Human Rights

Banning the Veil


I wrote the following in response to a couple of online articles, here and here, about banning the veil:

The burka and niqab change the nature of social interactions and are expressions of a philosophy or mindset that is antithetical to individual freedom and social cohesion. The face mask is anti human and anti community. It is not a part of Islam but is a cultural phenomenon that expresses values similar to thosethat drive female genital mutilation. Islam asks only for modesty and the hijab is an honourable and sufficient expression of devotion. Fully covering the face and body in public should be considered as unacceptable as fully uncovering the body and both of these extremes are ‘immodest’ if modesty is defined as a ‘disinclination to call attention to oneself’.

We either want a society based on a perception of shared humanity or we want one where identities such as race, gender, caste, religion, class, sexuality etc. take precedence over common identities as human beings and citizens and define who we are and how we relate as humans and as citizens.

One of the most touching comments I’ve heard about the veil and its banning was that of a French Muslim girl who said that her country had protected her when her family did not.

Ritual Murder of a Black Child in 1944 America

I saw this on Facebook:

“In a South Carolina prison on June 16, 1944, guards walked a 14-year-old Black boy, bible tucked under his arm, to the electric chair. He used the bible as a booster seat. At 5′ 1″ and 95 pounds, the straps didn’t fit, and an electrode was too big for his leg. The switch was pulled, and the adult sized death mask fell from his face. Tears streamed from his wide-open, tearful eyes, and saliva dripped from his mouth. Witnesses recoiled in horror as they watched the execution of the youngest person in the United States in the past century.
George Stinney was accused of killing two White girls, 11-year-old Betty June Binnicker and 8-year-old Mary Emma Thames. Because there were no Miranda rights in 1944, Stinney was questioned without a lawyer and his parents were not allowed into the room. The sheriff at the time said that Stinney admitted to the killings, but there is only his word — no written record of the confession has been found. Reports even said that the officers offered Stinney ice cream for confessing to the crimes.
Stinney’s father, who had helped look for the girls, was fired immediately, and ordered to leave his home and the sawmill where he worked. His family was told to leave town prior to the trial to avoid further retribution. An atmosphere of lynch mob hysteria hung over the courthouse. Without family visits, the 14 year old had to endure the trial and death alone.
The court appointed Stinney an attorney — a tax commissioner preparing for a Statehouse run. There was no court challenge to the testimony of the three police officers who claimed that Stinney had confessed, although that was the only evidence the prosecution presented. There were no written records of a confession. Three witnesses were called for the prosecution: the man who discovered the bodies of the two girls and the two doctors who performed the post mortem. No witnesses were called for the defense. The trial took place before a completely White jury and audience (Blacks were not allowed entrance), and lasted two and a half hours. The jury took ten minutes to deliberate before it returned with a guilty verdict.”
A few years ago, a family claimed that their deceased family member confessed to the murders of the two girls on his deathbed. The rumored culprit came from a well-known, prominent White family. Members of the man’s family served on the initial coroner’s inquest jury, which had recommended that Stinney be prosecuted.
The legal murder of George Stinney will forever haunt the American legacy. Although the world and this nation have undoubtedly changed for the better, race still often collides with justice and results in tragedy. Cases like George Stinney’s cannot be erased, should never be forgotten, and are an important chapter in the story of Blacks in America.

I saw this and thought that maybe there is a special need for black children to be seen as children. Maybe they are seen as black before they are seen as children, maybe they are seen as problems before they are seen as children. George Stinney then, Trayvon Martin now. Different situations but the same prejudice. Reminded me of this experiment:


This video shows a great little experiment that would be a good discussion starter with a group looking at the issue of racism. Some people fool themselves or maybe try to fool themselves and others that racial prejudice does not exist or is not a big problem. But it is a problem. People, black and white, have a negative perception of black people, particularly young black men. This perception leads to black people being judged as less worthy than black people and being treated as morally, socially and intellectually inferior. This perception and treatment affect the self perception of black people and some can conform to the stereotype which reinforces it.

This week George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin. I wrote in a FB post that:

Maybe Zimmerman is not racist in the ‘classic sense’ but racism is inherent in America is a way that is more visceral and institutionalised that in the UK. See and Zimmerman was advised to stop following Trayvon, he rejected that advice and there was a confrontation. True we don’t know the facts of that confrontation but it was Z’s responsibility to keep it from escalating and to keep himself and T safe, calling for backup if necessary. I would say that he was negligent/incompetent at best and the system that puts him out on the streets with a gun needs to be reviewed. This hasn’t come out. Also there is a need to look at the context in which this is happening, the context of inherent racism and that of a police state in the US as discussed here:

It was Zimmerman’s perception of Trayvon that led to the shooting. Trayvon Martin was effectively guilty of being black. The video of the ‘bike stealers’ shows how people reacted differently to the three actors. It is not a stretch to suggest that Zimmerman might have acted differently if a white boy were acting in exactly the same way as Trayvon. I think, too, that the jury that tried Zimmerman would have come back with a different verson if he had killed a white boy