Thursday, January 11, 2007

Europe's core values

Terry Newman submits this article asking for NCF comments. William asks if this article idicates a double standard whereby the male orthodox Jewish community in North East London wearing homburg hats and frock coats is acceptable whilst the Moslem girls in Bradford who choose to veil their faces are behaving badly.

Europeans need to initiate dialogue on core values in order to define identity - Terry Newman, Nir Boms - Published: 01.09.07

Europe is rapidly growing. Facing immigration, new member states and continued enlargement talks, Europe finds itself asking an old question again: What is Europe about? The answer has to do with values – with core European values that need to be expressed in the positive in order for them to be a driving force in a renewing Europe.

Europe needs to initiate dialogue on its core values in order to define and defend acceptable interpretations from the vulgar. Without this dialogue, words like tolerance, individual freedoms or respect for reason might lose some of their meaning. The label on the wine bottle will stay but the wine will go sour.



Davis said...

I disagree with your comment. If Jack Straw had been talking about the headscarf, then your comparison would stick. It was explicitly about the veil though, the idea of the interlocutor (or primary school teacher more specifically in the famous case) being hidden behind a veil. This is a different debate about 'extent'. Whilst it is indeed uncomfortable to consider telling any religion what to do in terms of clothing - hence the simplified, why are the ultra-orthodox Jews left alone when religious Muslims are challenged (and there are many factors at play here) - it is certainly understandable in terms of applied practice for a European to want their children to be taught by somebody who's face is visible. To paint this as Islamophobic is to ignore the limits of tolerance as a result of cultural heritage. Despite this however, and given that this is an issue affecting only a small minority of Muslim women, a ban would be counterproductive and unfair. Afterall, why should they not be allowed to cover, when our children are allowed to show everything. bear in mind though, that a primary-school teacher would not be allowed to teach in the clothes she wore at a club on a Saturday night.

William said...

You are right of course Davis. The issue of women taking the veil is much the more disturbing on a number of levels. But this article, good though it is, skirts at the issues obliquely, hinting at them without facing them.

Davis said...

Fair point, also see this, it's an excerpt from Haaretz:

'As a religious Muslim woman, I say that a person's freedom of religion and conscience, like the right to respect, are sacrosanct, and should never be harmed. With equal resolve, I say there is no contradiction whatsoever between the ability to subscribe to those values and the right to wear the veil. Since those who subscribe to the values of individual freedom and liberalism are in power, they must prove they can accommodate the other.

The attitude toward veiled women stems from ignorance or unfamiliarity with the other in the best case; hypocrisy and inconsistency in applying liberal values in most cases; and a simple, safe cover for hatred in the worst case. This combination aggravates the systematic discrimination against the Arab woman, who pays for whatever option she chooses - whether she rebels against those who try to compel her to wear the veil against her will, or whether she needs to confront those who ostracize her due to their suspicion, hatred or revulsion over the veil. Wearing a veil is not a matter of aesthetics; it is a matter of individual freedom.

The writer is an MA candidate at the Tel Aviv University School of Social Work.'

William said...

The Haaretz writer misses the point. There are two key aspects of the veil issue.
(a) Where women from traditional societies where the veil at home and then continue to veil up when they travel to a European capitol like London it displays both a lack of respect for local mores and the degree to which they are repressed that they cannot bring themselves to behave in a manner that is not offensive to our local custom. Notethat when a Western girlwalks inthe souksofOman bare shouldered the old men spit in disgust behind her back as she passes. We are less aggresive in our expressions of distaste as a rule.

(b) There is the issue of the promotion of racial hatred. The veil is now worn in Bradford and Leeds by young women wishing to make a political statement. They achieve their ends. Is it wise given the current degree of Islamophobia and race hate in the UK to deliberately stoke that fire. Wearing the veil has becoome a very provocative act in our society since the Jack Straw statement. In which context it is just plain rude.

nextcenturyfoundation said...

In response to William's original comment, Terry e-mailed:

You touch on a key issue in the piece.

In response I share with you the following. In the previous paragraph I discuss the word ‘overly’. This is the key to the whole discussion. There is no black and white line. Many people will draw it in different places. My point is that we need to put down a POSITIVE marker. I chose to put the marker here. But I am open for other people to give a POSITIVE reason as why to move it elsewhere.

Interestingly enough, I think your comparison would fit better for the rejection of logic and reason – where the leaders of both the ultra-orthodox Jewish communities and Muslim ( and some Christian )communities apply overt pressure on their followers to reject science in favour of creationism.

William said...

A positive marker though? Is that not just semantics? Whether a marker ispositive or negative is in the eye of the beholder. But I dounderstand.You want to say to the young Moslem women of Bradford, "We need to Respect one another" rather than "Don't do that". And actually I agree with you. I still think your article, though very thought provoking, is a little oblique. I have had to read it twice to get the drift. Maybe that's no bad thing. Reminds me of Tolstoy's footnotes wherein he always says very wise things but you need to spend half an hour thinking about it to be sure you understand.