Margo MacDonald: No covering up common sense

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I’ve no problems with immigrants who want to remember the old country while they strive to settle into and succeed in their country of choice. So, I figure, if they express these feelings by wearing something distinctive, that’s fine.

This opinion covers the article of apparel that is currently putting public opinion, the English legal system and race relations workers in England into a flat spin. The article of women’s clothing that has stirred up passions couldn’t be further from Madonna’s conical bra (For wearing outside rather than under t-shirts, blouses, etc). But the fuss caused by Rebecca Dawson’s choice of headgear is of a quite different stamp. Her niqab has changed a relatively mild diversion into fundamental questioning and probing of what customs are acceptable and which are not.

France didn’t dither over the delicate question of supporters of the niqabs believing that the all-concealing headgear was a requirement of Islam. As the Koran does not instruct women to wear such disguises, wearing it must be a cultural choice. So, in France, Miss Dawson would not have been shown the understanding she’ll receive this side of the Channel when she gives evidence.

A judge ruled it unacceptable for the niqab to be worn when evidence is being heard. He said the head cover prevented Miss Dawson’s face being seen, with the potential loss of a vital level of communication. So, how do we cut short needless recriminations on where, when, and by whom, such headgear should be allowed – if at all?

There are obvious scenarios where the niqab does not comply with cultural practices and equality measures that may have taken trade unions, etc, decades to have established in law and accepted across the board as being fair.

People of the Muslim belief, and those of other and no religious belief, should be advised that it’s not the headgear making non-wearers feel uncomfortable that’s important, it’s the bad behaviour and lack of communication made possible by disguise.

So people can choose when to wear burkas, niqabs, etc, but they cannot choose to wear them in certain circumstances. And those circumstances should be made a lot clearer and more consistent.

Lust for life after independence

Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, got it nearly right when she announced the SNP’s wish to pay the retirement pension earlier to people whom the statistics identify as being likely to die before the age most of us will reach. Her mistake was in not pumping up beforehand the SNP’s action in improving knowledge of nutrition, healthy lifestyles and exercise. The objective would be to get Scots fitter and living longer, but, until then, people living in the most distressed economic areas would be able to access their pensions earlier.

However, independence should bring with it a rush of energy, creativity and a general feeling of confidence. This leads to people taking that risk to start, or expand, their business, that they may have lacked the nerve to try before. This is the atmosphere that produces economic expansion ... just what the doctor ordered.

Who will heed the Lawman’s message?

I wonder if anyone will take the chance of doing something completely different for the beautiful game of football after Denis Law’s remarks in a recent interview. The only Scot to have been voted European Player of the Year has had enough of the cheating that has established itself as part of the game.

Don’t forget, to hold someone’s shirt during the manoeuvring at corners, free kicks and throw-ins is cheating and is defined as such in the rules. It’s so easy for spectators to simply enjoy the spectacle and the excitement and overlook the blatant unfairness and fouling. But referees are expected to enforce the rules of the game. The rule against shirt-pulling is there to ensure a good, clean contest of skills, speed and teamwork. Referees have a duty to uphold the rules of the game.

So all we need, Law says – and I couldn’t agree more – is for referees to book without mercy the shirt-pullers. To show they mean business, they could send off a few for persistent fouling.

That won’t be immediately popular in some directors’ boxes. But after a while, if the referees remain consistent, managers will be forced to warn their players about avoiding being sent off. But the biggest bonus will be in the example set for younger players. Anyone who follows football knows the effect of being able to see Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo up close means that schoolkids can copy their style as well as attempt their skills. Youngsters are going into the game believing it’s acceptable to carry out a “professional” foul. They’ll behave differently if their idols do. Is there a manager with the guts to fine or sideline cheats?