BA cross lady says 'HRRRN! I ain't flyin' fool!'

Of course, a couple of non-rabid stories about Muslims don't mean that the Mail has stopped being the idiot voice of hard-right Britain. Far from it.

Today's headline is on the left. The online version is 'Archbishop accuses BA of 'nonsense' for refusing to back down in cross row'.

I'm having an attack of 'this is the most important thing happening in the world?' syndrome again. Is it? Is it really?

The first thing that srtikes me is the inclusion of the Archbishop's birthplace in the headline. There are a few implications that including the birthplace makes. It implies that the issue shouldn't be a problem, and the answer is so straighhtforward that it takes an outsider to point that out. The second implication is one that's familiar to people who have heard the argument, 'I know a black bloke who thinks Bernard Manning's hilarious, so he can't be racist.' In effect, the headline is saying, 'look, a black foreigner thinks we're doing too much to prevent offending foreigners, so we must be'.

This second implication is a bit ironic, because according to one of the Mail's three other articles on this issue, Ms Ewedia is 'a Coptic Christian with an Egyptian background'.

So it's a bit odd that the archbishop, Dr Sentamu, says:
British Airways needs to look again at this decision and to look at the history of the country it represents, whose culture, laws, heritage and tradition owes so much to the very same symbol it would ban.
Aside from the typical Christian overstatement of how much the country owes to Christianity, Dr Sentamu has missed the fact that Britain owes sod all to Coptic Christianity - a rare sect in this country. And BA haven't banned a symbol. She's allowed to wear it.

And BA are not trying to ban anything. I'll be going over old ground here, but she is allowed to wear a cross if she wants, just under her clothes.

Dr Sentamu says some more nonsense:
Dr Sentamu said BA's position undermined its right to be Britain's national airline because it was failing to recognise the country's Christian culture and heritage.
Again, Britain owes nothing to Coptic Christianity. Also, Dr Sentamu seems to be saying that every British institution should be explicitly Christian. That's non-devisive.

And he appears to have said more in the past:
Last month the Archbishop risked a row with the Muslim community by suggesting Islamic women should not wear veils in public.

The Ugandan-born cleric told the Daily Mail that "no minority" should impose its belief on the rest of society.
I'm going to repeat myself. Coptic Christians are a minority. And why should this Christian - a minority of one who thinks they have to display a cross as far as I'm aware - impose her beliefs on the rest of society, if that's what wearing religious attire does. How is wearing a veil imposing your beliefs on anyone anyway?

It's funny that he says:
This decision by British Airways is a nonsense and is based on flawed reasoning.
Because he seems to have only a passing acquaintance with reasoning himself.

Dr Sentamu says:
Under BA's current reasoning, an employee who turned up to work wearing a three foot long cross must be allowed to wear it, because to hide such a cross under their uniform would be impractical.
But this is what BA said:
Our uniformed staff, many thousands of whom are Christian, have happily accepted the policy for years. The policy recognises that it is not practical for some religious symbols such as turbans and hijabs to be worn underneath the uniform.
You can't hide a turban or a hijab under a uniform, and neither are jewellery. Banning these things would effectively ban people who wear them from working for BA. As far as I'm aware, it isn't a Coptic tradition to wear a cross and display it openly at all times. The most I've been able to find is this 'What the cross means to non-western Christians':
Coptic Christians in Egypt see their cross as the greatest glory of their church and as a symbol of their long martyrdom. They tattoo it in pride and defiance on the inside of their right wrist as an indelible mark of their identification with their church and community, although they know that this visible mark might bring them scorn and discrimination in their Muslim-majority society.
A couple of points:
  • Ms Ewedia's cross is not a Coptic cross. It's a plain one.
  • A cross tattooed on the inner right wrist would be covered by long sleeves.
  • A tattoo is not an item of jewellery.
And there is no religious tradition anywhere to wear a three foot cross.

I actually disagree with Shami Chakrabarti, which is unusual, when she says:
British Airway's policy appears to be fundamentally misconceived and has led to a bonkers result. This woman's cross is clearly as important to her as a turban or a hijab to someone else.
She is allowed to wear a cross, and a turban or a hijab is impossible to cover with a uniform.

Miss Ewedia's MP talks some rubbish too:
This is very disappointing. British Airways have behaved very badly. They are treating different faiths inconsisently [...]
No. They've said religious attire that can be hidden under a uniform must be hidden. That's treating them the same.

Ms Ewedia herself isn't innocent of talking nonsense:
But despite this they stuck by their decision to refuse to let me wear it. I find their stance confusing. It makes no sense to me.
They haven't refused to let her wear it. She also says:
I am glad that a Christian like him has spoken out. I hope it encourages other Christians to start praying and persuades BA to change its mind.
God, I fucking hope not.

Just to reiterate - I don't care if she can wear a cross visibly. I just hate the rubbish reasoning behind the arguments her supporters are using.

*UPDATE* I've revised my earlier post to take out references to things being necessary to various religions. I'll produce another post on this later. Lucky you.


Not Saussure said...

I'm not sufficiently familiar with the requirements of Coptic Christianity to be sure, but I think you're on dodgy ground saying wearing a cross 'is not required by her religion like a turban or a hijab.'

Clearly it's not required by many Christian denominations and churches, but then neither is wearing a hijab or a naqib required by all branches of Islam.

The appropriate answer, I've always thought, to objections that 'Islam doesn't require women to wear hijabs so why's she making such a fuss?' is that her particular branch of Islam clearly does make that requirement, so that's why.

Possibly we're in a similar situation with Coptic Christians and crosses -- I just don't know. The lady concerned obviously thinks it's necessary for members of her particular church or sect; is there any evidence to gainsay her?

Five Chinese Crackers said...

I can't find any mention anywhere of it being a necessary part of Coptic Christianity to display a cross.

I've seen references about hoe some Coptics feel it's important to wear one, and some have one tattooed on their inside right wrist, but unless they walk around with their arms aloft and their wrists turned outwards and never wear long sleeves, I'm not sure this is the same as displaying one.

Muslims who wear scarves can point to specifc passages in the Qur'an tha they say tell them to wear scarves, although I'm on shakier ground with Sikhs and turbans. A revision is probably in order.