Thursday, 13 May 2010

Respect

Hard as it is to believe, the Daily Star has actually had news about the election on its front page every day for the last week.

And no, it hasn't been 'Jordan votes for this' or 'Cheryl supports that'-type coverage:


Like most of the Star's reporting, it's probably written for three-year-olds, but hey, at least it's not Kerry Katona.

Today, the Star had David Cameron and Nick Clegg on the front (calling them Ant and Dec, the same comparison used by Jan Moir...), but it chose another story for its lead:


The headline doesn't make much sense, but then the article is rubbish anyway. As is the Star's 'Exclusive' tag, given that the story was in the Sun and on the Mail website the previous day.

Originally, the Mail gave their article this misleading headline:

Parents' outrage as children told 'dress as a Muslim for mosque trip - or you will be branded a truant'.

But this has now been changed - and softened - to Catholic school girl who refused headscarf for mosque trip labelled a truant.

Why? Because the school wasn't forcing anyone to 'dress as a Muslim'.

The story is this: Ellesmere Port Catholic High School has organised a trip to a local mosque for its Year 9 pupils. They were told, in a letter helpfully published by the Mail:

Pupils will be expected to wear full school uniform. As you can appreciate the Mosque has a strict dress code, all girls must have a skirt that is over the knee and must wear a headscarf (a simple scarf that covers the head will suffice).

Does a Catholic school's uniform, with a simple scarf over the head added, really sound like pupils were being forced to 'dress as a Muslim'?

Apparently it does to Nick Seaton from the rent-an-outrage-quote Campaign for Real Education:

'Everyone should respect the religion of others but to expect a pupil to dress up to this extent is extreme to say the least. It is ridiculous'.

'Dress up to this extent'? He doesn't seem to have a clue what he's talking about.

Anyway, when one mother - Michelle Davies - complained, she was told by the headteacher that this was a compulsory field trip and if her daughter did not go, it would be recorded as an unauthorised absence.

And because she didn't like that, it seems she went running to the papers to become a martyr to the cause.

Davies is quoted as saying:

'I wasn't having my daughter dressed in the Muslim way...

'I also fail to see how a three-hour trip to a mosque is of any educational value to a Catholic when she can learn about the Muslim faith in the classroom'.

And from the Star:

Another parent, Kirsty Ashworth, whose daughter Charlie Sheen was due to attend, said: 'I send my daughter to an English-speaking Catholic school, so I don’t see why she should be forced to dress as a Muslim.'

Which, of course, she wasn't. Frankly, both parents sound as if an educational trip such as this would do both of them some good. Who really sounds like the intolerant party here?

But the Star isn't content with its inflammatory and misleading story - its editorial goes much, much further:

The headmaster...tried to force Amy to wear a Muslim-style headscarf.

It's disgusting. Everyone involved should hang their head in shame.

Amy is a Catholic. Her beliefs should be respected.

Demanding she ditch her faith for Islam is the ultimate religious insult.

Errr, what? Where has the Star invented the line that she was being forced to 'ditch her faith'?

This was about schoolkids on a trip to a mosque covering their heads. How did it become 'demanding' someone convert to Islam?

That line really is an utter disgrace.

As several of the people leaving (surprisingly tolerant) comments on the Mail website point out, on their trips to synagogues, St Mark's Basilica in Venice and St Peter's in Rome and so on, coverings for shoulders, arms and/or heads were required attire for visitors. Most people remove hats without complaint when entering a Christian church. Yet there's no similar 'outrage' about that.

But because this involves Islam, there is.

The tabloids want to claim this is another example of political correctness gone mad, of Muslims dictating what the rest of 'us' can do, of Christians under attack.

What it's actually about is people being asked to show respect in a place of worship.

Why is that so problematic?

16 comments:

  1. "What it's actually about is people being asked to show respect in a place of worship."

    No, it's about people being *forced* to show respect in a place of worship, which is different.

    I wouldn't be happy being asked to wear anything remotely religious on a compulsory trip, to be honest, nor would I like my children to be asked to. This isn't a practical or safety issue (like being asked to wear wellingtons or a coat when going on a nature trip), it's just to not offend someone's religious sensibilities. Which is fine if, y'know, it's an optional trip, but making it compulsory is a bit much. I wouldn't want to be forced to don/doff anything for any other places of worship either.

