Kindly Take Note, Mr Nuttall

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Sarah Ward Khan, London

The upcoming general election is likely to involve a wide range of issues: economy, immigration, education and much more.  Each individual will prioritise their own issues based on their personal circumstances.  I very much doubt that women’s wear is a pressing concern for many.  However, recent comments by UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has pushed women’s clothing, specifically the face cover, to the top of his campaigning agenda. Although he doubts his own ability to win a seat, he feels he must weigh in on this non-critical issue.  I would have thought that Muslim women in face veils are fairly low on the priority of the British Government.  Mr Nuttall spoke of the ‘security threat’ of women in face veils yet to my knowledge no terrorist act in the UK has ever been committed by a woman wearing the face cover.  He spoke about the inability of women in such veils to integrate but he failed to define integration.  How do we assess if someone has integrated into society?  What are the measures of being part of Britain?  Paying taxes, shopping here, being educated here, speaking English, wearing jeans, drinking alcohol, watching football?  No one is able to define integration because it isn’t something that can be judged from the outside.  It isn’t something which can be measured by dress or habit. Integration is something which is generated by a feeling of belonging.

I am a Muslim woman, I wear a head-covering, at times I have covered my face, and being part of British society runs through my veins.  I am British, proudly so.  I am British because I am accepted here, I am welcome here and I feel like I belong in the country: my home. I will defend my country, not because I believe it to be without fault in its political decisions, but because I believe my country will defend my choice to worship and dress as I chose. If an individual makes a remark which is unkind or alienating because they do not like or share my faith I am able to shake it off and walk away because I know my government supports my right to worship as I chose.  When a political party takes a stand against my faith they this has a much more powerful message: your kind are not welcome here.  And this is the greatest threat to integration that we face.  When we alienate a group of people (and why is it always the Muslim women?) we break down the parts of society which bind us together.  It’s not the clothes or the job or the faith, it’s the feeling that we are all in this together.  The greatest barrier to integration is not a small piece of cloth, it’s the feeling that you do not belong.  A feeling which is generated by the sentiments Mr Nuttall espoused.  So he himself is alienating members of society and harming their integration.

The Holy Quran says ‘And mankind were but one community, then they differed amongst themselves’[1].  We are still one community, one Britain.  We will not be divided by those who seek to make us differ between ourselves and ultimately, for all his raised voices, Mr Nuttall won’t be getting anyone’s vote on June 8.

[1] Holy Quran 10:20

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