Over the weekend the so-called UK Independence Party published as part of its 2017 election manifesto an “integration agenda” which includes a ban on face coverings, which it describes as a “deliberate barrier to integration and, in many contexts, a security risk too”, the abolition of postal votes on demand which “have led to a boom in electoral fraud and vote-stealing, especially among minority communities”, a ban on “sharia being implemented in the UK” and regular checks on girls “from groups at high risk of suffering FGM”, both annually and whenever they return from overseas. While UKIP has always been known, under Lord Pearson’s leadership and now Nigel Farage’s, as a party hostile to Muslims in particular and allied with anti-Muslim politicians in Europe such as Geert Wilders, in this case they are clearly looking for policies now that their major goal looks set to be delivered.
FGM has been a pet obsession for a certain type of bigot for some time; I have written on it a few times over the years(, , ), and as someone mentioned that fact in a sneering sort of way on FB the other day, I will say that I will stop writing about it when the media stop peddling exaggerations and scare stories about it. UKIP decided to include FGM in a section called “integration” alongside three other issues associated to various degrees with Muslims, despite the fact that in Africa (specifically the Nile valley and the region immediately south of the Sahara), where it is most prevalent, people of all religions, including Christians and followers of local religions, practise it and worldwide, most Muslims do not. Mandatory testing of all girls from those parts of the world (or whose parents are from there) with presumption of guilt for parents will be unhelpful, because parents who take their daughters ‘back home’ and cannot prevent other relatives from having them cut may simply not bring them back. (As for postal voting, political parties have been known to cheat people of their votes by getting people, often older people in care homes, to sign up for postal votes and then switch them to proxy votes, a practice known as ‘granny farming’.)
As for the ban on face coverings, the suggestion that it is a “security risk” needs to be proven, and it is significant that the police or security forces have not advised that face covering should be banned in public (rather than that women are expected to show their faces for identification, or that it be prohibited in schools or when giving evidence in court), and if they had, they would have done so in 2001 or 2005 rather than some 12 years after the last Muslim-related terrorist event (I refer to targeting of the public, not attacks on individuals) in this country. When Nuttall, Farage or whatever other leaders UKIP produces are given one of their many media interviews, the interviewer should press him to give evidence of the supposed security risk or indeed any public good in banning it other than “people don’t like it”, and Muslims (and anyone who is concerned about fighting racism and prejudice) should be complaining when they hear interviews which let this go. It’s a free country and putting up with people doing things you don’t like, but which don’t affect you, is part of living in a free country.
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