    I agree that the news coverage of it is suitably over the top because it supports their agenda, and I agree that people are complaining just because it's a mosque rather than a synagogue, but I'm also pretty amazed that no one at the school saw this coming from a mile away.

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  2. "What it's actually about is people being asked to show respect in a place of worship."

    No, it's about people being *forced* to show respect in a place of worship, which is different.

    I wouldn't be happy being asked to wear anything remotely religious on a compulsory trip, to be honest, nor would I like my children to be asked to. This isn't a practical or safety issue (like being asked to wear wellingtons or a coat when going on a nature trip), it's just to not offend someone's religious sensibilities. Which is fine if, y'know, it's an optional trip, but making it compulsory is a bit much. I wouldn't want to be forced to don/doff anything for any other places of worship either.

    I agree that the news coverage of it is suitably over the top because it supports their agenda, and I agree that people are complaining just because it's a mosque rather than a synagogue, but I'm also pretty amazed that no one at the school saw this coming from a mile away.

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  3. Anonymous...so, if a school organised a field trip to (for example) St. Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow, and imposed a dress code suitable for attending a Roman Catholic place of worship, you would find that unacceptable?

    Where then, would you draw the line? Perhaps allowing somebody to attend wearing a Rangers top with "Fuck the Pope" written on it? Of course not. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and asking girls to cover their hair when inside a mosque hardly seems controversial.

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  4. There was a permission slip attached to the letter. Can't these people spell 'no'?

    Also, Charlie Sheen - LOL

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  5. Anonymous...so, if a school organised a field trip to (for example) St. Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow, and imposed a dress code suitable for attending a Roman Catholic place of worship, you would find that unacceptable?

    Where then, would you draw the line? Perhaps allowing somebody to attend wearing a Rangers top with "Fuck the Pope" written on it? Of course not. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and asking girls to cover their hair when inside a mosque hardly seems controversial.

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  6. I have no issue with the school's actions. It looks like ignorant people contacting ignorant people to produce a story which demonstrates ignorance. If the trip had been to a synagogue the "dress code" would be the same, I'd expect. I would also expect the story to not be written because Jewish customs don't get the same level of scrutiny in the MSM.

    It's a headscarf and a slightly long skirt, the girl is not being told that she can't get in without being circumcised first.

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  7. Hang on, what do Catholic Nuns have to wear? A wimple which covers the head

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  8. The timing of this story was interesting. I found this on the web in a local paper dated late last month. So why did it take 2 weeks to put it in the Mail?

    Unless, as I suspect, it was a "Come on Dave, do something about this PC gone mad nonsense"

    Or am I being a tad cynical?

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  9. Fucking hell. Some people are just looking for reasons to be offended. I remember going on a school trip to a mosque back in 1988. All the girls were asked to wear headscarves, and they all managed it without running crying to the tabloids that they were being 'forced' to do anything (One girl wore a rather fetching Bros scarf, I remember). Society appears to have gone backwards since then. Anyhow, we're talking HEADSCARVES. As in the things that every woman, regardless of religion, appears to start wearing once they hit 62. As in the garment freely available in pretty much every clothes shop in the country. They sell them in Claire's Accessories, for chuff's sake. It's not exactly a crown of thorns, is it?

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  10. "Anonymous...so, if a school organised a field trip to (for example) St. Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow, and imposed a dress code suitable for attending a Roman Catholic place of worship, you would find that unacceptable?"

    Yeah, I would. I said so in my post. Don't assume this is random anti-muslim sentiment. I firmly disagree with anyone being forced to wear something simply to appease someone else's religious sensitivities, whatever the religion.

    A shirt saying "Fuck the Pope" would be against the law, maybe (I don't know what public obscenity laws are, I've got a shirt that has "shit" on it and it's never caused trouble, but I digress). But even then it's a different thing. *Choosing* to wear something deliberately provocative is different to being *forced* to wear something by a third party.

    What if you were required to go on a school trip and part of the requirement was that you had to wear a shirt that said "Fuck the Pope" on it? That wouldn't be acceptable. The only difference between them is that a headscarf is religious and the word "fuck" is cultural; they can both be offensive in given situations.


