Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Notion of Tolerance

Column this week

Britain’s Race and Faith Minister Phil Woolas has recently called for a Muslim teaching assistant to be fired for refusing to remove her veil while at work. The twenty four year old has already been suspended from her post at Headfield Church of England Junior School. The decision to suspend her was made after she refused to remove her niqab (the veil) when in front her male colleagues. The minister has stepped into the fracas, explaining his stance by saying, “She cannot teach children wearing a veil. You cannot have a teacher who wears a veil simply because there are men around.”

This comes fast on the heels of the controversy that’s still raging over another perceived insult to England’s Muslim community. Commons leader Jack Straw earlier this month revealed that he asks Muslim women to remove their veils when they visit his Blackburn constituency surgeries and stated that the veil negatively affected community relations. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis has lent his support by saying that Muslim leaders are currently risking a ‘voluntary apartheid’ in Britain.

This is a country that once used to boast that the sun never set on its empire. And every one of those countries that helped it laid claim to that boast – and a great many more – has bled its people, its products and its culture into their former Mother Country. England has a reputation in Europe for multiculturalism and, to a lesser extent, tolerance.

It has long believed that its approach is superior to that of France, where the notion of multiculturalism is absorption into mainstream French culture and disapproval for any actions that seeks to separate or may be seen as separation. The wearing of headscarves and crucifixes has long been banned from schools and workplaces and the notion of “when in France do as the French” is strong. London, however, is seen as a Mecca not only for obvious would be immigrants like nationals of the former Soviet Republic, but even those from the more affluent countries such as Japan and Germany. But after 9/11 and certainly after the July 7th bombings in London, a large and growing sector of the Muslim community here has been feeling that this notion of multiculturalism and tolerance no longer extends to them.

For many Trinidadians living here, the notion of multiculturalism in this country is a bit perplexing. There are certainly a greater number of nationalities and cultures concentrated in London than perhaps anywhere else in the world. You ride the bus or the train and conversations are being carried on around you in four or five different languages in a sort of horizontal Tower of Babel. There are many different types of food and varying festivals are celebrated by each community. But there isn’t really a sense of integration, at least, not in the way many of us know it.

There are areas in London associated with certain countries. There are parts of the city where it’s quite possible to feel as though one is in another country, as everyone around you speaks to each other in their own language, operating by their own social codes that are different from the norm. The Indian man who runs the post office on my street barely speaks English. His wife and his friends speak to each other in the same language. When he speaks to his customers he is angry, constrained. When speaking with those from his own inner circle he is relaxed, laughing, the hands moving freely as an aid to conversation. The only time I’ve ever seen him outside is when he has to bring his “Buy your Travel Cards here” sign inside the shop.

Speaking to my co-workers about Carnival one of them asked me what it is in celebration of and what sector of society it is associated with. Born and raised in Britain, with it sharp delineations of class, he couldn’t get the idea of it being a national festival, one that all were free to participate in regardless of race, gender, religion or social standing. When I try explaining the notion of a national culture I’m met with open minded attention but obvious disbelief.

The notion of multiculturalism up here is not born out of a sense of national culture. I speak about missing the lighting up for Divali and wishing I could have been at my friend’s prayers on Sunday. I know about soaking deyas and how to place the wicks and light them. I have Muslim friends, both wearers and non wearers of the hijab and have found that a piece of cloth is not a barrier to friendship. After all, all you really need is to be able to look someone in the eyes anyway. Britain in now wondering if France was right all along, that instead of tolerating the differences that others brought into the country, they should hasten the integration into mainstream society by demanding conformity.

Most of us Trinidadians just wonder why the word “tolerate – a word that suggests a minimum willingness to endure something that’s unpleasant or unwanted” should be used in the first place.

50 comments:

Prettidolli said...

Morning Hots,

Explain this for me please:

"He asks Muslim women to remove their veils when they visit his Blackburn constituency surgeries."

I want to understand what you are talking about here. Thanks!

Hottie Hottie said...

Hi lovey,
He asked Muslim women who visit surgeries in his constituency of Blackburn to remove their veils while they are there as he says the veils are a barrier and are alienating.

Alexia said...

Hottie good writing and enlightenment. Hard to believe that ppl can be that ignorant towards another culture that they refuse to understand. I to know how to light the deyas and just like you when I explain the many cultures to my co-workers and how as Trinidadians we participate in everyone festive they ask the same questions. Trinidad may be a small dot on the map but as a ppl we do know how to accept everybody religion and adapt to every circumstances.

