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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tescos, Hoodies, And Cultural Sensitivity

By Southwest Nationalist. “My main gripe is that after removing my hood a woman I believe to be of Somalian descent, although I cannot confirm the nationality, entered the store with a garment wrapped entirely around her face, disabling clear visibility of any features or likeness” – Dominic Folwell after being asked to remove his hood at Tescos Express on Cathedral Walk, Bristol.

Of course, it’s one rule for one group, another rule for everyone else.

Tesco’s response to Mr Folwells complaint confirms it, with Customer Service Executive Fiona Black saying that “Although I do appreciate it may be infrequently, hoodies can act as a disguise in crime which is why we ask that they are removed so as to avoid the potential cause for alarm. It may appear to be inconsistent that we do not ask someone wearing a veil to take it off, but we wish to show sensitivity to the faith and culture of the individual concerned”.

That old chestnut sensitivity, how often is that one trotted out to excuse what is, in reality, discrimination given a positive sounding spin?

For the benefit of Tescos, we should also point out that numerous armed robberies and other crimes across the UK and the world by people wearing a burka/veil – the first to spring to mind is the robbery of Capri Jewellers in Bury, where one of a gang gained access by wearing a full veil which showed only his eyes.

Another is the knife wielding robber who was dubbed the ‘Burka Bandit’ after robbing several travel agents in Dunstable whilst wearing a burka as a disguise.

Or the case of Mustaf Jama, killer of PC Sharon Beshenivsky, who seemingly donned a burka as a disguise to evade security at Heathrow airport and flee to Somalia.

We speculated on South West Nationalists a few months ago that the burka could well become the new hoody for criminals everywhere – good old sensitivity gives a better than average chance of getting away with any crime, it’s not like the police will ask you to reveal your face unless they are already 100% certain and have you bang to rights anyway.

It’s a minefield for police, they’ll tread softly, officers on the beat know exactly what will happen if they get it wrong and force some innocent Muslim woman to yank off her veil in public/detain her so they can do it in private.

Hoodies can be a disguise, one has to agree with Tescos there. But, so can burkas. And, both can be intimidating, either for security reasons or simply because facial expressions are a fundamental part of social interaction in the West.

Sensitivity is that hideous word which hides hidden depths of meaning. We’ll not apply rules equally because we have to be sensitive to one group, we know if we tried applying the rules to that group there’d be an outcry, we are scared to go near in case accused of racism or intolerance or some other heinous crime.

In the Bristol case above, apparently the security guard who asked Dominic Folwell to take off the hoody has been removed from his job, seemingly over Mr Folwells claim of discrimination.

Am I the only one to feel sorry for the security guard, who was in a lose/lose situation? The outcome would have been the same if he’d asked the ‘Somalian’ woman to remove her facial coverings also, or refused her entry to the shop, you know store bosses would have hung him out to dry the moment that complaint about his ‘lack of sensitivity’ landed on their desk.

All could have been avoided if shops just had a clear policy – if we can’t see your face you don’t come in, or anything goes and it’s up to you. Anything else just panders to minority, and creates situations where discrimination is endorsed.

Dressing things up in the clothes – full faced veil? – called sensitivity doesn’t change the fact that what it really means is that some groups are exempt from rules which will apply to the rest of us, they receive a different and preferential treatment. How is that not discrimination?