UKIP, the burqa and British values

It is clear that the motivation for policies such as the burka ban is neither the best interests of the women involved nor the country as a whole. Instead it would appear that UKIP is attempting to create a notion of British identity that is exclusive, monolithic and oppressive

As UKIP desperately search for a reason to exist, their goals Europe having been co-opted by the Conservatives, they have proposed a raft of radical policies including a burka ban. The rationale for such a policy, according to Paul Nuttall, is the promotion of ‘integration’ and ‘security’.

According to UKIP, making it an offense for Muslim women to be seen in public in the religious clothing of their choice will boost economic activity and empower wearers of the face veil to play a greater part in British society. The notion that a policy of criminalising women who choose to dress in a certain way, due to religious conviction, will help such women is transparently fallacious. A burka ban may force some women to stop wearing the burka but many other women would be forced into an intolerable situation in which their beliefs dictate that they must continue to wear the veil and in so doing risk breaking the law. Far from encouraging ‘integration’, a notion that is at best ill-defined by proponents of a burka ban, women who wear a burka would be stigmatised further and law abiding women could be trapped at home, for fear of prosecution were they to venture out in the veil. The pain of increasing social isolation has already been felt by some Muslim women in France, where a ban is already in place.

Nor are there any grounds on which it could be seriously argued that banning the burka will improve security for anyone in this country, not least for Muslim women themselves. The idea that banning the burka will improve the quality of surveillance afforded by CCTV is obviously ridiculous. Not only is there scant evidence of crime being aided by the use of the burka to conceal one’s identity, even with a ban in place there are a multitude of other ways in which a motivated criminal could conceal their identity. In the present climate of fear amongst religious and ethnic minorities that has resulted from the substantial increase in hate crime in the last year, the extreme rhetoric that UKIP are increasingly employing contributes to put visible minorities at risk of discrimination and hate crime by legitimising the view that some people are somehow alien to Britain.

It is clear that the motivation for policies such as the burka ban is neither the best interests of the women involved nor the country as a whole. Instead it would appear that UKIP is attempting to create a notion of British identity that is exclusive, monolithic and oppressive. A Britain in which government dictates what women may wear in public is contrary to so many of our cherished rights and freedoms. As the Labour Party presents its vision of a Britain outside of the European Union we must be certain to defend the values of tolerance, equality and openness that are put at risk by attacks from the political extremes. Labour has an opportunity in this General Election to articulate and protect the values that the British people hold. Countering the far-right on the national stage must be at the heart of this campaign but we must also bring this to our ground campaigns, especially in those constituencies where UKIP claimed a substantial proportion of the vote in 2015. We must convince people that have flirted with UKIP in the past policies such as the burka ban have shown UKIP to be a force for ill in our society. Labour can, and must, protect the rights and values of all of the British people.

 

David Roddy is a Young Fabians member

The Young Fabians provide policy analysis for the left. If you are interested in campaiging for the Labour Party, and raising these issues on the doorstep, please volunteer at http://www.labour.org.uk/volunteering.

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