We all know the endless debate within our community between “traditionalists” and “modernists” about assimilation. Post 9-11, this debate became broader and more politicized, especially w.r.t. British Muslims. In the UK, public figures argued that Muslims need to be more fully assimilated into British society if further violence was to be avoided. A variant of this argument claimed that the hijab and niqab should be discouraged or banned outright.
A new study out undermines the broad claims of the assimilationists, claiming that Brit-Bangladeshi girls (between 11 and 14 years old) “who wore traditional clothing were significantly less likely to have mental health problems than those whose style of dress was a mix of traditional and white British styles.” [Link]
p>Interestingly enough, they found no effect of clothing choice on boys at all. To clarify, that means that a boy’s clothing choice didn’t influence his own happiness. I’m sure girls’ clothing choices have a strong impact on the happiness of an 11 to 14 year old boy . The “Brick Lane” hypothesis found little support.
Professor Kam Bhui, one of the study authors, said that the result was “surprising” - he had expected that girls who were less fully integrated to show signs of greater strain. “Traditional clothing represents a tighter family unit, and this may offer some protection against some of the pressures that young people face. What it suggests is that we need to assist people who are moving from traditional cultures and becoming integrated into Western societies, as they may be more vulnerable to mental health problems.”
Professor James Nazroo, a medical sociologist at the University of Manchester, said that the findings meant that “notions of Britishness” should be dealt with in a sophisticated way. “There are many ways in which people can be British – these girls who have good mental health, and still have a strong traditional culture, are by implication settled and comfortable with their identities…” [Link]
The article does not explain what researchers meant by traditional clothing. I think it means salvar kameez rather than the hijab/niqab, but am not sure. If so, it doesn’t really inform the debate about the veil at all. Nor does it speak directly to terrorism, or even to social alienation by adults.
p>Most importantly, I want to reassure all our readers that no matter how overwhelming the evidence collected, no matter how many studies pile up, I’m sure that Gurinder Chadha’s films will have exactly the same trite hackneyed plot that they did before.
The paper is available here. [Thanks Razib]