Alexia said...

Hottie good writing and enlightenment. Hard to believe that ppl can be that ignorant towards another culture that they refuse to understand. I to know how to light the deyas and just like you when I explain the many cultures to my co-workers and how as Trinidadians we participate in everyone festive they ask the same questions. Trinidad may be a small dot on the map but as a ppl we do know how to accept everybody religion and adapt to every circumstances.

Hottie Hottie said...

Girl. Everybody want to be the hero and champion of these women by forcing them to remove veils that, in many cases, were their personal choices to put on!!!!!!!!! Imagine people uncomfortable with taking to a woman in a veil but pictures of women in their underwear and suggestive ads don't even raise an eyebrow.

Hottie Hottie said...

BTW, thanks for the compliment Alexia. Glad you like :)

saucydiva said...

"This is a country that once used to boast that the sun never set on its empire. And every one of those countries that helped it laid claim to that boast – and a great many more – has bled its people, its products and its culture into their former Mother Country"

I love that part,that's what I always say about these Nations that built their riches upon the backs of their former colonies, yet they treat us as some sort of pariah when we seek advancement in those self same countries. I have a muslim friend who is in London right now, he is on the 2 year working VISA and they make it so diffcult for holders of this visa to get decent jobs.They expect you to go to London, work in Mc Donalds,pay exorbitant taxes and return to your "third world" country with only memories of big cities.

Hottie Hottie said...

Girl, all of us up here had that same experience. The thing is, plenty times you so overqualified eh. You more qualified than who turning you down. Tell yuh friend I say he hadda "embellish" his cv plenty because any job he gets they will train him anyway. Better yet, let him write meh. He cute? Just playing - he could write meh and I could give him some advice if he wants. But seriously, he cute?

Prettidolli said...

"He asked Muslim women who visit surgeries in his constituency of Blackburn to remove their veils while they are there as he says the veils are a barrier and are alienating."

Hottie, I don't know about all of that but if they are around surgeries, they should NOT be wearing veils of any kind. That is a serious contamination risk to the field. Throw their a$$es out if they choose to disregard a patient's safety for the sake of their religion. Sikh doctors have special sterile head coverings they must wear prior to operating. Their turbans are covered, and they acknowledge that they must abide by this to protect sterility. I don't have any comments on the alienation aspect, b/c outside of an O.R. they can do what they wish. But I don't give one sh*t what anyone's religion is when it comes to someone else's health. They must respect and obey or else remove the veils and not view any surgeries at all. Yes in the name of Allah!

Hottie Hottie said...

No Pretti, is not that. I didn't explain properly, sorry. Surgery here is in the sense of like a community hospital kinda. They're visiting for advice or minor treatment etc or bringing kids in for vaccination. They're not workers. Hospital workers are banned from using headcoverings of any kind. It's a law.

Prettidolli said...

Yuh see, dais why ah was SO CONFUSED when ah fuss read yuh ting! Oh hor....Cuz' ah was just now gine tuh pepper dem wid some nasty masala cuss b/c folks cyan be placed at risk like that! I don't see veils as a big deal for ah community hospital setting. Steups..Please. I love de UK, but these Brits need to get over themselves. Or just keep looking down their noses at everyone else a la the French. The Frenchies may not hol' ah fresh, but at least they've got de kick ass perfume fuh cover up de stench!

Hottie Hottie said...

Dolli, yuh eh bettin yuh does lose meh sometimes nah!!!!!!! LOL!

Prettidolli said...

Dolli, yuh eh bettin yuh does lose meh sometimes nah!!!!!!! LOL!


LOLOLOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

Alexia said...

Hottie check out Mani new post a comments he change up

Carnival Jumbie (Diva) said...

I have had the same experience when trying to explain Carnival to non Trinis. I aslo had an Indian roomate who nearly collapsed on the floor when I told her Happy Divali. She could not understand how I could possibly know what that was when I was not a Hindu. Who say curry Saturday?

Hottie Hottie said...

Alexia, I checked it out. He changes back. Who cooking the curry? Where you based girl?

Hottie Hottie said...

Alexia, I checked it out. He changes back.

