Long term readers of Gates of Vienna will remember our first “I Could Scream” post. It originally appeared under the aegis of The Belmont Club’s second incarnation, a platform which permitted Wretchard to have a number of separate blogs residing there, linked from his main page. However, due to technical problems with that venue, Wretchard returned to Blogger (as in “home is where when you have to go there, they have to let you in”)…and “I Could Scream” came over to live here at Gates. A somewhat diminished existence, considering that it once dwelled on Mount Olympus there at Belmont; nonetheless it remains a high point to have been invited to visit.
There hasn’t been a “Scream” post in awhile. People are much more aware of the abject conditions under which many women caught in fundamentalist Islamic countries must endure. Sometimes it seems almost obscene to describe their suffering. And, as one commenter said, it made his stomach knot up to see the Scream header and wonder if he could make it through the story. Sometimes I felt that way myself even writing it.
The original post, the one which inspired the title, still exists. You can find it archived here. The name for these posts was part of a quote by the young British Muslim girl who had won her legal fight against her school which had forbidden her to wear the full hijab tent to school. When asked how she felt about her court victory the girl replied: “ I could scream with happiness.” It was the first three words which made my eyes widen. I thought at the time — and still do — that what she was revealing in her words was much deeper than what she actually said. This girl was screaming all right, but it was not happiness which drove her.
Quick summary: this child wanted to wear hijab to a school which had carefully and through long consultation with parents worked out a school uniform for the girls that satisfied everyone. The school she attended, which was out of her cachement area, but which she and her older sister chose to attend starting in 2000, was overwhelmingly Muslim.
Denbigh High School has twenty-one ethnic groups and ten religious denominations. The students — boys and girls — range in age from eleven to sixteen. The governing body of the school is balanced to include a representation of the school community. Four of the six parent governors are Muslim, as is the head of school.
The school uniform/dress code offers some choices:
The head teacher believes that school uniform plays an integral part in securing high and improving standards, serving the needs of a diverse community, promoting a positive sense of communal identity and avoiding manifest disparities of wealth and style. The school offered three uniform options. One of these was the shalwar kameeze: a combination of the kameeze, a sleeveless smock-like dress with a square neckline, revealing the wearer’s collar and tie, with the shalwar, loose trousers, tapering at the ankles. A long-sleeved white shirt is worn beneath the kameeze and, save in hot weather, a uniform long-sleeved school jersey is worn on top. It has been worn by some Muslim, Hindu and Sikh female pupils.
In 1993 the school appointed a working party to re-examine its dress code. The governors consulted parents, students, staff and the Imams of the three local mosques. There was no objection to the shalwar kameeze, and no suggestion that it failed to satisfy Islamic requirements. The governors approved a garment specifically designed to ensure that it satisfied the requirement of modest dress for Muslim girls. Following the working party report the governors, in response to several requests, approved the wearing of head-scarves of a specified colour and quality.
The school went to some lengths to explain its dress code to prospective parents and pupils. This was first done in the October of the year before a pupil would enter, and again at an open evening in the July before admission. A letter written to parents reminded them of the school’s rules on dress.
So when Shabina Begum and her older sister began school in 2000, they both appeared in the permitted clothing. For two years, there was no problem. However, when school began in 2002, Shabina appeared at school attired in a jilbab and demanded to be allowed to be admitted to school wearing this rather than her uniform, which she no longer considered modest enough for a Muslim girl. She was then thirteen at time. Accompanying her was her older brother and another man. The Maths teacher who talked to them found the men “confrontational and threatening.” And said they began talking of human rights and legal proceedings. They told the teacher there would be no compromise on this issue. Nonetheless, this teacher, the assistant head, sent Shabina home to change into her uniform.
A little background on this girl: she was born in 1988, of Pakistani parents. She was four when her father died, leaving behind a wife who did not speak English and three school-aged children (there may be more; these are the only ones who have been mentioned in numerous news stories). Shabina appears to be the youngest child, having a sister several years ahead of her and a brother, Shuweb Rahman, five years her senior. This man may be the key player in this drama; without him pushing from behind, Shabina probably would have continued in school uneventfully. His influence no doubt increased after their mother’s death of cancer in 2004. How long prior to this she was unable to attend to her children is uncertain.
One unanswered question is whether Shabina, last name Begum, is the half sister of her brother Shuweb, last name Rahman. The older sister, several years ahead of Shabina in school, was left unmolested to wear her uniform in peace. Shabina, however, was to live her adolescence in the spotlight.
The school expended much effort to have Shabina return to school. Not only did they call the home repeatedly, asking to speak to her guardian ( a male who answered the phone said Shabina had already seen her solicitor. And this was only September).
She was offered a place at several schools which permitted the hijab to be worn. She was repeatedly asked to return to her Denbigh as long as she would wear the school uniform. School work was sent home to her, sometimes returned, sometimes not.
It appears, though, that what Shabina wanted was a court battle and to that end she was successful. By October, her solicitors wrote the school contending that Shabina had been suspended from school because of her religious beliefs. They based their contention on Human Rights laws the UK had passed in 1998. There were numerous attempts by the school and the various educational bureaucracies to find another placement for Shabina, but to no avail. She wanted to stay in school with her friends.
In early 2004, Shabina began legal proceedings against the head teacher and the governors of Denbigh High, claiming they interfered with her right to “manifest her religion in practice and observance.” The first court dismissed her case, but the appeals court disagreed, declaring that her rights had been infringed.
And that was where we first met Shabina Begum, outside of court, wearing her jilbab and a big smile, claiming a happiness so extreme that she felt inclined to scream. You can find the original story from The Guardian here. Notice the byline: Dilpazier Aslam. Mr. Aslam is a reporter for the Guardian. He is also an active member of the radical Islamic terrorist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. Here’s what Tech Central Station found:
Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks to reimpose the Caliphate by the sword or, in today’s world, the bomb, is a radical Islamic splinter group banned in most countries but legal in Tony Blair’s Britain.
Even more interesting, Shuweb Rahman, Shabina’s brother, is also an active member. So this is a girl being led by an organization which wants to destroy Britain’s constitutional government and replace it with an Islamic theocracy.
Fortunately, on the third legal round — this time the House of Lords — found that Shabina Begum had not been denied the right to practice her religion. They found for the school, whose main concern was to promote cohesion among the students and to prevent pressure on young girls to submit to a draconian dress code.
Shabina is now threatening to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg. However, the ruling from the House of Lords is precise. Shabina has the right to freedom of religion, but she does not have the right to manifest that freedom in a way that disrupts the common order.
Fundamentally, this is a power play by a treacherous group of terrorists who have been using a young girl — an orphan, at that — for their own political ends. As one commenter noted:
What total tripe. This ludicrous and lamentable case had nothing to do with “modesty”. I don’t believe she wore the jilbab to “regain control of her body” any more than I could hope to wear a smarter suit and thereby regain control of my own.
This case wasn’t even about religion, or conscience, or the dictates of faith. At least it wasn’t primarily about those things. It was about power. It was about who really runs the schools in this country, and about how far militant Islam could go in bullying the poor, cowed, gelatinous and mentally spongiform apparatus of the British state.
You may be interested to see al-Reuters’ headline for the new ruling:
Girl loses right to wear Muslim clothing in school
Between the Guardian and al-Reuters, not to mention Hizb ut-Tahrir (a group banned in most countries but still legal in Britain), the United Kingdom is going to be hard-pressed to avoid being the first of the European branch of the Caliphate.
All information regarding the ruling by the House of Lords can be found in Judgment in Full.