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Thursday, December 21, 2006 

Scum and Express-watch: Veiled abuse.

Especially considering that Stephen Wright has now been charged with the murders of all five prostitutes, today's tabloid reporting on the man has been an absolute disgrace. As well as being linked to other alleged deaths, he's been accused of being a cross-dresser, and a ex-wife has jumped at the chance to grab some money from both the Sun and the Mirror. If this now doesn't cease, as you hope and expect that it will, then the attorney general should start looking into doing something other than simply kindly asking the editors to mind what they print, as they have up to now took no notice whatsoever.

It's the veil though that is once again causing "outrage" in both the Scum and Sexpress. There has been absolutely no evidence presented by anyone that
Mustaf Jama actually did manage to flee the country wearing the niqab, but as is as usual in the gutter press this doesn't matter one jot, as neither the Scum nor Express have even bothered reporting the statement from a police spokesman that Jama may have been wearing a pantomime horse costume for all they knew.

The Express front page also hints that the farce has continued, suggesting as it does that someone wearing the niqab was able to get on board a plane without first having her identity checked. They present no evidence of this, and clearly haven't tested whether someone wearing a niqab would now have their identity checked, presumably because this would a: cost money that Richard "Dirty" Desmond would rather be paying himself (having made £52 million last year) and b: it's easier just to pretend that the same old system is carrying on as normal, even though the adverse publicity would suggest that airlines would be extra vigilant as a result; and with the number of flights being canceled due to the fog enveloping many parts of Britain, staff not dealing with keeping passengers informed would be more free to make extra checks on the reduced number of those actually boarding flights.

Nonetheless, the Scum has decided to start up another of its usually incredibly successful campaigns:

THE Sun today launches a campaign to close the veil loophole making a mockery of Britain’s airport security.

We told yesterday how a member of the gang which killed WPC Sharon Beshenivsky sneaked out of Heathrow by donning a Muslim niqab, with just a slit for eyes.

Now we are calling on Home Secretary John Reid to turn passport control at every airport in the country into a veil-free zone.

MPs too are urging action after it emerged that hard-pressed staff carry out only RANDOM passport checks on passengers leaving Britain.

We want these checks to be COMPULSORY with veils lifted in a private area.

If more resources are needed they must be found. Otherwise criminals — and terrorists — are sure to exploit the weakness in future.

You mean exploit the weakness to flee the country? I thought you lot were all for deporting these people?

Seriously though, this is making a humongous mountain out of the tiniest of molehills. I can't find any figures even detailing the number of women who actually wear the niqab in Britain (if anyone has any then I'd appreciate seeing them) but I doubt it numbers more than the low-to-mid tens of thousands. The Express however, seems to have a different idea. In today's article it suggests that "dozens of veil wearers passed unchecked through ... airports", but of course doesn't provide any evidence to back up this claim. The numbers of niqab wearers which pass through airports every day has to be assumed to be extremely low. The suggestion that women would even have to lift their veils for their identity to be ascertained is ludicrous. Talking to them while examining their passport should be enough on its own to make sure the wearer of the niqab actually is female, and at the same time the colour of their eyes, the facial features that can be made out etc, could be checked. Only then if there are any doubts would it be necessary for the woman to actually lift her veil. Rather than every single niqab wearer having to lift her veil, taking up extra time, this would a much sensibler and more realistic scheme to follow. Whether we would want to check every niqab wearer entering the country rather than exiting is a different matter.

Both Mr Davis and Mr Malik called for an inquiry into how gang member Mustaf Jama, 26, an asylum seeker, fled disguised as a Muslim woman with a stolen passport.

And the reason there won't be one will be because the police are hardly likely to present their seemingly less than overwhelming evidence that he actually did. Better to blame an item of religious dress that's been in the news of late for all the wrong reasons, as well as airport staff, than to recognise their own failings in letting Jama get away in the first place.

Then we get down to the real reason that the newspapers are so angry about this. Sharon Beshenivsky's friends and relatives have been quite reasonably expressing their anger about the failure for Jama to be deported. Having come to Britain in 1993 as an asylum seeker from Somalia, Jama had been imprisoned for a number of crimes, but instead of being deported as is meant to be the case for someone here on a visa or otherwise from overseas, it has been determined, rightly in my view, that it's not safe for anyone to be forcibly deported back to Somalia.

