An unkindness of burqas
Freethinker editor BARRY DUKE experiences a culture clash on Brighton beach
One of the most chilling scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 cult classic, The Birds (based on Daphne du Maurier’s short story) shows actress Tippi Hendren sitting on a school bench, puffing away on a cigarette. (Ah, those were the days!) A solitary crow alights on a jungle gym behind her. It is soon joined by others, and, within minutes, the playground equipment is densely packed with the sinister birds, who then launch a vicious attack on a group of schoolchildren.
The revulsion I experienced when I first saw that scene was repeated two years ago when, on a sunny Sunday morning on Brighton beach, an invasion of human crows – women shrouded in black burqas – occupied a spot uncomfortably close to where I lay sunbathing.
Nearby – sitting with his back against a stone wall – was an English gent who had dozed off before finishing his Times crossword. When he awoke, sheer alarm showed on his face when he realised that he had been totally hemmed in by this abominable pack of faceless picnickers, whose number had swelled to around 20.
They had encroached well into my space too – and one even had the effrontery to position her deckchair over my legs. I reacted angrily by kicking the thing aside, and – as one – the black-clad horrors turned to glare at me, and much muttering in a language I could not understand ensued. Though their faces
were completely concealed, they managed to exude palpable waves of hostility.
What made this encroachment even more objectionable was that most of the beach was sparsely occupied. They could have set up camp, complete with their prayer-mats, in any number of spots without invading anyone’s space. But no, they chose to pick the one area where the biggest concentration of sun worshippers had laid out their towels – then stood around glowering at the scantily-clad Brightonians, muttering their disapproval.
I regarded this as not only extremely rude, but deliberately provocative – and so did a number of people around me. One woman, clearly incensed by this behaviour, whipped off her bikini top and jiggled her tits at the burqa brigade.
This did the trick. The women grabbed their belongings and headed towards a quieter part of the beach.
Those of a politically-correct bent will, no doubt, be appalled by what happened that day, seeing it as an act of religious intolerance, or, worse, a manifestation of racism. It was neither. It was a simple message to the invaders that their behaviour was unacceptable.
Now it appears that veiled Muslim women can even physically attack those who offend them without fear of prosecution. Last month Canadian freelance writer David Menzies was punched in the face by an hysterical Muslim woman because she thought he had taken a photo of her in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square.
Menzies was in the square with his nine-year- old son, and was using his new camera to photograph what he described as “this neon shrine”. He said:
Suddenly, a woman wearing a hijab ran toward me. She was part of a group that included two women wearing burqas. She was screaming: ‘We are Muslim! You do not take pictures of us!’
The woman then punched him in the face, and almost knocked the camera from his hands. Said Menzies:
My son and I were then surrounded by a mob of about 20 people, many of whom were speaking Arabic. One kept demanding I surrender my camera to him.
The punch was a clear case of assault, but what annoyed Menzies was that the police simply didn’t see it that way. After reporting the attack to the police, one officer interrogated the woman. Menzies said:
She was still hysterical. Good. The constable would encounter firsthand what I had been forced to deal with earlier.
The cop then informed the victim that no charges would be brought against the woman because he accepted her claim that she was merely trying to knock the
camera out of Menzies’ hands. An outraged Menzies said:
Apparently, attempted property damage is OK. If a face gets in the way of a would-be vandalising fist… hey, accidents happen. The fact we have Islamists living amongst us who despise Western values isn’t news. But surely you can’t just sock someone in the mouth? Well, apparently you can – as long as the intent of the aggressor was merely to inflict property damage.
It’s been almost a year since I moved to Spain, and I am delighted to report that since settling on the Costa Blanca I have not encountered a single burqa or niqab. This is not to say that there are few Muslims here. On the contrary, there seems to be a sizeable number in the area, and the women seem happy enough with simple head-coverings.
Actually, “simple” is the wrong word. Many go out of their way to choose elaborate and colourful headscarves to match some quite stunning full-length dresses, and they are an absolute delight to see.
But how long will it be before Spanish Muslims are infected with the same fundamentalist virus that has been allowed to run
unchecked through British society, and is apparently now taking hold in places like Canada?
There are 1.2 million Muslims living in Spain. Last year, the Socialist government rejected a ban of full-face coverings.
I sincerely hope that Mansur Escudero, President of the Islamic Commission of Spain, was correct when he suggested that Muslim women here would never allow themselves to be forced into grotesque garments such as the burqa. He said the last woman he spotted wearing a burqa in Spain was ten years ago in
the southern city of Marbella – and she was most probably a Saudi Arabian tourist. Escudero died aged 62 shortly after commenting on the burqa issue.
Later I learned that Muslim fanatics in Russian were bombing beaches to scare off scantily clad sun-worshippers.
• Freethinker August 2011