06 November, 2006

First they came for the niqab wearers

I'm learning German. In German class last saturday, we discussed the veil (der Kopftuch). This seems to have become something of an issue in Germany, following a ruling by the Constitutional Court that the federal government has no right to ban teachers from wearing the hijab. Apparently some opinion poll has shown that a large majority of Germans think that women teachers should not be allowed to wear the hijab.

Our discussion was conducted in the halting style you would expect with people for whom German is the second, third or fourth language, and I suppose given our lack of vocabulary and skill with the language it is not surprising that discussion tended towards cliché and unsophisticated argument. Still, I was struck by how many of my classmates were taken with the idea that immigrants into a country should conform to the mores of the host culture. I find this kind of idea disturbing. To go further, I think it dangerous, and I feel that thinking along these lines is the first step on the road to Fascism.

Fascism is an oft bandied word, and saying that any kind of thinking is akin to it is alarming, if not alarmist. What do I mean? Simply this - that in any country, there is no monolithic host culture which immigrants can be required to adopt. I can't speak for everyone who reads this, but I do not live a life that conforms to the majority culture of my country. My fear is that any attempt to impose "our" culture on immigrants leads to a narrow definition of what that culture is, and that after immigrants have been obliged to love it or leave it the culture cops turn on other people who do not match up to their constructed view of how to live Our Way Of Life. I reckon the gays would probably be the second or third up against the wall, but it would not be long before general low level deviance would be having its collar felt. I would be having to give up my nerd hobbies and instead have no option but to take up an interest in GAA and Coldplay. The horror.


Kealo said...

I personally don't like the idea of veils or anything like that. However, it's not for anyone to stop a woman wearing one if she wants to. Banning them is undemocratic and hypocritical. I thought liberal democracies were supposed to allow people to choose the way they want to live their own lives.

One can be into the GAA and still be a nerd! As for people who like Coldplay, they'd be first against the wall if I were in charge of the Revolution.

ian said...

GAA is fine, so long as I don't have to go near it.

Interestingly, some trade union magazine in Cork carried an article about how them Muslims are all potential terrorists because they don't take an interest in GAA or drink pints in the pub.

You're right on Coldplay. One of the slightly older guys at work was talking about his down-with-new-music friend who thinks he is really kewl because he likes Coldplay and Keane. First up against the wall? I think so.