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Letters—‘Secularism’ is used as a stick to beat Muslim women

New court ruling in European Union means employees could be banned from wearing religious symbols
Issue 2884
Muslim women have been leading the movement for Palestine here on Saturday 25 November in central London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Muslim women wearing hijabs are leading the movement for Palestine (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Judges at the European Union’s top court last week declared that states are allowed to ban employees from wearing “religious symbols” in the interest of “neutrality”.

Of course, by this judges mean states can ban the hijab, worn by some Muslim women. This move is said to defend “secularism”.

Secularism is supposed to be about freedom to believe what you want, without fear of state interference or preference.

Socialists want a clear separation between the church and state, and we are against a “state religion”. But secularism in Europe is being used as an ideological attack on people who are facing racism.

Nearly a third of Muslims in Europe have been a victim of a racist crime in the past 12 months. The versions of secularism on display involve denying the reality of this oppression. Muslim women, in particular, are under attack.

The state is misappropriating feminism to serve its colonial interests and support wars that further oppress the women they claim to be liberating.  And the so-call secular dress codes it now enforces apply only to Muslims.

No European country is trying to crack down on the religious identity of Christians, for example, by stopping them from wearing crucifix chains or earrings.

But authorities throw pupils out of school for wearing clothing classed as Islamic, while allowing other students to wear loose garments unquestioned.

Islamophobia goes far further than attire. What we say about Palestine, or any other social question, is under scrutiny too.

No wonder most Muslims feel that secularism is deliberately misconstrued and misused—and is fuelling Islamophobia. 

The anti-Muslim racism so rife in Europe today, like the Islamophobia whipped up in Britain, comes from the top of society. It is a result of the endless wars in the Middle East, and the desire to divide and control people at home.

Genuine socialists are consistent. Women must have the right to wear want they want, when and where they want.

And we must all have the right to any religion or none. How we choose to express ourselves is none of the state’s business.

Maryam Hally, Glasgow

Palestine radicalises Dorset
It was a sea of placards and impassioned chants as over 100 school students filled the streets of Dorchester two weeks ago. An hour-long march was followed by speeches from students, members of the mosque and the Jewish community.
Our walkout at Thomas Hardye School, joined by students from two further schools, was unprecedented in this small town. It was not built overnight or led by a single student, but by a whole groups of us.
Posters removed? Replaced within the hour. Missed the posters? The large social media campaign may have caught you.
Even this, however, wasn’t the key to the protest’s success. Whether in London or Dorchester, when people see genocide they are unable to stay silent.
Ours was not the largest, nor the most militant action nationally. But it showed just how deep the scenes of Gaza have penetrated. If it can be done in a Dorset secondary school, it can be done anywhere.
 This is a truly international movement— and it shows the power people have to bring the Palestinians one step closer to justice.
So let this letter be a call from the students of Dorchester to keep on fighting, keep on organising. We want peace and liberation not only for the people of Gaza, but for every Palestinian from the river to the sea.
 Harry Hubbard, Hardye Action Group, Dorset

Kashmir arrests not cricket
Indian cops arrested seven Muslim students in occupied Kashmir for celebrating India’s recent defeat in the Cricket World Cup final.
Absurdly, the arrests were made under ­anti‑terror laws. This should draw our attention to three things.
First, the reactionary nature of Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, which has been oppressing India’s 170 million Muslim population.
Second, India continues to occupy a large part of Kashmir which is partitioned between India and Pakistan. Kashmir as a whole is 70 percent Muslim.
If there were a vote, Kashmiris would decide to be one province and would likely opt to become part of Pakistan.
Third, there is a long history of anti-Muslim repression in Kashmir, with thousands of people killed, jailed and tortured in recent decades.
So it’s hardly surprising that Muslims celebrate India’s sporting defeat.
Rob Hoveman, West Yorkshire

Tories at Covid inquiry are sickening
Watching the succession of Tory ministers and ex-ministers giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry is a infuriating experience.
Like many others experiencing Long Covid, I found Michael Gove’s apology for the government’s pandemic failures absolutely nauseating.
This was the government that partied its way through lockdowns. It even refused to listen to warnings from scientists it had itself appointed.
But the worst to have emerged from the evidence so far is the complete disregard for human life. Boris Johnson said “the old” should shuffle off because “they’ve had a good innings”.
This Tory commitment to “survival of the fittest” is an echo of the right’s long‑term fixation with eugenics. Unmentioned in the inquiry so far is the way people with learning disabilities were treated during the pandemic.
Many of those in care homes caught Covid as untested patients were released from hospitals.
Those that got sick in hospital were often scored wrongly on the “frailty scale”, and as a result were given “Do Not Resuscitate” notices.
Under the Tories, they never stood a chance.
Lucy Cox, West London

Pre-crime policing
Judges last week agreed that local authorities have the right to slap an injunction on Travellers—even when they’re not currently encamped on their land.
It’s yet another shocking move towards a “pre-crime” approach to policing.
It means that if the state suspects that you will commit a crime or even break a bylaw, it can harass or even arrest you.
It’s not only Travellers that are affected. Any group that wants to target a company headquarters, for example, could now face an injunction. And breaking an injunction can lead to heavy fines or even jail.
John, by email

Splitting up refugees
Refugee families that fled to Britain from war, famine and climate disaster are being split up and made homeless by the Tories.
In east London, the Home Office has tried to move some single male refugees to the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset.
That’s despite them having relatives now living independently in London. Many refused to be moved and have had their accommodation support removed.
Sam, East London

How the West loses friends
Alex Callinicos is right to say that imperialism often arms groups or countries, only to dump them when its interests change. (Socialist Worker, 29 November).
That’s exactly what they did to the Kurdish liberation movement after using it as a pretext for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The West is shameless.
Dozan, by email

Can satire return now?
The news has been unrelentingly grim for weeks, but then a ray of sun—war criminal Henry Kissinger is dead.
Helen via Facebook

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