In Birmingham it is common to see women shrouded in black
More self-righteous self-pity.
My sister has worn a face veil for six years. She lives in Birmingham, where it is common to see women shrouded in black, however the sight is more unusual in Southampton, where my parents live and where, at the weekend, my sister was called “a ninja woman”.
It’s common in Birmingham to see women shrouded in black, is it – well how appalling. You might as well say it’s common to see black people in chains in Liverpool. You might as well say it’s common to see Jews wearing yellow stars in Manchester. You might as well say it’s common to see gay people wearing pink banners with ‘Dangerous Degenerate’ printed on them. How bizarre and depressing and stomach-turning to see a Guardian columnist so breezily reporting such a squalid fact. Even worse to see her go on to tell a righteously indignant story about it.
My sister called him “a lying bigot”, which is all she could muster on a Sunday afternoon in Primark, en route to Clark’s to have her children fitted for new shoes, but she delivered it rather splendidly, to the bemusement of shoppers who, if they hadn’t noticed her before, suddenly found her rather interesting.
She’s trying to do two things at once here, Riazat Butt is, and they pull against each other. She’s trying to have it both ways, and that’s irritating. On the one hand her sister’s decision to wear a piece of black cloth over her face is perfectly normal and ordinary and no big deal, on the other hand it’s a brave and splendid and ‘interesting’ thing to do. On the one hand her sister is rebellious and special and cool, on the other hand she’s entirely average and familiar and like everyone else, shopping at Primark and Clark’s and buying shoes for her children. Well which is it? If she wants to play the Primark and Clark’s card, then it’s a mistake to wear a black cloth on her face. If she wants to wear a black cloth on her face, she can’t pretend she’s merely acting like everyone else in the world. I don’t think people necessarily should act like everyone else in the world. But I also recognize that some kinds of not acting like everyone else in the world are going to attract stares, and even comments. Calling someone a ninja woman is rude – but then dressing up like a ninja woman is also rude, and worse than rude.
She always made a point, she said, of walking up to people and asking them why they had called her names. The response was either silence or denial…”People never say things to your face.”
As Allen Esterson said when he alerted me to this piece, that’s quite a good unconscious joke.
My sister wears a face veil because it is something she wants to do. She knows not all Muslim women feel the same and she is not on a mission to force others to adopt the same dress code as her. She is not breaking the law. She is, as she sees it, minding her own business, being a mother and bringing up her children.
Being a mother and bringing up her children…to do what? To think that women are so obscene and filthy and distracting to the people who really matter in the world that they have to cover up everything including their faces? I’m not impressed.