Tomorrow morning I will be on the BBC One Breakfast Show continuing my debate with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown over the French ban on the niqab. The item should be broadcast at around 0740.
Yasmin has now published “Sixteen reasons why I object to thisdangerous cover-up”, and there is a useful point-by-point response to her on the iEngage website.
I am sure we will have a robust debate tomorrow, but I would just draw attention to the opening two paragraphs of Yasmin’s article. She says:
The French government has banned burkas. There, tis done. The law is patently dictatorial and discriminatory. In democratic societies governments do not and should not interfere to this extent in private lives and personal preferences. France lays bare again its cultural supremacy and arrogance and hateful attitudes towards Muslims. I have not holidayed there since being subjected to racial contempt meted out by ignoramus Gallic folk to anyone who looks "Arab". Unlike other colonial nations, the French have never sombrely reassessed their history. During some periods they systematically degraded humans in their own country and around the world. When the children of the latter came to stay, they too were, and are, maligned and despised.
In Britain, in spite of racism, people of colour have in general progressed and millions have joined the middle classes. France has not opened up those opportunities. It keeps most incomers and their children within deprived banlieues, out of sight and mind and criminalised.
It is a powerful and heartfelt attack on racism and the particular form it takes in France.
It is also the context in which Yasmin is working overtime to come up with reason after reason to explain her defence of the French policy on the veil. I hope we have time to discuss this tomorrow.