    The main problem I have with it is that the kids were being forced. If it was a trip they could option out of, fine. I just don't like the idea of kids being forced on a trip where they have to do something like this. If the other anonymous is right and there was a permission slip involved, then it's just the parents being idiots, but that means the line that the trip was a "compulsory field trip and if her daughter did not go, it would be recorded as an unauthorised absence" doesn't make much sense.

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  11. As a secularist, I'm afraid I have to agree with the mother. There should be nothing "compulsory" related to religion.

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  12. This seems like the British attitude when living in Spain. When many decide to move down to Spain, they want to keep their culture and do not want to learn the Spanish language. Whenever people from abroad come to the UK, the British complain that they do not learn English.

    However, in this case, the Mosque has asked them just to cover their head with a simple scarf. However, as it is not the "British" way, they have complained. They want everything to be the way they want it. I feel that some of the British people have lost respect for other cultures and religions because it means they have to do things differently. Sure, I may not agree with Jewish teachings, but if I was at school and had to go to a synagogue, I would try to stay within the rules.

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  13. As pointed out here, I think the most important question is why the hell did Kirsty Ashworth name her daughter Charlie Sheen...

    Although I too share an issue with the compulsary nature of the fieldtrip, what is evident is the hyperbolic and inflammatory language used by The Star (I can't face The Daily Mail story). Maybe I'm also cynical, but it clearly looks like publicity-seeking and angst over nothing.

    The text is appallingly misleading throughout. I find it hard to believe parent's genuinely being offended their child wearing a headscarf - it is not in order to convert the child, it is in order to not offend someone.

    As for the offensive language t-shirt, I see your point, but I wouldn't be allowed to wear such a t-shirt to my place of work. A third party would force me not to, and withhold my pay otherwise. No one is being actively discriminated against, these rules apply to everyone.

    It's sensationalist and damaging media reporting.

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  14. "This seems like the British attitude when living in Spain. When many decide to move down to Spain, they want to keep their culture and do not want to learn the Spanish language. Whenever people from abroad come to the UK, the British complain that they do not learn English."

    I'm sorry, but the analogy simply doesn't hold up. The british folk in your example have chosen to move to spain, and then apparently become complete assholes once they're there. That's pretty obviously a bad thing.

    But that's not what's happening in the story. The analogy would work better if you said the brits had been *forced* to move to spain. Under that distinction, their actions become understandable. I wouldn't want to learn the language, or adopt the culture, of somewhere I never even wanted to be in the first place.

    I personally find the muslim headscarf to be a sign of opression (i.e. "women should keep covered up"), so I would not in any way be happy at being told to wear one. People are simply not making the distinction between choice and being forced in these comments.

    If I chose to go in to a church, I'd take off whatever hat I was wearing. If I went into a mosque, I'd take off my shoes before going into the prayer room (and if I were a woman I'd wear a headscarf). Even though I believe I'd be in the moral right to walk into a church wearing 15 hats, and go into a mosque with waist length hair and flick it about the place like a shampoo advert, I wouldn't do it because that's being kind of a douche.

    But if I was wearing a hat, and was *forced* to go into a church, I wouldn't feel very happy about taking it off. Why should I? I never wanted to go in there in the first place, and I'm quite happy with my hat, thank you.

    What if a school organised a trip to an atheist organisation, and one of the requirements was the students had to wear a shirt saying "there is probably no god"? There'd be some serious outrage, and rightly so.

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  15. I think the poster so enraged by the child being 'forced' to wear a headscarf to attend the trip to the mosque is being absurd. You say you personally find the headscarf to be 'a sign of oppression' - perhaps you have mistaken it for the veil? The headscarf is a commonly worn non-religious fashion accessory beloved by old ladies, Ava Gardener, Marilyn Munroe, Lady Gaga etc. All she is being asked to do is to cover her hair for a visit to a holy place. Whether you believe or not is irrelevant as millions of people in our society do and so of course it is important to learn acceptance and tolerance. Your example of an athiest organisation school trip where kids are forceed to wear 'there is no god' t-shirts is redundant because as I've mentioned, the headscarf is not a statement, religious or otherwise - as someone above said, you can buy them at Claire's Accessories. Get a clue mate.

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  16. "I personally find the muslim headscarf to be a sign of opression (i.e. "women should keep covered up")"

    But this girl is in a Catholic school, which doesn't have a problem with the oppression of women. So I don't see what their problem is.

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