Category Archives: current affairs

Five Parallels between Brexit andTrump

puzzle-268905_960_720On November 8th I went to bed feeling cautiously optimistic. Surely the American public can’t really elect someone like Donald Trump, I thought. The polls were putting Hilary Clinton in the lead.  I awoke the next morning and listened to the news in shocked disbelief. It was a feeling I remembered from June when, on the day of the EU referendum I also went to bed with the same optimism that surely everything would be OK, surely we wouldn’t really vote to turn our backs on the organisation that had protected me and safeguarded me all of my adult life, and I also woke to the devastating news of a terrifying unknown future.

That feeling of sickening dread and disbelief was so similar to how I felt the morning after the EU referendum that it got me thinking about other ways in which the two events were alike.

  1. The Polls. All through the EU referendum campaign the polls put Remain ahead. Sometimes Leave managed to close the gap a little but they were always far enough behind to make a victory for Leave look unlikely . Likewise during the US election campaign, although at times Trump managed to inch forwards in the polls he never got close enough to make a Republican win seem at all likely .
  2. The Lies. There were so many lies told by the leave campaigners that I wrote a blog post on the subject which you can read here. Trump’s campaign also did not let the truth get in the way of success. Trump said that Hilary Clinton wanted to let anyone come into the USA without doing anything about it. Trump also claimed that Obama founded ISIS and Hilary Clinton was the co-founder. I could go on but Trump’s lies would need a blog post all to themselves.
  3. The Slogans. Some of the slogans used by the Leave campaigners were remarkably similar to Trump’s slogans. “Let’s take back our country!” “Make America /Britain great again!” These slogans are actually completely meaningless but I can see how they might sound appealing if you don’t think too deeply about their lack of meaning.
  4. Targeting immigrants. With Trump it was Mexicans. With Brexit it was EU migrants and also, rather strangely, Turks, who are not even in the EU. Outlandish claims abounded about how many would arrive and what they would do .
  5. Hate crime. Perhaps partly as a result of number 4 above, hate crimes against foreigners increased after the referendum result and now sadly the same thing is happening in the USA. Trump’s appeal to the perpetrators to “stop it” is perhaps one of the most insincere things I’ve ever heard him say. I don’t think people suddenly started hating foreigners when before they hadn’t, but they believed that the vote legitimised their hatred. Whereas before they kept their hateful opinions to themselves, now they feel they have the right to act on them.

It has been said many times that the popularity of Trump and of Brexit are due to the fact that politicians are not listening to ordinary people. These are protest votes by people wanting change. But is this really the sort of change we want? By all means let’s protest and demand change but not like this. We are better than this.

Three Thoughts on the Burkini Ban

Some areas of France have banned women from wearing the burkini – the Islamic swimming costume – on the beach. This ban caused controversy in the media a few days ago when police (fully clothed and brandishing guns) obliged a woman to remove her long sleeved top. Here are my hurriedly typed thoughts on this incident and on the ban.muslim-354190_960_720

What exactly is banned? The law seems unclear. The woman who was so humiliated was not actually wearing a burkini but a long sleeved top. Does this mean that nobody is allowed to wear a long sleeved top on those beaches? I sometimes put on a long sleeved top on the beach if I feel that my shoulders and arms have had enough exposure to the sun. Would I be forced to burn my skin? I have friends who cover their arms to hide the scars from past self-harming. Would they be forced to bare their scars for all to see and judge? Or is it only Muslims who have to expose their bodies, and the rest of us have the freedom to choose what to bare and what to cover?

Why is it banned? I have heard a number of explanations for this law, which seems strange, as if you are going to pass a new law, the reasoning behind it should be clear.

Some say it is because France is a secular state and bans religious clothing. Does this mean we will have armed police checking that Christians are not wearing a crucifix around their neck on the beach? In any case, the law on secularity, which among other things bans Sikh turbans, only applies in schools. Anyone is free to wear a turban on the beach should they choose to do so.

Others say it is a security measure – a bomb could be concealed under a burkini or a long sleeved top. But surely this isn’t specific to beaches. A bomb could be concealed under somebody’s clothing in a shopping centre. Or in a church. Are we to bare our bodies in these places too? It would make no sense to force people to uncover only on the beach if this were the reason.

One explanation that I have heard for the ban is that Muslim women who wear the burkini are being oppressed by men. They are being told what they can and cannot wear. So, how do we fight this oppression? By getting different men to tell them what they can and cannot wear!

Another justification I have heard is that it is because Muslims must integrate into French society. Do they really think this is the way to encourage integration? To humiliate a woman by sending armed police to order her to undress? Will that make her feel included in society? If a new neighbour from another culture moved into your street and you wanted to encourage them to integrate, what would you do? Would you pop round with a homemade cake ask how they are settling in? Or would you take round some western clothes and force them to undress in front of you and get changed into something that fitted in with your culture? Imagine you went to a country where it was the custom for women to walk around topless. I’m sure such places exist. If you were not used to baring your breasts in public you would probably prefer to keep your top on. I’m sure I would. How would you feel if a policeman with a gun forced you to remove your clothing in a public place with lots of people watching? Would this help you to integrate and to feel part of society?

Freedom and Judgement Whenever people debate Muslim women covering their bodies, or their hair or their faces, people always talk about freedom, and about being judged. Some argue that women are judged if they cover up, so they are more free if they uncover. But does uncovering free you from judgement? I never wore a bikini until a few years ago because I thought I was too fat and I feared the judgement of others. I only wear one now because I lost enough weight for me to feel as though my body was acceptable enough to other people. So does uncovering really make you more free? Some Muslims who cover their hair or their face, say that they do it so that nobody can judge them on their looks, their hair or their face. They can only be judged on what they say and do. So I guess we will be judged whatever we do; at least we should have the freedom to choose whether we wish to cover up or not. We should be the ones who decide whether we feel free with more clothes or fewer clothes. Nobody else can decide that for us.

France has been the victim of some horrendous terrorist attacks recently. They are very worried about Muslims becoming radicalised. But is humiliating women at gunpoint the right way to protect them from being radicalised? I think it’s more likely that this ban will make French Muslims feel less included, less welcome in society, and therefore more likely to listen to the people who would radicalise them.