|The UKIP agenda - pic mercilessly stolen from someone on Twitter|
I don’t normally spend my time blogging about political party manifestoes mainly because a. we don’t have elections that often; and b. because they are usually pretty vague and unexciting.
But UKIP have today published their integration agenda as part of their 2017 General Election manifesto. To say it is extreme and ill-thought out is understatement even for a party whose policies usually lack both subtlety and common sense. In fact, it’s so extreme that I didn’t believe it was real until I saw it being reported by several reliable news organisations with quotes from party leaders.
First, they plan to ban “face coverings in public places”. An interesting idea and one I’ve never understood because it will require exemptions for bee-keepers, police on riot/terrorist duties, people who live in really cold places like the north, motorcyclists, the list goes on and on. It’s also really difficult to ban “face coverings” – what does it mean? If it rains and I put my hood up it dips over my face so you can’t see me. Keeps me dry but is that too covered? What if it’s really cold and I want a balaclava to keep warm? Am I to be banned from wearing a full-face crash helmet on my motorbike?
Let’s be honest, this is really a ban on Muslim veils isn’t it. UKIP say that they constitute a “security risk” – that’s potentially true in the same way that balaclavas or those ridiculous hoodies that kids wear do. But, back in the real world let’s have a think for a moment about how many actual terrorists have committed an atrocity wearing a Muslim veil in the UK. I haven’t checked but I’ve also not heard of any so I’m going to suggest the answer is none. How many banks and jewellers have been blagged by men wearing balaclavas or motorcycle helmets – loads and where’s the call to ban those? I’m not suggesting that UKIP are a bunch of old men who like picking on brown women but I’m not not suggesting it either.
The integration agenda goes on to talk about banning sharia courts “which is intended as a rival legal system”. Like so much of what UKIP says this is simply a lie. Sharia courts do not exist in the UK in the sense of an entity capable of making binding judgments. There are Sharia councils and tribunals that have the power to act by agreement of both parties. But, the law already explicitly bans them from coming to decisions that are contrary to British law. It’s also worth saying that while a marriage or divorce from the civil authorities may count for law it might not count for the rules of a person’s religion in which case the marriage or divorce needs to be recognised by the religion. This is not a specifically Islamic thing, the Catholic Church does not recognise civil weddings and for a divorced Catholic to remarry he or she must receive a Degree of Nullity, which is a “judicial decree from the Church”. You will also remember that a beth din is a Jewish rabbinical “court” that exists in the UK to settle disputes between Jewish people according to the rules of the Jewish faith.
Is UKIP seeking to ban Jewish or Catholic courts? Of course, not – it’s not the Jews turn this time around… at least not yet.
While we’re on the subject of Sharia and Jewish courts it’s worth noting that you can only use these if both parties agree. Then they usually act as a mediator between the parties but can also be an arbitrator for which they must be properly registered and may only make decisions that comply with British law. If you have a situation where women are being forced to use these courts – that seems to be a particular “concern” of UKIPs – then, with respect, they are likely to be in a controlling relationship where their ability to seek help is compromised anyway. You need to deal with the root of that problem not fiddle about with which arbitration service couples use.
We come now to the maddest of UKIPs plans on the integration agenda – “implement school-based medical checks on girls from groups at high risk of suffering FGM [female genital mutilation]. They should take place annually and whenever they return from trips overseas.” Just think about this for a moment. The Kippers are suggesting that young girls are subjected to intimate forced examined without the consent of them or their parents. We know that the examinations must be forced otherwise any parent who has subjected their daughter to FGM will simple refuse to allow the examination. You might also think that most girls who have been subjected to it might refuse to undergo the examination themselves. So, either UKIP are deliberately proposing a policy that can never work or they are proposing making a law to legalise what would in any other situation be a sexual assault of schoolgirls. I don’t really see how you can look at that suggestion and think that this is a proposal from a party of good sense and sound judgement that is truly concerned with women’s rights, as UKIP claims to be.
