The political storm over Jack Straw’s comments about Muslim women who choose to wear veils gathered pace last night, as SNP leader Alex Salmond stepped into the row to condemn the leader of the House of Commons and a second government minister wrote a comment piece supporting him.Mr Salmond has written to the prime minister:
However, in his letter to Blair, Alex Salmond rejected the idea that the veil segregates communities. “In Scotland, we do not regard people’s distinctiveness as a threat to their Scottish identity, rather an enhancement of culture in today’s society,” he writes.Other Scottish politicians are also speaking out:
Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, said Straw is “the wrong person” to kick-start any debate about veils.From the Tories:
“Of course there are many different views among Muslim women about the veil and other forms of dress, but it is really a matter for them to decide, each on her own terms.
“This issue is not the most pressing for Scotland, but should it arise here [Muslim constituents wearing veils at political surgeries] it is best dealt with quietly and calmly with community leaders.”And from the Lib Dems:
there is “a civil liberties argument about freedom of choice – do you really want a politician telling you what you should wear?”It seems to me that there is a great deal of confusion here. We libertarians are totally in favour of civil liberties, but I'm afraid that the Lib Dem spokesman quoted above needs to think a bit more deeply about this issue. In a fully libertarian society all property would be privately owned. That includes not only houses, shops and factories, but also schools, hospitals, roads, railways, airports and parks. And just as you or I can decide whom we allow into our houses - that's to say we discriminate - that same right should be held by all property owners. Just as there's no right to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre if the terms of entry preclude that right so any owner should be free to decide the terms of entry by others onto his property for any reason whatsoever.
It follows from this that just as the Bluewater Shopping Centre has the right to ban what it considers threatening clothing, equally anyone else must be free to discriminate when deciding whom to let onto their property. No one has the "civil right" to enter someone else's property other than on the terms set by the owner.
Now we turn to the question of burqas. First of all this is not a matter of race. Those who claim that it is are either ignorant or malicious. Most westerners would not know whether someone from the sub-continent was a Hindu or a Muslim by physical appearance alone. This is not about race; it's about Islam, which is a religion, that's to say a belief system that, unlike race, one may accept or reject. And the problem is that many Muslims living here do not accept the values of the western enlightenment that has created the very civilisation in which they have chosen to live. Moreover, some of them are actively trying to destroy those values and that civilisation. In these circumstances it is perfectly rational to discriminate against those whose clothing suggests that they may well come from that particular part of the Muslim community in exactly the same way as we may cross the street when seeing an approaching "hoodie" even though many of them are perfectly harmless.
So when Alex Salmond says that "we do not regard people’s distinctiveness as a threat to their Scottish identity, rather an enhancement of culture", it rather depends on what comprises that distinctiveness. Curries yes, Jihads no.
And when Mr Harvie tells us that "there are many different views among Muslim women about the veil and other forms of dress, but it is really a matter for them to decide, each on her own terms", I agree. But it's also a matter of the rest of us to decide how we react to something that seems to indicate an utter rejection of our views.
It's no great surprise that the new touchy-feely Tories say that it's all "best dealt with quietly and calmly with community leaders". The Conservatives actually make a judgment! Goodness me, no. Far better to confer with the "community".
At least the Lib Dems use the language of civil liberties, even if they don't have much of a clue about what the concept actually means.
If the west is to survive we need to be extremely robust in the defence of our values. Those include respect of life, liberty and property. The politicians, police and judiciary need to start defending the lives and liberties of the people and if they won't they need to be replaced. We also need to recognise the full rights of property owners including the absolute right to discriminate. All questions of wearing burqas, hoodies or indeed Savile Row suits can be peacefully resolved once property rights are respected. In the meantime, officials should treat people on "public" property as they would treat them on their own property. That's to say they should discriminate in favour of those who employ them.