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Fear and loathing in the Rebel City

How happy the Muslim women of Ireland must be, to learn that Joe O’Callaghan is here to save them from themselves!

Yes, Joe O’Callaghan (who you may never have heard of before now) has flagged that he intends to introduce a motion for debate at Cork’s City Hall next month. He’s a Fine Gael councillor and former Lord Mayor, don’t you know?

The proposed motion? That burqas should be banned by the local authority.

The Irish Examiner and The Journal have the story, although neither appears to have questioned anything regarding the motion, the councillor’s motives, or even the grounds for tabling the motion.

In this holy month of Ramadan, apparently O’Callaghan is “leading a call” – although from what I can tell, he’s the only one making it. He thinks that it’s “high time” Ireland copies dangerous and politically motivated laws from France and Belgium. The affront to women, according to him, is in “having to be covered head to toe” – and “in this day and age”! Oh, and he mentions something about “security issues”, about which he fails to elaborate.

But who needs to elaborate when the object is simply to plant a seed of fear in an attempt to simultaneously generate controversy and rebuild your profile?

By the way, has anyone actually seen a burqa being worn on the streets of Ireland? (Pop quiz time! Who can tell the difference between hijab, chador, niqab, abaya and burqa?)

As O’Callaghan intends to follow the examples of France and Belgium, he will no doubt be entirely happy to unburden Muslim women from the yoke of oppression by criminalising them. Its genius is in the law’s simplicity, presumably.

Oh, and just to show that he’s not targeting women from minority communities, O’Callaghan also wants to ban “hoodies”. In light of the recent riots in the UK, you see. Except when it’s raining.

Because before hooded clothing became popular, there were no riots. Ever. Not even in 1930s Ireland. (Careful, Joe. Your Blueshirt is showing.)

I wonder whether Joe O’Callaghan has actually asked any women for their views before imposing his upon them.

Thankfully, the National Women’s Council of Ireland has. Let’s hear from the mná na hÉireann, shall we?

I was born Muslim, in a Muslim country where there is no room for questioning the state’s decisions, a country that was sucked in a vortex of violence. They told us in school that salvation was wearing the veil – to that I shaved my head and whatever hair I still had my mum helped me die it bright red. I didn’t do it because I am against the veil, I did it because they imposed their madness on me and I was raised as an independent individual. I wasn’t ready for anyone to impose anything on teenage me. As a matter of fact, I never wondered why women had or chose to wear the veil. I just remember my grandmother’s large white silk Hayek, we hid under it pretending to be ghosts. I remember my aunties having to lift their Aadjar to eat their ice cream and it made us laugh.

For the last 11 years that I have been in Europe, I have always dreaded the famous question: “What’s your opinion on the veil”?

- Amel Yacef

When I walked into my mother’s house wearing the hijab for the first time, my family were shocked. I remember my mother saying, “Now you have really gone crazy!” I was lucky in a sense that my family were still willing to speak to me. Here was my opportunity to take the chance to talk to them about my new adopted faith and my new lifestyle. It was difficult but worth it.

I came to realize that being an Irish Muslim, it was my duty to make use of many opportunities to explain to the Irish people about Islam. I became aware of a lot of negativity towards Islam and Muslims, especially when I began to wear the hijab. I was told on several occasions by strangers on buses, in shopping malls and coffee shops to “go back to your own country”.  I sometimes said to them “to where, to Coolock?” in my Dublin accent. On another occasion, I was egged and endured verbal abuse on a busy street of Dublin in broad daylight. It also dawned on me that even though I was Irish, as soon as I put on the hijab, I became a foreigner in my own country. I began to think on how hard it must be for my immigrant Muslim sisters and their families coming to Ireland.

- Lorraine O’Connor

I discovered that Irish people are very kind and friendly; they always have time to
smile and greet you in the morning. I made new friends who really helped me to know my way around Waterford as my English was not that good at first.


I wanted to get involved in community work to know Irish society better. I believe that some similarities are shared between Muslims and the Irish people like the importance of family, and some religious traditions such as giving to the poor.