Diva,who cooking the curry? Where you based girl?

saucydiva said...

hottie my friend "beat the system" and landed a job with a big IT company (he good embellish lol)but he still getting "minimum" wage compared to other co-workers with the same qualifications as him. But I guess he is looking at it as experience plus with the conversion to TT he is making much, much more money than he was here.

He is cute but allyuh not playing for the same team :D

Hottie Hottie said...

PA PA! Well he come to the right place then!!!!!!! I glad he get through though. IT is a good field though - could always get work in that area nowadays.

Carnival Jumbie (Diva) said...

I'm in Trini and I feel Hott Shoppe will be cooking the curry lol

Hottie Hottie said...

Steups. All ah allyuh! ALL AH ALLYUH!!!!!!!!!!!!

saucydiva said...

Yes he is loving it in London.FREEDOM.

aarond said...

Wait since when does England have a reputation for Tolerance (even a modest one). Just great another Trini blogger - are there not enough of unnuu yet? I swear Trinis are so loud in public and can never stop talking and now more of you are blogging so more exposure - this cannot be safe! Before you threaten to cut me, because we all know seh Trini gyal crazy...I am half Trini - just wanted to hail you and rile you up.
Blessings!

Hottie Hottie said...

Morning aarond, morning. You eh rile me up so sorry dahlin. Yuh could try again though. We all know that the noisiest people is Jamaicans - just that not enough ah dem have 'puter to start blogging! I rile YOU up as yet?! LOL! Nah but seriously, dais what dem say, how they so tolerant blah blah blah. And I guess compared to countries like France they are. But their idea of tolerance is they will bad talk you behind yuh back and hate yuh guts but will force themselves to hire you and pass law making it an offence to not hire you. It strange to me but, wha' yuh go do?

saucydiva said...

Buh ay ay wham to aarond! Look another Trini Blogger here AS WELL !!

Mani said...

Well yes, allyuh gone from tolerance to who is the noisiest between Jamaicans and Trinidad. lol.

That was some good reading though Hottie. Sadly not everyone understands what tolerance is and even more so what ignorance is.

Prettidolli said...

Hi Hottie....Whey yuh?

Hottie Hottie said...

Look meh here

Prettidolli said...

Yuh nah chilling wid Sauce today? Yuh all right?

Hottie Hottie said...

Girl. I was sick like a dog today. Real bad period pain, couldn't eat and ting - so yuh know! I back on now. How tings?

Prettidolli said...

Oh my! Yuh know how we ooman does suffer bad bad bad...First Sauce, now you! Now I know is me next and ah well and scurrred! :o Yuh know how some months yuh does juss ketch ah WHOPPER and it does bowl yuh out good? LAWD! I used to have to leave school early as a young girl mayn. I did several dietary changes over the years and they have worked wonders for me! Things like less dairy and less red meat. Dairy and red meat produce secretions in your body that will make you cramp up in an effort to expel them. An occassional cup of unsweetened (:o) cerasee tea every couple of months allows your uterus to clean itself out. You will flow heavier early on in your cycle so be prepared! It shouldn't be used in excess but it does work and has birth controlling properties as well. ;)

You might have known all of this already, but if u didn't, I hope that it does u justice! We does suffer much too hard....Lewwe bash de lucky man dem! Is wey Manicou? LOL!

Hottie Hottie said...

LOL! Mani, Mani whey yuh? Look Miss Dolli here tuh see yuh. I doh eat meat and dairy but I dodn't know about de tea. Will try it. I used to take Primrose oil and that real help. Don't no why I stoped - I guess I forgot how bad it was :( Imagine I stay home today because of that. I haven't done that in YEARS. Thanks for de tips luv.

Prettidolli said...

My cousin in London used to OVERLOAD meh wid Evening Primrose yes! We'd go to Boots and get the vitamins that had it infused in the capsules. It never really helped me though. Just make certain u doh overdo de do wid de cerassee b/c there are unwanted side effects for overdoing these herbals that folks often ignore. Some people does feel like they go get orn like Clark Kent just because they drank like, 10 cups of strongback root tea come marnin'. LOL!
Ah SURE it go help yuh doh. Hit up Brixton or any other neighborhood wid nuff yardies so yuh could buy it cheap. Jamaicans does SWEAR by ah cerassee oui!

Alexia said...

Hottie girl ah getting cuss on saucy blog, so ah taking a break over here....
Hope yuh feel better...

Hottie Hottie said...

