quarta-feira, 16 de maio de 2007

Maryam Namazie: «In defence of the child before the veil»

«British Education Secretary Alan Johnson’s announcement this week that head teachers are free to ban schoolchildren from wearing the niqab (full Muslim veil) misses the most significant point.
As in the British High Court ruling last month, upholding a court victory by a Buckinghamshire school (which cannot be named for legal reasons) which banned the niqab, the argument goes that wearing the full veil affects classroom interaction, communication, safety and learning. Of course they do, but these are mere side effects.
The most important point is that the veiling of children, in whatever form, constitutes the emotional abuse of girls. It relegates them to second-class status, keeps them trapped in mobile prisons and teaches them that they must forever be separate and unequal merely because of their sex.
We have come a long way from the days when children were seen to be the property of their parents to do with them as they liked.
Today, in Britain at least, a child cannot be denied medical attention because her parents don’t believe in blood transfusions, can’t be beaten and starved to ‘exorcise demons’ or be genitally mutilated and married at nine because it is her parents’ belief or religion.
More subtle, but just as harmful, forms of emotional abuse like veiling, however, continue to be permissible or at best ignored or denied for the sake of religion or culture.
Nonetheless, whilst parents or self-appointed imams or ‘community leaders’ may believe that girls must be sexualised at a young age, kept segregated from boys, be taught that they are different and unequal, it is the responsibility of the state and educational system to intervene, level the playing field, and safeguard the rights of all children irrespective of, and even despite, the family they were born into.
Whilst the issue has deceptively been portrayed as a matter of ‘choice’ for the girls in question, it is anything but. Because of their very nature, children most often do what their parents want or expect of them, even if it is against their best interests.
Even if there are children who say they choose to be veiled, the veiling of children must still be banned - just as a child must be protected even if she 'chooses' to stay with her abusive parents rather than in state care, even if she 'chooses' to work to support her family in violation of child labour laws or even if she 'chooses' to stop attending school.

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