Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Exodus. posted by Richard SeymourIf this onslaught was about Jews, I would be looking for my passport, says Jonathan Freedland:
I've been trying to imagine what it must be like to be a Muslim in Britain. I guess there's a sense of dread about switching on the radio or television, even about walking into a newsagents. What will they be saying about us today? Will we be under assault for the way we dress? Or the schools we go to, or the mosques we build? Who will be on the front page: a terror suspect, a woman in a veil or, the best of both worlds, a veiled terror suspect.
Don't laugh. Last week the Times splashed on "Suspect in terror hunt used veil to evade arrest". That sat alongside yesterday's lead in the Daily Express: "Veil should be banned say 98%". Nearly all those who rang the Express agreed that "a restriction would help to safeguard racial harmony and improve communication". At the weekend the Sunday Telegraph led on "Tories accuse Muslims of 'creating apartheid by shutting themselves off' ".
That's how it's been almost every day since Jack Straw raised the matter of the veil nearly two weeks ago. Even before, Muslims could barely open a paper without seeing themselves on the front of it. David Cameron's speech to the Tories a week earlier was trailed in advance as an appeal for Muslims to open up their single-faith schools: "Ban Muslim ghettos" was one headline.
The result is turning ugly and has, predictably, spilled on to the streets. Muslim organisations report a surge in physical and verbal attacks on Muslims; women have had their head coverings removed by force. A mosque in Falkirk was firebombed while another in Preston was attacked by a gang throwing bricks and concrete blocks.
Of course, such violence would be condemned by any politician asked about it. But a climate is developing here and every time a politician raises a question that would, on its own and in the quiet of the seminar room, be legitimate for debate, they are adding to it. They should feel shame for their reckless spraying of petrol on a growing blaze. Instead they applaud themselves, and are applauded in the press, for their bravery in daring to say what needs to be said.