They go on to the seemingly sensible sounding, “make failure to report FGM by someone who has knowledge that it has taken place a criminal offence itself.” I can see situations in which this might be desirable; however, I would be very concerned that it would have the opposite effect in that it would make girls less likely to report it if they know that the teacher or doctor is obligated to rush to the nearest policeman.
Next, in their series of sudden concern for the state of little girl’s little bits, they move to creating a presumption that the CPS will prosecute any parent whose daughter has undergone FGM. This is yet another nonsense pledge. Yes, you can create that and yes it might sound like a good idea but it means nothing. The CPS follow the Full Code Test when deciding whether to prosecute. That essentially means deciding whether there is a. enough evidence to secure a conviction; and b. whether prosecution is in the interests of justice. An offence involving FGM is likely to be in the interests of justice more often than not; however, if there is insufficient evidence then you are not going to get a conviction and saying the CPS should presume that they will prosecution unless there is a reason not to do so makes no sense since that’s what they do in every single case!
You may not be reassured to hear that UKIP isn’t too bothered whether your white daughter is groomed and raped by a white man – or if it’s a black on black, Asian on Asian, etc crime. Apparently, it’s only when kids are abused by members of different races that UKIP gets really upset. Why do I say this? Because where grooming is conducted by a person of a different race to the victim, UKIP want this cited as an aggravating feature for the purposes of sentencing the offender. I wonder how little Susie will feel knowing that her rape was less serious than little Prisha’s because even though they went through the same experience at the hands of the same offenders Susie happened to be the same race as their attackers?
On that topic, I’m not sure whether UKIP are suggesting that groups of men should prey on little girls and boys in mixed-race groups – seems unlikely that’s what they mean but this agenda is so mad it’s hard to know.
UKIP continue their quest against all things Islamic by calling for the immediate closure of schools where there is evidence of Islamist ideology being taught or imposed on children. I confess I’m not sure exactly what this means. I went to a Catholic secondary (briefly) then to a secular secondary school. Both of them taught me a little about different religions, including Islam despite my preference being not to learn anything about any of them. Should my two secondary schools be closed? I suspect what they are really getting at is that they don’t want kids to learn about Islam at school. I agree with that – I don’t see why school children should have their time wasted learning about any of the variety of fairies supposed to live in the sky, though I don’t see why UKIP want to focus solely on Muslims
could be because many Muslims are brown.
There are other points in there, including a ban on new Islamic faith schools, which I would agree with if it applied to all faith schools. UKIP are calling for the ban “until substantial progress has been demonstrated in integrating Muslims into mainstream British society”. That reads like it was written by a bumpkin whose only knowledge of Muslims comes from reading the Mail and moronic tweets of Texans who have never left Texas. There are about 2.8 million Muslims living in the UK of whom the majority seem pretty well integrated to me based on my experience of living and working in London.
Here’s an experiment for you to try. Do you find those head to toe coverings some Muslim ladies wear off putting? Why not try talking to one of those ladies? Integration goes both ways – if you won’t talk to them why should they talk to you? If you travel on the Tube, you must see thousands of people every day with no facial covering at all – how many of them did you strike up a random conversation with last time you travelled? I bet it’s none, isn’t it? How many of them came and spoke to you? Probably also none. So, what exactly would change if you could see the faces of these ladies? When you say that women wearing veils are failing to integrate you should consider that maybe you don’t like the veils because it makes you uncomfortable and maybe… just maybe, it’s your problem that you should deal with not theirs.
The Integration Agenda has nothing to do with UKIPs founding aim of gaining the UK independence from the EU. It is an all-out attack on Muslims the length and breadth of the country. It is a nasty spiteful little document aimed not at furthering UKIPs core aim of exiting the EU but of finding a place for the party to survive in a Britain free of EU membership. Sadly only British political party with UK in the name seems to now have ideals about as far removed from good British values as you could find.