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Interview With Afshin Rattansi On Veils
What to do with the scarf debate? I interviewed Afshin Ratansi, author of “Dream of the Decade” about this.
RATTANSI: “Firstly, I think the former Secretary of State, Jack Straw – who wept with innocent joy over a war that cost perhaps 655,000 lives – is perhaps not the best person to open the debate on veils. This is especially so when he wants to be deputy prime minister now that the Prime Minister Tony Blair almost resigned.”
Me: Tony Blair said it was “a sign of segregation” and that “it makes other people outside the community feel uncomfortable”.
Gordon Brown, was widely tipped to succeed him, as the British Prime Minister said he “would prefer it and think it would be better for Britain if fewer people wore the veil. That’s what Jack Straw said and I support it.”
Retansey: “Selecting a group of British women (about 10,000) who come from the poorest in society is not a particularly useful thing in the best of times. The Labor government has exacerbated the gap between the richest and poorest in Britain. Society and therefore choosing those who are least able to protect themselves for career advancement is Hardly justice.”
Me: But the poisoning debate is fascinating, nonetheless. It reveals the Voltairean zeal that people’s right to express themselves should be defended to the death even if one disagrees with them very clearly, surely?
Ratanci: “Stirred into this cocktail are power and powerlessness, as well as the opposing notions of liberal pluralism and the aspiration for a truly secular society.
“It is clear, I think, that the way to stop British women from wearing the veil is not to demonize them. Attempts to ban the peaceful actions of fringe groups lead to them carrying out these actions with greater force than before. The triumph of atheism as far as the Anglican Protestant faith in Britain was based on Ignoring people who choose to practice the national faith as well as the use of targeted comedy.
“The Veil is clearly a very different expression of faith in that it is, theoretically, profoundly misandrist. It assumes that men can only think of one thing. As with any text from one of the Abrahamic religions, they cannot be used to decide whether prophets and messengers issued this sanction or this sanction as mandatory.”
Me: What about sexual connotations?
RATTANSI: “Societies based on the works of Thomas Paine and others have advanced so far (after wars and colonization that killed more than belief) that the veil itself can be sexual. I’m sure that as I write this, there may be strong men and women who use veils as sexual equipment. But I I doubt the 10,000 poor whose families experience poverty and racism wear them because of it. They probably cling to the scarf for a sense of identity. Instead of Prada and Cartier, they believe that the scarf not only brings them closer to God but also connects them to history. This, some feminist veil wearers argue, is far better than having to wear makeup Expensive to be employable and productable as “the West” demands. (The counter to this comment is that countries like Iran apparently have the highest incidence of rhinoplasty – the veil can make women more obsessed with the physical self than most grumpy anorexic teenagers).
Me: What about identities?
RATTANSI: “We all have multiple identities. Hijab wearers—as anyone on a flight to the Gulf will tell you—can be just as dependent on designer makeup and trinkets. However, the full headscarf puts all of these women’s other identities into many eyes. This may be the intention.
Me: Does your novel, Dream of the Decade, deal with such concerns when it comes to punk music?
RATTANSI: “During the heyday of punk, you couldn’t help but feel that those who wore the styles inspired by Vivienne Westwood had turned all identity except band names that symbolize certain strands of music on the backs of leather jackets. Many anti-commercial punk bands were that no one had the right to tell a person what He should or should not wear.
“The answer to the poisoning debate depends on what kind of society one wants.”
Me: How so?
Rattensey: “If anyone is looking for a fundamentalist Muslim state in Britain, the headscarf should be actively encouraged.
Secondly, if one is looking for a multicultural society in Britain where all customs and beliefs are protected because they are seen as adding to people’s life experiences, then Strau is very wrong. It holds that all life should be a series of negotiations between seemingly opposing ideologies in a constant Brownian flux.
“Third, if one believes that all religions are at heart a kind of madness similar to any belief in any powerful extraterrestrials, then one should think about how best to put an end to religion as it spreads faster and faster.”
Me: The Muslim faith in Britain is the fastest growing faith in the country.
Rattnessy: “Let’s look at those who are looking for the third ideal. You can choose to lock up all religious people. It’s a bit like the straw method. Ban the wearing of crosses (tiny, even tiny) and tell British women they can’t get a job if they wear a veil, absolutely. will make people think again when they choose to flaunt their religious beliefs. However, something tells me that when this happens – especially with the most marginalized in modern capitalism, mired in class immobility and vested interests – the religious people will find their faith strengthened.
“If this is true, then the second ideal merges into the third. Rather, liberal tolerance will cause people to ignore religion. However, this was not the case in countries that do not have constitutionally based beliefs – the USA, for example. Tolerance of Islam in Britain has not led to its decline.
“Still on this third ideal, one can certainly make a claim that if that is what one wants, one should examine the reasons why people subscribe to irrational beliefs. In the end, it is surely a case of the believer looking for an answer to a perceived powerlessness. And given that money generates power, a more equal distribution of the wealth will lead to the third goal”.
Me: Of course, money and power do not give confidence. Those who bombed London on 7/7 were not from the poorest backgrounds.
Ratanci: “But for them, it seems that British foreign policy and not the house was the catalyst.
“There is something cruel about the poorest women in the community repeatedly backing up an MP, in desperate need of his help, only to be told he has trouble communicating without seeing them. The disgraced former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, was, alas, able to communicate very well without seeing people. The phone seems to be a pretty good communication device.
“Kesh and others should seek to reduce the gap between rich and poor if they feel so offended by women who wear the veil. This would be a start.”
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