Maryam Namazie
Published in WPI Briefing
July 9, 2004

Shabina Begum, a 15 year old who has refused to go to school for the past several years because her school in Luton, England won’t allow her to wear a jilbab (chador-like garment) claims that her rights have been breached. Of course her rights have been breached but not because she has been banned from wearing the jilbab to school. Her rights have been breached because the British government has failed to intervene to compel her to attend school for the past several years. In any other situation, the government would have been quick to act and even fine parents or guardians for such absenteeism.

In this situation, as in many others, the British government’s policy of minoritism and cultural relativism creates such double standards that religion is given precedence over children’s rights. Because she is a ‘Muslim’, the British government has excused itself from its responsibility towards her. It has left her and many like her at the mercy of reactionary and parasitical elders and imams and political Islam. It is duty-bound to intervene now and ensure that Shabina Begum has the right to an education – whether she likes it or not – just as it intervenes to ensure children don’t work or smoke, despite their preferences.

And of course the story doesn’t end here. It is insufficient to merely ban the jilbab and only at the random school, which decides to do so. All forms of veiling of children and religious symbols in schools must be banned. The state must start protecting children and stop protecting Islam.

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