Errors of Omission

A little more on that thought. The thought that it’s not very helpful to say that difference always deserves respect, without defining what kind of difference is meant. Evasive language that leaves out the very point that is at issue, is not helpful and is not honest.

There was some of that on the Talking Politics I mentioned. I’ve been meaning to transcribe the comments I had in mind, and I finally got around to it. So – Ann McElvoy. First, on why France is not to be admired on questions of multiculturalism.

The state appropriates to itself, I think entirely wrongly, the right to tell Muslim girls that they may or may not even wear a scarf, let alone the veil on their heads, and that to me is exactly where we wouldn’t want to go.’

Left something rather large out there – making her point seem a lot stronger than it in fact is. The state tells girls they may or may not wear a scarf at state schools – and nowhere else. She neglects to mention that.


What worries me is the more difficult decisions, what do you do about people who want to live separately – I don’t think you can force them, just like pledges of allegiance, to do things they really don’t believe in, if they’re not doing you any harm, and I think that is the very difficult question that we will be faced with, it comes up again with things like the burqa – just because white Britain feels a bit uncomfortable about the burqa is that a reason to ban it.

That one’s a double prize, because there are two large omissions. ‘If they’re not doing you any harm’ – but doing me harm is not the issue. What if they are doing other people harm? What if they are doing harm to their daughters for instance? And ‘just because white Britain feels a bit uncomfortable about the burqa’ – but feeling uncomfortable about the burqa is not the issue – the issue is what harm is the burqa (arguably) doing to other people? Or to put it another way, why would anyone feel ‘a bit uncomfortable about the burqa’? If it were just a difference in dress – some embroidery, or puffy sleeves, or morris bells – would anyone feel uncomfortable? I hardly think so. No, people are ‘uncomfortable’ about the burqa for a reason, and as a matter of fact it’s a good reason, not a bad or stupid one. The damn thing stands for subordination and inferiority, therefore it makes people uncomfortable. Of course it can still be argued that it should nevertheless not be interfered with or even criticised – but it’s cheating to try to do that by ignoring crucial aspects.

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