Alexia yuh still getting cuss girl!? I awrite for de hour.

Dolli, I doh buy them thing in Boots nah. De dosage does be too small, like they fraid to give yuh the think in the right strength. Plus yuh hafta take it for a lil two months b4 yuh start seeing a difference.

Prettidolli said...

No, I know de dosage small. Then we used to go to health food stores and dem place but.......The final outcome is dat de ting didn't work for me. Cerassee worked for me a lil' faster than 2 mths doh..So try it!

Alexia turn your frown upside down! :)

saucydiva said...

LOL@ Alexia, I late over here but dolli what is cerassee tea? Hottie girl I know what you going through! I hope you feel better. I find a warm pack on my stomach helps as well.

Do any of you all get diarreah or consipation as well? I am afraid I get ALL the symptoms, even PMS which my husband calls Poor Man Suffering because I am bitchy, moody and real emotional too. You believe I buss out crying while watching an episode of MTV Sweet Sixteen while PMSing once....I tell allyuh I reach!Imagine a vapid show like that brought tears to my eye..LOL.

Mani said...

You know I really find Hottie was quiet today. Dolli like you and me was thinking the same.

Oh gosh allyuh with the period talk. Done now nah. Ah begging allyuh. Wait nah, like I is the only fella in this thing or what, why is only woman does be commenting here so?

Anyway just tell me what time it will be best for me to stay away

Icahwait* said...

I reach late on this one.
I with the minister and them on that. Plus if it with little children and ting and Lord alone knows this primary edu sys a bit backwards incomparison to ours. They need all the help they could get.
And the only culture I ever know England to have is football and the pub and the two combined - I not down with that.
I in Southampton, and let me tell you I only found a black hairdresser after 2 years of being here after making my husband drive around the back of town somewhere.

And yes alot of the same kinda people tend to stick together in this country. In Southampton there is a big Polish ting going on, and the English people don't like it, and are quite offensive towards them.
Thing is I found in my 6 yrs of living here that generally english people not that welcoming and friendly anyways, until you get to know them personally. They think everybody scrounging off them, when they is the biggest scroungers around which is why they don't really seem to take to immigration too well.
People and families that have come here over the years and stick to themselves for whatever reason, shouldn't feel hard done by society if they not making the effort. And the same time too the English people shouldn't be so damned offensive at times because I sure when they go to other countries and behave as they do nobody is get on chupid with them.

And with all the 'asian' racism what is that about when everybody here like their curry? how is that possible?

And the anti-western muslims who preaching terror WHEN THEY LIVING IN THE DAMN COUNTRY??? AND LIVING OFF OF BENIFITS TOO?? Running from their own home countries to beg to live here to do that kinda shit?? EH? I don't understand at all

Politics and laws in this place kinda backwards for some things.

Ah sorry for the long comment dey Hottie. I couldn't help myself

Hottie Hottie said...

Saucy, I used to get all that bad bad but it get milder now. This month was the worst I had in a while girl. Yeah Dolli, what is cerasee tea.

Mani, yuh just lucky I eh call yuh to rub meh belly fuh meh :) Relax nah.

icahwait, first things first WHAT HAIRDRESSER IS DAT?!! Yes, and I agree with what yuh say. Yuh know, the thing is, she eh have no problem removing she veil when teaching the chirren yuh know. But they want she to remove she veil in front she male collegues. Why? I doh find that necessary.

Icahwait* said...

My hairdresser is from Jamaica originally, but she must be here over 10years now, Judith's afro and caribbean unisex hair desgin. LOL. there are now 4 in Southampton, the other 2 only came up last year. But mostly everybody with even a little curly hair is go Judiths, cause the other salons wouldn't touch black hair.

and let me tell you nobody she have working there could ever touch a trini hairdresser nah. It just NOT the same. And everything is take twice as long. They can't set hair properly taking long long to do the damn ting. I just get it blowdry and straightned now yes. I can't deal. £50

Hottie Hottie said...

Girl. I does call here the third world first world. Dramas. Nobody eh even want to touch my mix up head. Pressure. I never feel poohar so in my life! And judging from how dem J'can does be looking up here, I eh feel I trusting them to put they hand in my head nah. What part ah Londion you based?

Prettidolli said...

Yeah Dolli, what is cerasee tea?

