What sort of clothing do you wear when you go to the opera? I assume some of you do go to the opera, otherwise the Royal Opera House could be turned into a giant Wetherspoon’s pub. I have never been. Given a choice I would rather browse through a collection of photographs of Brooks Newmark MP’s penis, or indeed gnaw off my right leg.
If I were somehow coerced into attending, then without question the costume of choice for me would be a niqab. Then I could sleep without being noticed. Or listen to something more interesting on headphones, such as a collection of Danny Alexander’s speeches or a greatest hits compilation from the Radio 4 programme Does He Take Sugar? Better still, if the opera was taking place in Paris, there’s a good chance I’d be kicked out by the mob in an anti-Muslim rage. A night in the cells being abused and physically assaulted by unwashed French xenophobes would be uncomfortable, granted — but also slightly preferable. It’s not the music that irritates, by the way, it’s the rest of it.
An Arab woman dressed in a niqab — the full Darth Vader outfit, little slit for the eyes — was recently evicted from an opera house in Paris for exactly this reason. Midway through an interminable performance of Verdi’s La Traviata, a member of the cast clocked the woman and a sort of revolt took place. The whole bunch of warbling luvvies refused to continue unless the Arab was chucked out. In France, wearing a niqab is illegal — as is not wearing one in some of the more severely backward Muslim countries. The woman came from one of the horrible Gulf States; we have not been told which.
There are fairly regular outraged reports in our newspapers about British women being arrested in, say, the UAE for dressing like pie-eyed trollops out on the slag, if I can put it like that. We are shocked that the Emiratis do not much go for boob tubes and thongs, any more than they like westerners copulating like feral dogs on their scorching and characterless beaches. We consider this prudishness both hilarious and illiberal. Is it any more illiberal than banning a woman from covering herself up, if she wishes to? Either way it seems to me that it is women who get the rough end; whether in the Muslim UAE or in Roman Catholic, if nominally secular, France — the female sex is liable to be picked on for contravening the local dress code. Too modest or not nearly modest enough. I cannot see any moral difference between the two approaches — both seem to me sexist, and the French legislation racist to boot. It is spite directed at a bunch of people who, too late, the French fervently wish they hadn’t let into the country (possibly with some justification). Not Gulf State Arabs, of course, but the rather less affluent Muslims from North and West Africa, the ones who don’t usually go to the opera.
To my mind it is the primitive and sexist thinking behind the niqab which is the problem, not the niqab itself — and you address that problem by abandoning a multicultural mindset which insists that all competing cultures are equally valid. And some especially valid if they oppose the oppressive, imperialist white, Christian hegemony, such as Islam. But surely we should let people wear what the hell they want. That’s what we value over here, isn’t it, freedom?
I think we have become deranged by Islam. We act towards its adherents in ways which must seem to them mystifying and contradictory. They certainly seem that way to me. Personally speaking, I find Islam in general an illiberal, arid, vengeful creed and nothing gives me a longer belly laugh than western politicians insisting that it is magnificent and peaceable, while locking up Muslims for stating the tenets of their religion and then sending in the bombers to Iraq. Come on — it is not that peaceable, is it?
Another example of our derangement came in the bizarre statement that young jihadis returning from chopping off people’s heads in Syria might face charges of treason upon their return. It was only a couple of years ago that the British government was cheering on the rebels in their fight against the hated monster President Assad and contemplating sending aid to help them in their cause. If our then foreign secretary, William Hague, really was dumb enough to think that the rebels were all Jeffersonian Democrats who wished for nothing more than a free and open secular society with a decent minimum wage and equal rights for the LGBT community, then he is possibly the most stupid foreign secretary in British history. Every time the mass of people in Muslim countries exert their popular will, it is to create a regime which is considerably more unpleasant, punitive, illiberal and hostile to the West than the undoubtedly ghastly regime which was peremptorily overthrown. When will we not grasp this fact?
But I digress. The British jihadis were answering a call to arms which came — at least partly — from the very government that now wants to lock them up for treason. That they ended up fighting on the side of an organisation with the aims and values of the Islamic State should come as a surprise only to someone with the IQ of a bowl of butterscotch Angel Delight.
At the time of writing, incidentally, it is estimated that some 30 homegrown Muslim fanatics have been killed fighting alongside IS. I have to say that although the death of any man must diminish us, this grieves me less than perhaps it should. I am tempted to suggest that we should offer free transport to the Turkish border for any other fanatic who wishes to donate his life in this worthy cause. Or they can stay at home and watch the opera, dressed however they so wish.