Dead Men Left

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Women's rights

The Guardian:

A Muslim girl today won her battle to wear traditional "head-to-toe" dress in the classroom after the court of appeal ruled her school had acted unlawfully in barring her...

The school allows girls to wear the hijab, a headscarf, and trousers and tunic, but refused Shabina [Begum] permission to come to classes in full-length dress, the jellaba. Lord Justice Brooke, vice-president of the civil division of the court of appeal, called on the Department for Education and Skills to give schools more guidance on how to comply with their obligations under the Human Rights Act.

(The Guardian also carries an interview with Begum.)

One of the more risible complaints about Ken Livingstone's speaking alongside Sheikh al-Qaradawi at a conference opposing the French ban on the hijab was that the ban was applied only in France, and was therefore of no concern in the UK. Despite the firm opposition of public opinion over here to such a move, Britain's prominent role as cheerleader no.1 for the "war on terror" and the Islamophobic climate it has engendered adds an urgency to the defence of Muslim women's rights. State and regional governments elsewhere in Europe have taken their cue from the French ban, whilst in the UK some local attempts have been made to impose various degress of restrictions and constraints on Muslim women, of which this attempted ban on the jilbab was one.

The case for socialists and progressives should be obvious: Muslim women are as competent to dictate their own appearance as any other, and attempts to deny them this right should be treated - not just as an assualt on religious freedom - but as a denial of women's rights made on flagrantly prejudicial lines.