Again on the hijab in primary schools

Submitted by AWL on 8 January, 2020 - 10:44 Author: David Pendletone

See here for wider debate in Solidarity on the ban of the hijab in schools.

I want to respond to Ben Tausz’s contribution to the debate on whether to ban the hijab in primary schools (Solidarity 527).

He quotes me as saying “I do not think that you need to have a solution (of how a ban might be enforced) to support a ban”.

The problem is, I didn’t say that. I said that I didn’t think you had to have an agreed solution to what the consequence of breaking the ban might be.

What, Ben, should the consequence be for those who resist our programme for renationalisation? What should the consequence be for those who avoid higher taxes on the rich? How would you enforce them?

I think it is possible to be in favour of those things without having an absolute blueprint of enforcement and sanctions which everyone agrees to. Despite this I have written more, much more, on how a ban in primary schools may be implemented than those who are arguing against it have written on the alternatives.

If they believe we are winning on this issue, or this issue doesn’t need dealing with, then they should say so. If not, they have to do better than simply vacuous calls for campaigning and education.

Next Tausz ventures that he doesn’t think teachers instructing children to take off the hijab sounds very liberatory.

“Compulsion for one set of authority figures – parents – is simply added to with rival compulsion from another authority figure”.

I am sorry if it hurts Tausz’s sensibilities, but I use my authority as a primary teacher to counter all sort of reactionary views. Indeed, when I introduced the new Sex Education (RSE) programme to my school, many children came to me (almost certainly after discussions with their parents) to say they didn’t want to attend. In Ben’s world I shouldn’t have forced the issue.

Further, I wonder what he thinks the sanction should be for children who are withdrawn from RSE? Maybe we shouldn’t fight for compulsory RSE lessons until we can give a clear answer about to how to enforce it.

Tausz says in my proposal “the child is singled out for discipline” — despite him quoting from my letter where I wrote proposing additional lessons “because it was a sanction which didn’t punish the child, but that the parents or community who were forcing the child to wear the hijab would likely be opposed to”.

Then Ben throws in a red herring, wondering how we would enforce it if school uniforms were abolished. I presume that even he would some guidelines on the clothes children could wear? Swastika t-shirt? Violent pornography hoodie? I would ban religious clothing that represent the subjugation and shaming of girls and women.

Tausz tells us “there simply is no quick or easy fix here”. Sadly, he doesn’t even give us a difficult and slow fix — unless you consider the phrase, “a long battle, conducted mainly on the ideological front” to be a solution.

Ironically for someone who is so keen to hear the precise details of how we would enforce the ban he gives no details at all of his “long battle, conducted mainly on the ideological front”. Meanwhile, children as young as five years old wear symbols of their second-class status, lest they raise predatory sexual feelings of a man. We stand on the side lines whilst our sisters like Sadia Hameed (Solidarity 529) and Maryam Namazie (Solidarity 526) bravely raise the call for a ban.

Next, our ideological warrior says “Pendletone has responded that it is not him, but the religious reactionaries, who have chosen this terrain. This is straightforwardly false, unless Pendletone believes that there are no other prominent and serious examples of religious bigotry in society at present”.

I respond what symbol and tool of religious bigotry is being inflicted on children, where they have no control over it, in such a widespread way? Which symbol of religious bigotry is a symbol of and assertion of oppression of girls and women? Which symbol sexualises children as young as five? It is also apparent that the girls wearing the hijab are getting younger and the numbers are increasing. So, yes, I reassert that reactionaries have chosen the terrain.

Ben makes a most erroneous comparison with our approach to antisemitism and the Israeli state. The real analogy would be that, were we to follow Ben’s advice, we would cede campaigning for a Palestinian state now for fear of chiming in with the antisemites. Instead of that proposal a long battle mainly on the ideological front would be indicated. I hope no-one follows this logic.

Tausz’s final flourish is to claim that banning the hijab in primary school’s “is politically anti-Muslim”. I think not. I think it protects girls from Muslim backgrounds and refuses to allow them to be treated differently from other girls. It is anti-Islamic reaction, as we are anti the encroachment of any organised religion (particularly conservative variants) in to public spaces. I think anyone who delays addressing this issue to a non-specified “long battle on the ideological front” has given up on the immediate advocacy of women’s rights and the protection of children. If you take that line you fatally undermined feminism, leaving it as an aspiration for a future, better world.

Worse you accept the treating of girls from Muslim background in this way, when you would not accept if for white girls from Christian backgrounds. That smacks of liberal white racism.


Submitted by Alastair Green (not verified) on Sat, 11/01/2020 - 18:11

The idea that a minority religion should be denied its practice and cultural expression is the antithesis of democracy and socialism. "No to Catholic Emancipation", anyone?

Are you proposing to get active on removing crucifixes or stars of David from the necklaces of school children too? This is a shameful conciliation of racism.

I came to this comment while reading (belatedly) about Bob Fine's death, whom I collaborated with many long years ago on anti-fascist mobilizations in Leamington. Your mindset wants to make me puke. Take a look at the crap going on in La France Insoumise over participating in a demonstration against Islamophobia late last year, and ... stop, and ... think.

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