Monday, September 26, 2005

Maybe there is a shred of hope 

Hat tip to Mick Hartley for pointing me to Janice Turner's brilliant encounter with the adolescent British hijab:

THE UNSMILING GIRL in the black hijab defined her identity thus: "I am a Muslim of Arab origin, living within British society." Hadil, 18, could not attend a more racially integrated school than Quintin Kynaston in West London where, according to its Ofsted report, "the wealth of cultures and faiths is valued, respected and appreciated".

Hadil, along with a number of fellow pupils, had taken part in a documentary called Young, British and Muslim and here she was up on stage, giving her views to an audience at the National Film Theatre. Yet in reply to the question “Do you feel British?” Hadil shrugged and said: "I look at British culture and see no moral values which appeal to me."
Ms. Turner is understandably troubled by the young Muslim's response until she is brought to another line of questioning after the suggestion by a slightly older Muslim woman in the audience that the hijab-worldview in many of these young Muslim girls is just adolescent rebellion -- a suggestion predictably rejected by the girls as "patronizing."

So after the debate I asked Hadil if there was nothing about British society she admired? Did she not believe women should be able to vote? (Yes, she did.) If she had to appear in court, did she think her testimony was worth that of any man? (Too right.) Had she not just enjoyed, that very afternoon, freedom of religious expression -- indeed of an expensive, state-funded, multi-media variety? (Well, yes.) Wasn't it fabulous that while given the choice of wearing the hijab, she was not compelled to do so? (Yes.) And that, although she does receive the occasional rude remark about her chosen dress, she mostly walks the streets unmolested? Were not these freedoms also part of British morality, just as much as throwing up outside All Bar One or wearing your knickers above your jeans? And was there a Muslim nation on earth that would afford her the same rights? (Probably not.)

It was a little like the "What have the Romans ever done for us?" scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian. Yes, apart from equality, democracy, religious tolerance and freedom of speech, British morality had done nothing for Hadil.
Now if I could only remember whether things turned out well for Brian in the end. I'd love to take a little bit of hope out of all this.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: