The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that a ban on the hijab in the workplace “can be legal” if it is done in the context of rules against religious or political clothing of all types. Some readers may think that I would support this ruling as I have railed against aggressive, authoritarian religion (and its deeply unpleasant political handmaiden, Islamism) on more than one occasion. Indeed, one of my main reasons for starting this blog was my disquiet about how conservative religionists are hijacking debate. But if I was to support this ruling, I would be no better than those pseudo-feminists who have jumped into bed with violent misogynists to oppose Donald Trump’s sexism.
I took issue with those “feminists” who were shouting “Allahu Akbar” at their anti-Trump rallies whilst waving posters of a hijab-wearing women because I felt their position was inconsistent. One cannot oppose boorish sexism by supporting violent misogyny. Similarly, I am opposed to the “Islamophobia” industry because I think it is intellectually dishonest to equate people with ideas. People have human rights but ideas do not. I have no doubt that some people are racially prejudiced against people from the Middle East and South Asia. This is despicable and wrong. I am against all religions and against Islamism as a political force because I am opposed to these ideas not because I am racially prejudiced against the people who hold those ideas.
So, where does that leave me on this ECJ ruling? I am against the current trend, disturbingly prevalent on some sections of the “left,” of banning anything deemed offensive. I am against banning people from wearing a hijab at work because I think it is wrong to interfere with individual rights. It is much more important to support the individual’s right to express opinions or wear clothes of their choosing than to ban opinions or clothes that others consider offensive. I am a libertarian in the old sense of believing in individual liberty not in the modern US sense where libertarian appears to mean extreme right-wing opposition to all taxes.
I would sum up my political philosophy with three simple ideas – do what you like (within the law); your home is your castle; mind your own bloody business. (I got this from the excellent Niall Ferguson but I can’t find the reference anywhere; you’ll have to take my word for it!) And of these three ideas, the third – mind your own bloody business – is the most important. If someone wants to follow a religion, that is their business. If someone wants to cover their hair with a scarf, that is their business. And if someone wants to call themselves a feminist whilst wearing a scarf mandated by misogynist male clerics and following a religion that considers women of only half the worth of men, that is also their business. All I ask in return is exactly the same rights for other people – the right not to follow a religion, the right not to wear a scarf and the right not to follow a female dress code imposed by exclusively male clerics.
Researching this topic I found the “Islamophobia” narrative is already in full swing. This article from the Guardian by Iman Amrani is typical of the nonsense that is being spouted online. The headline on Amrani’s article claims “the hijab ruling is a ban on Muslim women” when it is clearly nothing of the kind. She also gives the game away when she writes…
“I have friends who have taken to wearing the hijab in recent years because they feel their Muslim identity has been threatened, and they have decided to take a stand for their faith.”
In other words, these ladies are choosing to wear this scarf as a political statement, it is not mandated by their religion. I notice too that Amrani is not wearing a scarf in her byline picture despite claiming to be a Muslim. Again, that is her business not mine. It seems the hijab is becoming a political statement. And a fashion choice -some hijabis are wearing their scarf with skinny jeans, low-cut tops and inch-thick makeup. Not exactly modesty as prescribed by Islamic clerics BUT THEIR BUSINESS NOT MINE.
So, I would oppose a blanket ban on women wearing a hijab at work. The workplace must be an entirely equal place. I would also have to oppose anyone trying to impose their religious practices on their employer. Therefore, I would have to oppose prayer breaks or time off for people fasting during Ramadan. Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.