From here the idea of forming a Muslim women’s group emerged, and to get the group started I contacted all of my friends for a meeting at my house. I explained to them that our aim would be to find ways to co-exist within Irish society but without losing our Islamic identity. Everyone was inspired by the idea and we named the group “Muslim Women Together”.

- Doaa Morsy

People ask Sarah why she does not wear the veil, the hijab. She explains that for her, wearing the veil is a question of choice. She has chosen not to wear it here in Ireland.

She explains that Irish girls are different from Arabic girls; she feels it is important for her to have Irish friends and in fact she has friends of many nationalities. She also explains however, that Arabic girls are also different from each other. She reflects that some of the differences depend on the reason why someone might have come to Ireland. For some, migration was a question of choice. For others, they do not have a choice and their options are different. Depending on your options, you have to make different choices.

Sarah wants to be a lawyer [when she finishes school]. She wants to help people; to help people in a similar position to herself.

- Sarah

“I was happy to move here to a new country and try out something new” says Zainab. “Since I came here I have to say that my experience has been mostly a positive one, people have been supportive of me, friendly and I have had no problem wearing a headscarf.” Zainab did not always wear a veil and discusses the views of her family on her decision to cover her head. “I was not brought up wearing the veil” says Zainab.

“My parents are Muslim but my mother does not cover her head. When I was studying in England I decided to start taking my religion more seriously. I phoned my mother and told her I had started covering. She wasn’t too happy and thought I had become an extremist. I tried not to make a big deal of it and told my parents very casually. It was still a big shock for them when they saw me at the airport. But since then, my mother has always given me my space, though if she had a choice I wouldn’t be covering”, she says.

- Zainab Alamgir

The family moved to Birmingham and then to Belfast. “We didn’t know about the troubles”, she says. “ The taxi driver wouldn’t come here from the airport. We didn’t know why. The rent was cheap here, we didn’t have any choice”.

Zeenat describes the racism which she has experienced in Belfast. “We lived here in the Village for a year” she says. “Once, my son and I were attacked on the street. We were stoned by nine year old boys. Some one from the women’s centre said we should report it to the police and that she would be our witness. They got off with a warning”. Zeenat is worried for her son. “My son is four and bringing him to the Park is always an issue” she says. “We are always told to go back home. When my son sees white boys on the street he says ‘these are bad boys Mommy’, he’s afraid of them but gets on fine with the boys in his school. It is very difficult to explain to him. The moment you leave the house you know you will meet someone who will have a problem with you”.

- Zeenat

To sum up, in the words of Anastasia Crickley, chair of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA):

Quite clearly their social and economic circumstances affect women’s experiences of their own diverse realities and engagement of integration in Ireland; one size solutions and policies are clearly not adequate.

Social and economic circumstances also affect the nature and extent of discrimination and racism and the ways in which it is experienced. As the women point out, the right to express one’s identity with or without the veil is very important.

Women’s human rights cannot be denied because they are inconvenient. I am reminded also of the double burdens in the struggle for these rights. […]

These are complex issues not helped by the ways in which promotion of women’s human rights in minority communities can be confused with assimilation into the majority population. As [chair of the FRA] and over many years of work with migrants and minority women, I have never seen such strategies lead to realisation of women’s human rights. Women’s rights can and should be supported by all women.

Here’s a counter-motion for Cork City Council to consider: The day that Christian men can dictate how Muslim women can live their lives is the day that Muslim women can dictate how Christian men live their lives. Seems fair to me.

Get informed:

·        Voices of Muslim women in Ireland: New publication from NWCI launched (28 May 2010)
·        Making Our Voices Heard: The stories of Muslim women in Ireland (PDF)
·        NWCI: Muslim women in Ireland

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  • I think Cllr Joe O’Callaghan’s comments are outrageous! First and foremost there are about two niqabi’s in Cork – and they are Irish! In addition he had absolutely nothing to say last year when there was a ‘naked cycle in Cork’ last year – no protests at people cycling around Cork naked but GOD FORBID women wear too many garments covering themselves – OUTRAGEOUS.

    I have yet to hear anybody in power IN THIS COUNTRY whinging about scantily clad women – making a call to ban women wearing the socially acceptable dress code of barely nothing.

