It really isn’t

From RTE:

The latest round of media comment was sparked by a letter the principal of Gorey Community School wrote to the Department of Education. Nicholas Sweetman wrote to the Department looking for guidelines. His letter was released under Freedom of Information legislation.

The Department of Education says Mr Sweetman’s letter is one of what would appear to be just two received from schools with queries related to the Hijab. That’s just two schools out of 732 second-level schools, out of more than 4,000 schools in total.

Mr Sweetman may want guidelines, but he says the wearing of the veil is ‘not an issue’ in his school or, in his view ‘in any schools currently’. His school does not have a problem with pupils who wish to wear it. In a conversation last week, he told me: ‘the media has sought to make this an issue which it really isn’t‘.


I began this article by saying that the wearing of the Veil or Hijab is ‘currently’ not an issue of concern in Irish schools. It would be deeply regrettable if a media-driven debate, that’s taking place outside the reality of student and school experience, were to make it one.

To reuse the quote from Zizek:

…the metaphor of an alien Monster eroding and corrupting the fabric of “our way of life”. Here, the “deconstructivist” approach would point out the fundamental ambiguity of this “alien” element, its double status: it is simultaneously within the structure as its subordinated, contained element (the immigrant who accepts the superiority of the British way of life) and outside it (the threatening, cancerous foreign body).

Perhaps there was an element of aping British practices to media reporting. But that shouldn’t blind us from the fact that capitalist Ireland is well capable of producing its own ideology of demonisation. The Irish Times -which ran a poll specifically on this issue, publishing it in terms of whether the public favours allowing Muslims to wear the hijab (imagine if a Northern Ireland newspaper published a poll on whether the public favours allowing Catholics to wear crucifixes) – and the Irish Independent -which published characteristically demagogic columns such as that by Martina Devlin, who -quite breathtakingly- argued, if that is not too strong a term that it was ‘not discriminatory to ban the hijab in a country that is culturally Christian‘. Eilis O’Hanlon said that Muslims in Ireland had ‘been a peaceful presence so far; they in turn have also benefited fully from all the luxuries attendant on being Irish citizens’, the implication being that there was a possibility that these aliens -who were not really Irish citizens- could always turn violent.


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