Keep Your Hair On, Geert

by Mary Jackson (November 2009) 

It is not often that I disagree with Dutch Parliamentarian
Geert Wilders. His analysis of Islam is astute, and his appreciation of its dangers for the West unrivalled among politicians. His courage and self-sacrifice are an example to us all: Wilders remains steadfast against threats from Muslim assassins and, despicably, from the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. His banning from Britain, under the then Home Secretary and always preposterous Jacqui Smith, was an act of witless, gutless appeasement. In the face of such moral idiocy, his patience is astonishing. If he tires of being branded “far right” and “racist”, the mantra that shuts down all debate, he never shows it but persistently, calmly states his case. His quarrel is not with individual Muslims, still less does he hate them, but with the totalitarian, Fascist ideology of Islam. His struggle is truly heroic, and I long for an English Geert Wilders.

Just recently, however, and just this once, I think he got it wrong. In an otherwise fine speech to the Dutch Parliament, he rather lost his head:

Many Dutch are irritated by the pollution of public space by Islam. In other words, our streets in some places are increasingly looking like Mecca and Tehran. Scarves, hate-beards, burkas, men in long weird white frocks. Let us do something about that. Let us start to reconquer our streets, and ensure that the Netherlands will look like the Netherlands again.

Those headscarves are a true sign of oppression of women, of subjugation, of conquest. It is a symbol of an ideology that is out there to colonize us. Therefore: it is time for a big spring-cleaning of our streets. If our new Dutch citizens want so badly to show their love for that seventh-century desert ideology, then they should rather comfortably do that in a Muslim country, but not here, not in our country.

Madam Chairman, this country has an excise tax on petrol and diesel, it has parking permits and a dog-tax, it has an airline ticket tax and has a packaging tax, so why not tax the headscarf? A Head Rag Tax. Just pick up a license once a year and immediately pay for it in cash. €1000 a year [$1500] seems like a tidy sum to me. Then we will finally get some money back out of what has cost us so much. I would say: the polluter has to pay. My question: is the government prepared to introduce a headscarf-tax?

“Hear, hear,” I thought as I read this. The “polluter” should pay. As Hugh Fitzgerald has said many times:

The large-scale presence of Muslims in the countries of Western Europe has led to a situation for the native non-Muslims, and for other, but non-Muslim, immigrants, that is much more unpleasant, expensive, and physically dangerous, than would be the case without such a large-scale Muslim presence.

Islam is indeed a territorial religion, and clothes, like mosques, halal food in schools and footbaths at airports, are a form of colonisation. What it cannot seize by force of arms, Islam conquers by exploiting the foolhardy tolerance of its enemies. A hijab can be a weapon – it says “Rape someone else”; if enough women in Muslim quarters of Rotterdam or Amsterdam wear it, non-Muslim women will not go there, and the territory will have been claimed for Islam.

Superficially, then, the Head Rag Tax is attractive. But is it sensible? My heart says yes, but my head says no. Here are some reasons, which may elicit a “fair enough” rather than a “hear, hear.”

First, any tax levied on Muslims will be less than effective because Muslims generally do not earn enough to pay tax. Unemployment among Muslims is higher than among other groups, and Muslim women in particular are less likely than other women to work outside the home. Such income as the hijabbed Muslima possesses is likely to come from non-Muslim taxpayers in the form of welfare benefits.

Second, what exactly is a head rag? It is not the emotiveness of the term that I question, but its vagueness. The niqab, which covers all but the eyes, the jilbab, and abaya, which constrict and imprison, and the barbaric, all-enveloping burkha, have no place in the West. Free women do not wear masks, let alone prisons. But is the headscarf cut from the same cloth?  The Queen, as played by Helen Mirren, wore one around the Balmoral Estate. My grandmother wore one if it was cold enough. Orthodox Christians and Jews wear them, as do nuns. I’m with Phyllis Chesler on this: headscarves are not specific to Islam, and are not incompatible with Western values. Amy Winehouse wears one, and very silly it looks, but if she’s a Muslim, I’m a Dutchman.

Amy Winehouse and faceless Yemeni Muslim – just the same?

Besides, how would you impose such a tax? Would police be given powers to stop headscarf-wearers in the street? And would they be required to prove Islamic intent (mens Islamica?) rather than just tradition, or indeed fashion? The manpower and administrative costs of enforcing a tax on islamically motivated headscarves would far outweigh any revenues raised, and would interfere with the liberty of women going about their lawful, un-Islamic business. If Muslim clothing is to be targeted it would be better to tax – or indeed ban – the obviously Islamic, and obviously offensive, burkha, abaya, jilbab or niqab.

No, Mr Wilders, a headscarf tax is a non-starter. Nevertheless, Muslim headscarves are troubling in a way that Jewish ones are not, and it would be good to see the back of them. I have a couple of suggestions for reducing their number on the streets of Rotterdam, or London for that matter, without imposing an outright ban or tax.

First, stop Muslim immigration. Start by banning cousin marriages; next cut at a stroke the importation of Muslim brides by raising the minimum age at which both parties may marry to twenty-five. A Muslim woman is considered an old maid at well below that age and she won’t come. Result: fewer headscarves.

Second, allow employers to enforce whatever dress codes they see fit, including banning head coverings. No whining, and no suing for hurt feelings. Those are the rules, and if you want the job, you stick to them. Then cut benefits for Muslims who refuse to take a job that forbids hijab. Muslims will be forced to take off their headscarves or lose money. Result: fewer headcarves. 

Perhaps Geert Wilders’ Head Rag Tax proposal was meant rhetorically, to provoke or to stimulate thought, in which case it has served its purpose. But it does not bear close scrutiny; there are more effective ways to de-Islamify the public space. Still, this is a minor glitch in an otherwise exemplary career, and Geert Wilders deserves our full support in the trials – legal and personal – that he faces.

A truncated version of this article first appeared in Pajamas Media in October 2009.

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Mary Jackson contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all her contributions, on which comments are welcome.  


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