    So to save and protect society they appear to believe that women should parade around PANA (Patrick st) wearing tiny skirts and bikinis – Women should redeem themselves in this way – GIVE ME A BLOODY BREAK !


    Jane said:
  • [...] Fear and loathing in the Rebel City Fine Gael councillor and former Lord Mayor, Joe O’Callaghan, intends to introduce a motion for debate at Cork’s City Hall next month to ban wearing of burqas. Has anyone actually asked Ireland’s Muslim women what they think? Thankfully, the National Women’s Council of Ireland has. [...]

    Open FM » Today’s Links said:
  • We should do no harm to Muslims. It is not the individual’s fault that he was born into a sick sect(it is not a religion)that seeks death rather than life and preaches that all infidels (those who are not Muslim)must try to subjugate, convert or kill those who are not Muslims. This is pure insanity. We can only hope that Muslims will one day grow up and understand that all of humanity must learn to live in peace and harmony with all other members of the human race.
    They may one day see that it is senseless to follow a leader (Muhammad) who was nothing but a gang leader, a warrior chief who slaughtered millions in order to spread his so-called religion. There are too many Muslims today who seek to continue with the same modus operandi. We need to deal with them with strength, not appeasement.

    Jack J. Morris said:
    What kind of fools do we have in Congress? He committed one impeachable offense after another yet not a word came out of Congress to stop him from castrating America. He is openly at war with the coal industry based upon the fallacious theory that man’s activity causes heating of the earth. I do not think that this is what brought on the end of the Ice Age since there were not many cars around thousands of years ago. He has been killing coal with outrageous regulations which will force an increase in the price of coal and be a further burden on the American people. Of course, putting it to the American people is one of his main goals to get even with the white man. He acquired his hatred of the white man not only from his attendance in the hate church of Jeremiah Wright for some twenty years, but also from his father who hated the white English colonialists who kept Kenyans from slaughtering one another. I say “hate” church because Rev. Wright preached hatred of America, whites, blacks who did not agree with him, Jews and the free enterprise capitalist system. Obviously, Obama was and good listener and Wright’s ideas grew in fertile land.
    One way in which Obama gave vent to his hatred of America was by tying the hands of much of the energy industry across the country. I find that his arbitrary and unconstitutional act of placing a moratorium on drilling for oil in the Gulf is the most egregious act against this nation because it has killed thousands of needed jobs and places us even more precariously over the OPEC oil barrel. He even ignored a judge’s order to lift the moratorium. Does this not seem to be an impeachable offense? It seems he crowned himself “King Obama,” the first and last, I hope!
    Looking for another impeachable offense? In his arbitrary action of making war upon Gaddafi’s Libya, he got approval from the Arab League and the U.N. and declared he did not have to get the consent of Congress. This is a brazen violation of our Constitution. Even the leftist Democrat Dennis Kucinich said that Obama’s actions “would appear on its face to be an impeachable offense.” May I suggest that any Democrats who want to remain in politics should join with Republicans to impeach Obama? Those who want this country to survive as a free republic have a duty to impeach him. It is no mystery why Obama said, “Gaddafi must go.” We may soon find that the rabble that will replace him will be Islamists who want to impose Sharia law upon Libya. We, the American people must say: “Obama must go!”
    Here’s a passage from CSPAN.org that explains the intent of our founding fathers in great clarity: “The Congress decides the definition [of impeachable offenses]: by majority vote in the House for Impeachment, and by 2/3 vote in the Senate for conviction. The Framers of the Constitution deliberately put Impeachment into the hands of the legislative branch rather than the judicial branch, thus transforming it from strictly a matter of legal definition to a matter of political judgment.”
    And Jon Roland, an acknowledged expert on Constitutional and legal history with the Constitution Society gives a modern day example of such acts: “Offenses of this kind survive today in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It recognizes as punishable offenses such things as:
    Refusal to obey orders – he refused or ignored orders from federal judges, he sued the State of Arizona for upholding immigration laws that he refuses to enforce which he is sworn to do under our Constitution,