Hots:

Cerassee, bitter melon, Momordica charantia is grown around the world. The immature fruits are good source of vitamin C and provide some vitamin A, phosphorus, and iron. Cerassee is a fast-growing, trailing or climbing vine with thin stems and tendrils. It is a very popular plant, used for cancer, diabetes and many infectious diseases. at least three different groups of constituents in the bitter melon have been reported to have hypoglycaemic (blood sugar lowering) or other actions and potential benefits in diabetes mellitus. These include a mixture of steroidal saponins known as charantin, insulin-like peptides and alkaloids. It is still unclear which of these is most effective or if all three work together. An as yet unidentified constituent in bitter melon inhibits the enzyme guanylate cyclase, that may benefit people with psoriasis.
Charantin is more powerful than the drug tolbutamide, which is sometimes used in the treatment of diabetes to lower the blood sugar levels.

The ripe fruit of the bitter melon has been shown to exhibit some remarkable anti-cancer effects, especially leukaemia. Here are some other uses: for colds, fever, sores, MENSTRUAL DISORDER, cures bad blood and gripe, stomach ache.

Cerassee is good for treating billiousness. It is a bitter herb so it helps clear the body of toxins. Although the seeds, leaves, and vines of the bitter melon have been used, the fruit is the safest and most prevalent part of the plant used medicinally.

Dais juss ah lil' bit. It tastes bitter and horrible, but IT WORKS! GOD BLESS meh lil' Indian granny, b/c she taught me so many tings about various herbs, etc. May she R.I.P.....She was an encyclopedia! I believe in Western medicine, but God surely let nature provide for us for a reason!

Manicou, sorry nah boi. Yuh eyes musse bleed from reading we monthly horror stories, no pun intended! Yuh's de only testosterone about so ah guess u'll haffi put up wid we. I think yuh man ehuf fuh tek it doh..LOL!

Outside of meh Dominican and me Brazilian, doh NUTTIN' beat a rhel Trini hairdresser...Simply d' bess!

Hottie Hottie said...

Dolli, who yuh sister does use up here? Hairdresserwise?

Prettidolli said...

Is meh cousin doh, not sister. Ah could ask she, but to tell yuh de truth she well and able wid she own hair. This is cuz' meh grandmummah leff TNT for de UK many moons ago and had she own shop right dey. She said at that time many women of colour had absolutlely NO hairdressing or cosmetology options available to them, so she did good bizness with Indians, Blacks, Arabs, and everything ethnically in between. She also taught us how to TOTALLY handle every aspect of our hair. I work some funny hours and this has helped me tremendously b/c I don't always have a wealth of time to park my butt up at de hairdressing salon. When nanny died we inherited all of her old equipment, like the marcel and curling irons. That was kool, like ah museum. I would ask 4u doh.

I also find that the best stylists come from cultures where there is a lot of diversity, so they're 'customed to all types of hair. Like we sweet, sweet TNT!

Icahwait* said...

well Hottie I thought since you in London you'd be alright for hairdressers.

I don't know if you relax your hair or not?
I in Southampton girl.
It have an african hairdresser that open up close to me - But I ain't going in there. If you see the people and dem head. No thanks.
about my hairdresser- the owner is cool. She have a couple white chicks, and a then about 3 black people, she had a couple chinese at one point too. And besides her, the rest of them you just have to hope for the best yes.

My sister in law is just buy her own relaxer and do it. but her hair short and mine ain't.

Icahwait* said...

and p.s I had an experience once with my husband's salon. With some white chicks.

They washed my hair first before relaxing. Lord Fadder!
That was my first experience here, I just thought like they do it differently or someting. So I say let me just go with the flow.
So it turns out they were just shit. the relaxer ain't stay nowhere. and you'd never belive how proud they felt of themselves when they done. And they had to ask meh if I wanted anything on my hair after and charged me for every extra bit ah ting they do.
that was a hefty price I pay, hefty. so I didn't go back to a hairdresser till like a year and 1/2 later I was just fraid.

Hottie Hottie said...

Icahwait, girl. Same scenario here. Plenty African and I eh want my head looking like NONE AH DEM OWN. My hair isn't relaxed, it's natural but girl, black hairdressers don't know how to style it and white hairdresser either. YOU let them relax your hair after it now wash?! But you's a star!!!!!

Icahwait* said...

That was the first time I went a hairdresser here girl. I wasn't sure what they was up to. they never saw the likes of me or my hus again I could tell you dat.

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