Even the Sun hints at the anarchy which has ensued across the country since 1991, describing it in the campaign article as "war-torn" and "lawless". There are no such caveats though in the Scum's leader column, which is mainly an unwarranted attack on the Labour immigration minister:

Absurdly, they are allowed to stay because it would breach their human rights to send them home.

Well yes, generally sending someone back to a country which they fled from in fear of their lives, especially one which now appears to be close to total war, where according to the CIA factbook major infectious diseases are also listed as being of very high risk, could "absurdly" breach their right to life. The various elements of human rights law which can on occasion seem absurd have to be balanced against the benefits that they have also given us: such as protecting the right to protest, the right not to be held indefinitely without charge, and requiring the setting up of inquests into deaths where the authorities themselves may be implicated in the death. While no one may be happy about Jama not being deported, would we feel the same way if we knew that an asylum seeker who had committed a minor crime had been deported and ended up being tortured or killed in their home country? Would the Sun also deport asylum seekers convicted of crime or those here on visas/illegally under similar circumstances back to Zimbabwe, Iran or North Korea?

Meanwhile, over in the Express, the Tory MP David Davies (not David Davis, the shadow home secretary, although he has similar views) was more than happy to do the Express's dirty work for them in suggesting the right to wear the niqab should be curtailed:
Fellow Tory David Davies said the manner of Jama’s escape furthered his belief that the Government must begin examining ways to discourage or even outlaw the wearing of the full veil in public.

“Many European countries, and indeed Muslim countries, have taken steps to ban the wearing of the veil in public,” said the Monmouth MP.

“One example is Tunisia. They take the view that the wearing of the veil is not stipulated by the Koran, it is a political act.
Davies is echoing previous arguments made by the Express itself, but let's take them apart again anyway.

The only European country heading towards a total ban in public is the Netherlands, and whether it will ever actually pass is in doubt. France has a ban on the wearing of all religious symbols in state buildings; several municipalities in Belgium have banned the wearing of the niqab or burqa in public; a similar ban to the one in France exists in several German states. As for Tunisia, what's the government there like? Democracy is it? Err, no. A quick trip over to Wikipedia reveals:

Tunisia is a republic with a strong presidential system dominated by a single political party. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been in office since 1987, the year he deposed Habib Bourguiba in a bloodless coup. The constitution has been changed twice to allow Ben Ali to remain in power: initially from two to three terms, then from three to five. The ruling party, the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), was the sole legal party for 25 years, known previously as the Socialist Destourian Party (PSD). The RCD still dominates political life.

Facing virtually no opposition, the President is elected to 5-year terms. He appoints a Prime Minister and cabinet, who play a strong role in the execution of policy. Regional governors and local administrators also are appointed by the central government. Largely consultative mayors and municipal councils are elected. There is a unicameral legislative body, the Chamber of Deputies, which has 182 seats, 20% of which are reserved for the opposition parties. It plays a growing role as an arena for debate on national policy but never originates legislation. The Chamber virtually always passes bills presented by the executive with only one minor change. The judiciary is nominally independent but responds to executive direction, especially in political cases. The military is professional and does not play a role in politics.

Tunisia is noteworthy for its lack of public political discourse. Tunisia's precise political situation is hard to determine due to a strong level of silence and lack of transparency maintained by the government. There is compelling evidence that dissidents are routinely arrested, for crimes as minor as viewing banned web sites. There are currently six legal opposition parties all with their own newspapers. However, the Committee to Protect Journalists, in its 2005 country report on Tunisia, details a persistent record of harassment, persecution, imprisonment, and physical harm perpetrated on journalists critical of the government. Even Western journalists, when writing on Tunisian soil, are not spared this fate[1].

David Davies was also recently taken to task by Unity.

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As to Mustaf Jama using his sister's passport -- presumably a British one, since if she, too, came here as an asylum seeker she'd have had to surrender her Somali passport (assuming she brought one with her), so the only way she'd have a passport would be if she's been granted British citizenship -- I wonder that no one has bothered to explore the not wholly implausible theory that he sold it or gave it in part exchange for a man's passport, be it Somali or anything else. British passports do, or so I'm told, do have a certain value on the black market.

Somewhat less dramatic than his escaping dressed as a woman, but a bit more likely, to my mind.

PS: Belated thanks for the link in your other post.

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