On a train to London, a young woman wearing a burkha, with only her heavily made-up eyes peeping out, did not have a valid ticket.
Challenged by the guard, the young woman gave a litany of excuses. She had left her bag at her boyfriend’s, he had bought the ticket, she had no money on her . . .
My friend Jane, who was in the same carriage, noticed how the guard became nervous as the Muslim girl presented herself as an innocent in a society she didn’t understand.
Instead of issuing a penalty fine, the guard backed off, shrugging his helplessness at the other passengers.
So imagine my friend’s surprise when she got off at the same station as burkha girl and saw this ‘penniless innocent’ whip out a credit card from under the folds of her dress with which she promptly bought a Tube ticket.
Jane was so incensed she sent me a text message, explaining what she’d witnessed. It ended: ‘Attack of Burkha Rage. Grrr.’
Jane is not a BNP voter. She is a university lecturer who specialises in the developing world.
Yet Burkha Rage has become our personal shorthand for someone taking the mickey out of our country and its tolerant ways.
Despite a growing acceptance that multi-culturalism has been deeply damaging to race relations, there are still almost weekly opportunities for a fit of Burkha Rage.
Look at Fata Lemes, the Muslim bar waitress who won £3,000 compensation this week for quitting her job after she objected to wearing a red cocktail dress.
Apologies if I find it hard to keep a straight face, but my jaw keeps dropping open. Miss Lemes took the job in a bar and left after eight days, claiming managers asked her to wear a dress that made her look like a prostitute.
Actually, the frock is conservative by London bar standards–more Petersfield garden party than Peter Stringfellow. But fair enough if Miss Lemes didn’t like it.
What was not fair enough was her demand for £20,000 compensation.
An employment tribunal found that Miss Lemes had ‘overstated her trauma’. You can say that again. Her compensation claim was ‘manifestly absurd’.
Yet instead of telling the 33-year-old to grow up and accept that a British city bar is not readily confused with a convent, the tribunal awarded her £2,919.95.
As a Bosnian Muslim, it said, she ‘holds views about modesty and decency which some might think unusual in Britain in the 21st century’.
They might think it was unusual if they had spotted that modest flower Miss Lemes on Facebook wearing a vest top with a gaping cleavage. But that image was not produced in court.
How exactly are British employers supposed to avoid hurting the feelings of grievance-mongers like Fata Lemes?
Imagine a job interview where a bar manager dared to suggest that a Muslim woman might not feel at ease in their uniform. Before you could say ‘Mine’s a Cosmopolitan’, Miss Lemes would have sued for discrimination.
I’m afraid Fata Lemes is no better than the girl dodging the train fare. Both are quick to hide behind their religious identity and play the victim. Both are happy to embarrass their host nation into ignoring common sense.
Let me be clear: there are millions of British Muslims who respect our cultural norms. It’s the minority of opportunists who provoke Burkha Rage.
You see it from time to time: the Muslim shop assistant who refused to serve a woman buying First Bible Stories for her grandson because it was ‘unclean’.
And the disgraceful capitulation of Sainsbury’s to Islamic checkout staff who refused to sell alcohol.
Gordon Brown, a recent convert to Britishness, has promised that the emphasis for immigrants must be on fitting in, learning our ways and our language.
Yet, only yesterday, a Metropolitan Police chief admitted the bill for translation services for criminals and victims was set to soar to a staggering £20million by 2012.
Scotland Yard blames a growth in 50 distinct communities of more than 10,000 people and having to deal with more than 300 languages.
At no point in the statement is there any mention of compulsory English lessons.
No suggestion of people needing to fit in with our ways, rather than us with theirs. I feel a small attack of Burkha Rage coming on.