    Abuse of authority – he took over much of the auto industry, took money from bond holders and gave it to his union supporters; and imposed health care (ObamaCare) around our necks using threats, intimidation and bribery; gave billions of dollars to CEOs, especially those of banks, that had supported his election campaign; gave rights reserved for citizens to Muslim terrorists by having them tried in civil courts rather than military; he is using every trick in a liberal’s bag of deceptive tricks to give amnesty to illegal immigrants so as to flood the country with more dependents upon government who will feel obliged to vote their Democrat ticket; he took irresponsible steps that had to and did lower the credit rating of the U.S.A. and built up trillions of dollars in debt that will be imposed upon our children and their children as part of his desire to overwhelm the system. His actions which destroyed the economy have proven to be an extra heavy burden on black Americans. If one is afraid to impeach this scoundrel for fear of being called a racist, just make it clear that the sooner we rid ourselves of this parasite and imposter, the faster blacks and other Americans will find employment.
    Dereliction of duty – allowed Erick Holder, head of the DOJ, to ignore intimidation of voters by the New Black Panther Party of thugs which amounts to giving license to blacks to attack or threaten whites at will,
    Moral turpitude –shady land deal with convicted felon Tony Rezko, the Cook County Assessor’s Office confirms that Obama has likely committed real estate and tax fraud in a deal with Tony Rezko in Chicago; his refusal to prove to the American people that he is eligible to even hold the office is, ipso facto, an impeachable offense and the Democrat Party is guilty of conspiracy to defraud the American people by not properly investigating his eligibility,
    And conduct unbecoming – went around the world apologizing for actions of the U.S.A.; gave $2Billion to Brazil to drill while leaving in place his illegal moratorium on drilling in our coastal areas; he insulted our oldest ally, Great Britain, by returning the bust of Winston Churchill given to the U.S.A. as a token of thanks and respect and his offensive behavior toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and demand that Israel start peace negations with the Arab countries by going back to the 1967 borders – this is demanding that Israel commit suicide. The not-so reverend Jeremiah Wright is surely more than pleased!
    We are living under the fascist heel of the Obama dictatorship; it is up to our senators and representatives in Congress to impeach him quickly, well before 2012, before he gets his amnesty plan for illegal immigrants to continue – it is already in play against the wishes of the American people! Any congressman who does not immediately move for impeachment of Barack Hussein Obama should be fired come the next election!
    Many wondered why Obama attacked Qaddafi since he represented no direct threat to our country and was the most cooperative of the potentates in the Arab world. Obama did not even seek approval from Congress; this is an impeachable offense. Well, wonder no more. Latest news from a middle-Eastern publication: “28 Aug. Members of the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – LIFG are in control of the former strongholds of Muammar Qaddafi captured by Libyan rebels last Sunday, Aug. 21…” Does this appear in our Pravda on the Potomac media?
    Obama took this illegal action and supports the “Arab Spring” in the likely scenario that the Islamic Brotherhood and other extremists would take control. This would be a direct threat to the Western world. For those who thought Obama is not a Muslim, think again.
    By Jack J. Morris aka Dr. J. Knowname, author of UNTROUBLING A TROUBLED WORLD – PEACE 4 EVER. The book contains solutions to most national and world problems. Dr. J. Knowname knows better than the Shadow knows! See end-irs.org or tea4lowertax.org

    Jack J. Morris said:
  • It is not so long ago that we in “catholic” ireland had the discussion re
    President Mary Robinson wearing a scarf or mantilla in the Vatican,
    I also remember when Irish women could not enter a catholic church without
    wearing a scarf,
    When women stopped wearing scarves to church it was a slow change of
    their own making, with no decree from the church.
    Cllr OCallaghan needs to inform himself before making his comments,

    ann said:
  • Thanks, Ann! Some people are strangely hypocritical in Ireland. It’s as though their minds and memories are blissfully unaware of what their mouths are gurgitating.

    (Also, I can’t quite tell if Jack J. Morris is an automated Spambot or not – but welcome to Gaelick. It’s an Irish blog. From Ireland. A country seperate to the USA. So: Mind your first person plurals, and: Obama-schmama.)

    click here said:
  • “Fear and loathing in the Rebel City | gaelick” was indeed a delightful article, can
    not help but wait to browse much more of ur posts.
    Time to spend a lot of time on-line hehe. I appreciate it -Lashonda

    http://tinyurl.com/opennash03890 said:
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