Rank hypocrisy of bagging Abbott over the burqa
One little-known factoid from the celebrated spate of robberies by three burqa-clad bandits in Wollongong this May is that the criminals were not Muslims, and most certainly not Muslim women, but three blokes from Colombia who were more likely to have links to the Medellin Cartel than Al-Qa’ida.
Nevertheless, these Colombian fellows were responsible for setting off a wave of spirited and pretty tangential public discussion about how Islam was changing the Australian way of life, and that it was time we followed the lead of France and made it illegal for women to wear burqas in this country.
Fred Nile, who appears to be on speed dial for this re-occurring story, said the case (involving Colombian men) showed how easy it would be for Muslim ladies to hide a bomb or a Kalashnikov up their Taliban-style frock. Liberal senator Corey Bernardi blogged about the issue too, billing the (Colombian) case as something of a final straw in the defence of our way of life.
Logic would suggest that the Wollongong case also showed the need to ban clown costumes, Scream masks, Groucho Marx glasses and anything else which could be used to obscure one’s identity for criminal ends. But the fact that it involved burqas pressed popular buttons, as there is something about this particular form of attire which unnerves and irritates so many Australians, as is clearly the case elsewhere in the Western world.
There are only so many issues a person can get worked up about, and I’m in no hurry to add banning the burqa to my list. It seems to require a lot of angry energy, and given the miniscule number of women you ever see in this country getting around in the head-to-toe letterbox ensemble, the degree of outrage it generates eclipses the actual threat it poses to society.
But for all these occasional displays of hysteria from the ban the burqa brigade, there’s something more alarming about the hip-and-groovy stylings of those who oppose the ban out of an unquestioning commitment to multiculturalism.
If the burqa debate encourages stupid generalisations or far-fetched scenarios from conservative people, of the bombs up frocks kind, it also invites the most cloth-eared relativist nonsense from progressives who claim to champion feminist values but will come over all confused when presented with something which is about nothing other then the oppression of women.
Tony Abbott has found himself on the receiving end of some abuse over the pas couple of days for making a fairly bland and honest observation that he’s not comfortable with the burqa as a mandated form of clothing for women in this country of ours.
As with others who have dared to question this dodgy fashion item, Abbott’s remarks have been attacked as offensive to the idea of ``choice’’ and ``diversity’‘.
Surely there’s something almost comical about using those two words at in the context of the burqa debate? The burqa demonstrates diversity in the same way that not letting girls go to school or throwing rocks at female adulterers demonstrates diversity.
It demonstrates choice in the same way that arranged marriages or female circumcision demonstrate choice. It’s an inherently sexist device, the purpose of which was best evidenced by Sheik Taj Al Din Hilaly with his daft metaphorical pronouncements about the danger of ``uncovered meat’‘, a means of neutralising female sexuality while giving men an excuse for shocking behaviour in the company of unchaste, unveiled women.
It’s a difficult issue for countries such as ours because banning the burqa, and the burqa itself, are of themselves both offensive to our egalitarian, fair-go ethos. As a result it’s unlikely that there will ever be any legislation to outlaw it in this country.
The attitude of law-makers, understandably, across both sides of politics has been to offer a pretty muted opinion on the goodness or badness of the burqa, and then bat away inquiries as to whether anything should be done about it.
That’s exactly what Abbott did this week when, with a high degree of prompting during an interview, he was asked to comment about the very interesting case in Western Australia right now where defence lawyers have asked a judge to rule as to whether a female witness should be allowed to wear a full burqa when she testifies next week on a fraud case, as it will prevent the jury from seeing her facial expressions.
Abbott wasn’t hunting for a headline, he merely (and eventually) responded to the question in an honest and non-inflammatory way.
``I don’t want to interfere in the operations of our legal system but I have said it before and let me say it again, I find the burqa a particularly confronting form of attire,’’ Abbott said.
``I would very much wish that fewer Australians would choose it.’‘
For this comment Abbott was fitted up in cyberspace as a dog-whistling racist, and described on Twitter as a klansman and a redneck. A couple of the comments were at least comical. ``Abbott says burqa is `confronting’ - this from a man who waggles his nuts around in a pair of budgie smugglers’’ wrote Corinne Grant, showing a welcome level of humour. Grant was in a minority as the overwhelming reaction was to denounce Abbott as some kind of monster for saying the idea of compelling women to cover themselves head-to-toe in public was undesirable.
(Interestingly, Julia Gillard faced no similar dog-whistling accusations yesterday when she said that, as a lawyer who had spent much of her life in a courtroom with Slater and Gordon, she did not believe that witnesses in court cases should be allowed to have their faces covered at all.)
Abbott’s critics also rolled out the undergraduate comparison with the sisterhood, saying there was no difference between nuns’ habits and burqas, ignoring the small fact that nuns represent a tiny and obscure section of the female population which has embraced a life of religiosity, versus the conviction of orthodox Islamic men that the other 50 per cent of the planet should be compelled to cover up as a matter of course.
The criticisms of Abbott showed that ideological allegiance trumps common sense every time. His comments gave voice to what you would think is one of the central tenets of feminism, that women should have a right to choose, and should not have their appearance or their behaviour dictated by a bunch of rules imposed by men.
It’s just that because the words came out of Abbott’s mouth they were denounced accordingly.
Abbott’s comments were probably also an accurate expression where Australia should be on this issue _ not taking the fruitless and incendiary step of banning a piece of clothing, but being honest and up-front in saying that it’s out of step with our way of life.
The reaction to his remarks reminds us that offering that opinion is the fast track to being accused of racism, oddly enough by those who also claim to abhor sexism, except when it’s cloaked in the muddled language of choice and diversity and we’re all too pathetically squeamish to call it for what it truly is.
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