams from speaking on air. Because I was brought up as an Irish Catholic and this was against 'our side', then you supported them even when it wasn't doing you or anybody else any favours. But since I've never been convinced of any particular group's right to martyrdom or sainthood, especially when your so-called 'saviours' are the very people keeping your community down and subjecting them to terror and thuggery, as you grow up you question these ‘loyalties’ more and begin to see through the propaganda and brainwashing that allows the ‘believers’ to be exploited by others.
As for the ‘religious freedom’ side of this debate, I have absolutely no sympathy. You are free to believe in whatever God you wish but it should be a private matter between you and the God you choose, had imposed upon you or were brainwashed into believing in. Because the reality is, very few people ever actually choose their religion, it was usually chosen or imposed on them by their parents and/or the society they grew up in. How many of us would believe in the religion we were brought up in, if we had never been told about Jesus or Mohamed or Buddha or any of them? Would you even have a belief in a God if you had been left to decide for yourself purely on your own experience and if you did, what form would your ‘God’ take?
As to the question of burkas, what logic is there in an all-powerful, all-knowing being, who allegedly created and controls the entire universe, concerning itself with what a few women wear here on Earth? If this powerful, all-knowing deity made everything then, ‘it’ made women too, and if you truly believed in your God’s ‘greatness’, then how could a woman be a lesser thing than a man? Surely, this God’s ‘creations’ would all have equal value; for how could something created by a ‘God’ be less than perfect? And I’m absolutely certain an omnipotent, omniscient deity does not need some uptight, over-zealous patriarch acting on ‘its’ behalf and handing out diktats on clothing, cutting off anyone's genitalia or fighting its battles either.
As to women in burkas looking like bank robbers, I have to disagree with Boris on this one. Bank robbers these days are more apt to look like Boris. The traditional idea of a bank robber as someone who goes in and steals the bank’s money, sorry, our money, has actually reversed. Now, the robbers are the bankers, gambling and losing our money and then robbing the public purse (with the complicity of the Government) to cover their debts with our money again!!! Funny, I don’t hear the media getting too hysterical over that one!