19/10/2006

Double standards? Not in the Mail, surely?

More on the BA cross lady from the Mail in 'BA worker in 'cross' necklace row faces disciplinary action'.

Of course, the stuff I said in 'Odd one out' applies here. Turbans and scarves are not jewellery, so it's no surprise that they're not included in rules about jewellery. It's not a requirement of Christianity - even Coptic Christianity - to wear a visible cross, but it is a requirement of Sikhism to wear a Kara bracelet. But this is pretty academic, because according to the BBC:
"British Airways does recognise that uniformed employees may wish to wear jewellery including religious symbols. These items can be worn, underneath the uniform."
It's perfectly possible to wear a bangle under a buttoned sleeve. So, I'd like to see evidence that Kara bracelets are allowed to be visible before I accept that they are. And even if they are they're different because there a requirement of those that follow the religion.

The interesting thing about the Mail's position (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the press) on this issue is that it is completely the opposite to one it's taken before. Earlier this year, the paper was completely unsympathetic to another female who faced disciplinary action over her choice of religious attire and pretty much said she could bog off somewhere else where it was allowed.

The difference? That was a Muslim.

The arguments the Mail used at the time can easily be applied here. (I've republished my old comments about that case. Lucky you, eh? Just look in the March 2006 folder):
  • They argued that uniforms are a way to promote a sense of belonging, so she should adhere to the uniform rules. Ditto here.
  • They argued that she wasn't discriminated against because she could wear other forms of Islamic attire. This woman can't be discriminated against because she's actually allowed to wear a cross.
  • They argued that the girl wasn't discriminated against because she could enrol in another school that allows a jilbab. So this woman can't be discriminated against as she can get a job somewhere else that allows visible crosses.
  • They argued that the girl was to be blamed for the people lining up to defend her and the money it would cost, whereas this woman is feted for the people lining up behind her, and no mention is made of how she'll finance her prosecution.
  • They argued that a rule in favour of the girl would have been a disaster, as schools would not be able to have uniform rules anymore. Strangely, the argument that airlines will not be able to choose a uniform for their staff is absent here.
  • They argued that if the girl was allowed to wear the jilbab, other girls might be pressured into wearing it too. Again, we have no argument that women will be pressured to wear visible crosses.
Most of these arguments can also apply to the girls and their chastity rings. Especially the last one.

Now, I argued that Shabina Begum should be allowed to wear a jilbab, but I don't necessarily argue that Nadia Ewedia should be allowed to wear a visible cross, so am I being as one-sided and contradictory as the Mail? Obviously, I'm going to say no, aren't I? But here's why.

Nadia Ewedia hasn't been told not to wear a cross because it is a cross, but because it is visible jewellery. Shabina Begum was told not to wear a jilbab because it was a jilbab. There were supposedly other forms of Islamic dress that she could have worn (this isn't strictly true though. The shalwar kameez, which she would have been allowed to wear is not specifically Islamic dress), but this specific one was against the rules.

I am not sure that Kara are allowed to be worn visibly by BA or the school stopping chastitiy rings, but even if they are, to the Sikhs who wear them (which is the majority), to wear one is a required part of being a Sikh. To say that employees or pupils are not allowed to wear one is discriminating against these people.

For Muslims who wear the jilbab, this is a required part of their faith, backed up by passages in the Qu'ran and Hadith. From Wikipedia:
Some modern Islamists insist that the contemporary jilbab and the garment described in the Qur'an and the hadith are exactly the same, and that the Qur'an therefore requires the believer to wear these garments.
To say that pupils at a school are not allowed to wear one, you are specifically discriminating aginst these Muslims. Especially if other forms of Islamic dress are allowed, and especially if those forms of dress are not specifically Islamic.

While Christians might like to express their faith by wearing a cross, or express their vow of chastity by wearing a ring, there is no part of Christian doctrine to say they must. To say employees or pupils can't wear one is not discriminatory in the same way. But the important thing is that crosses are allowed to be worn by BA, just not visibly. Whether or not Muslims and sikhs are allowed to wear turbans or scarves is irrelevant because neither are actually items of jewellery.

I don't actually give a stuff either way if Miss Ewedia is allowed to wear her cross visibly. The important thing is that this paper is showing its hypocritical treatment of Christians and Muslims, and that its arguments, both in favour of Miss Ewedia and against Miss Begum, are appalingly bad and designed only to reinforce its prejudices and those of its readers.

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