Over the weekend, the papers weighed in with their columnists' comments. Guess what? They were dirty pants!
Firstly, Fiona Phillips in the Mirror. She finds Begum threatening - but she doesn't tell us why until the end. But the column from the top:
This argument is so dumb I have to read it in a comedy thick bloke voice in my head. Two points:
"Although I would argue that if my son wanted to wear his Chelsea kit to class because football's his religion, I'm sure there'd be repercussions."
1. Football's not a religion. No really, it's not.
2. Fiona's son presumably doesn't go to a school where all football kits except Chelsea's are allowed.
"Clearly, though, her brother does. Shabina dug her heels in over her uniform after being counselled by a radical Muslim group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, to which her brother belongs."One does not necessarily lead to the other. That's confusing correlation with causation. Shabina Begum may have been told what to do by her brother, or she may not. That her brother belongs to the radical organisation that helped with the case does not mean he tells her what to do. It may well be the case, but it is not 'clear'.
"And when Shabina was pushed on a question, she didn't seem to know her own mind - looking to her barrister to answer. That's what I found threatening."You found it threatening that before going into court, someone would consult their barrister before answering a question from a journalist relating to the case? Then you're an eejit.
Now Carol Malone in the Sunday Mirror. She uses the same arguments we've heard before, but starts by couching them as an attack against a stroppy schoolgirl rather than a shadowy organisation of baddies. Until the end, when she couches it as an attack against a shadowy organisation of baddies.
"Not only is this a vindication for the headmistress of Luton's Denbigh High school, Yasmin Bevan - who is herself a Muslim, yet who refused to bow to politicallycorrect pressure to let this attention-seeking little madam have her way."Doesn't matter if the Headmistress is a Muslim or not. She clearly doesn't interpret Islam in the same way as Begum, which is the issue. Malone would probably be sensitive to sectarian divisions between Catholics and Protestants, but not Muslims. To deviate from one interpretation of Islam means you're evil.
"I'm sorry. but if Shabina Begum wanted to wear a jilbab she should have shoved off to the school down the road which would have allowed her to do exactly that."You should be sorry. And - if black people in the Deep South of the 50s and 60s wanted to eat at a lunch counter, they should have shoved off to eat at a black establishment. Sounds nasty when you put it that way, doesn't it?
"But no, backed by her brother and an extremist Muslim organisation, Hizbut- Tahrir, she preferred to spend £100,000 - none of it hers obviously - just so she could get her own way."Like I said before - you can make this either side's fault if you want.
"When Yasmin Bevan banned Shabina from wearing a jilbab she did it only after full consultation with the local Muslim community, which was pretty damned responsible of her and more than she actually needed to do."And if you consulted the local Christian community in a Catholic area of Northern Ireland about what is acceptable for Christians to do, it won't exactly be friendly to Protestants. And of course, they're marvellously integrated in their schools over there. A beacon of how things should happen across Britain.
"And as her school already allowed Muslim girls to wear head scarf, tunic and trousers she was right to believe that was enough."And you can have any colour you like. As long as it's black.
The next two paragraphs are startlingly self-contradictory. I love them to pieces.
"she needs to learn that in Britain rules and respect are a damn sight more important than what you wear. [. . .] If she doesn't like her school's uniform, it's simple - go to another school."The rules here are about what you wear. If what you wear isn't important - why are there rules about - what you wear? Jesus! The contorted logic of this argument is amazing.
"Similarly if she doesn't like the rules here in Britain - one of the most liberal, tolerant countries in the world - and if she doesn't think we adequately allow her to express her religious beliefs she's perfectly at liberty to go and live in a country that does."One of the reasons Britain is one of the most liberal countries in the world is because its citizens are at liberty to express ourselves as we want, you bonehead. Saying, 'if you don't like it, fuck off,' is harldy indicative of a liberal attitude. That we usually don't is why you think of us as one of the most liberal countries in the world in the first place.
The next paragraph just slags off Afghanistan, which is irrelevant. Like I said before - tu quoque fallacy, that is. Just because people have it worse somehwere else doesn't mean it's right to restrict people's freedom here. Next!
"She's also too selfish to see that had she won her right to wear the jilbab it would have put enormous pressure on other young Muslim girls to wear it - even if they didn't want to."[Bangs head on desk repeatedly] - you're arguing that young Muslim girls shouldn't be pressured into wearing something they don't want to wear by saying they should be made to wear something they don't want to wear! The argument wouldn't fall over any easier if its legs were made of jelly. Jelly that hasn't set properly and has gone all sloppy.
"Her militant supporters, however, are much more sinister. They've used this silly, impressionable young woman as a battering ram to show they're powerful enough to rattle the walls of British institutions."Make your mind up! Is she an attention seeking little madam, or is she a silly, impressionable young woman. On what basis do you suggest that Begum is being used? Or silly and impressionable? Where's your evidence? There isn't any. You just think she must be because her views differ from yours. How arrogant is that? Perhaps her supporters are extremist. Perhaps we should disagree with a lot of what they have to say, but in attacking them and calling Begum names you're doing nothing more than chucking out pathetic ad-hominems.
"But the real tragedy here is that because of this case - which should never have been taken to the Appeal Court in the first place - this young woman, who wanted to be a doctor, has now missed two vital years of education, and now can't be. Which of course will suit her militant backers whose greatest fear must be smart, feisty, educated women."Clearly not, as they've been fighting for two years to get her allowed back into school to study to become a doctor. And she can still study to be a doctor if she wants. They're called 're-takes'.
It's a short hop to here from the old racist arguments of yesteryear. If they don't like it, they can fuck off. We have rules here. Don't get uppity. You got a chip on your shoulder, son? Begum is portrayed as either an upstart or a victim - which dovetails nicely with the stereotypical images we have of Muslims in this country. Simultaneously arrogant and nasty, and cowed and oppressed. It's pathetic.