More than 20,000 people pledged to join a Ban the Burqa protest yesterday by donning balaclavas and trenchcoats to show that… people shouldn’t wear balaclavas and trenchcoats. Or something like that.
Those who want the burqa banned are facing some pretty big hurdles. Sure, there’s all the civil liberties guff, but they also have a big public relations problem because their side of the debate seems to get regularly hijacked by illiterate, hate-filled, intolerant, violence-prone, ignorant bigots.
So here’s some advice to the burqa banners as to how to keep ‘on message’:
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Is the case of the niqab-clad Sydney woman who berated a police officer and fronted court this week with an aggressive all-male cheer squad a sign that multiculturalism has failed? Or does it merely signal that the people involved in this case are simply a bunch of persecuted, trouble-making ratbags who would rather have a fight than a feed?
Judging from the commentary this week many people have opted for the first conclusion. I would argue strongly in favour of the second.
The danger in rightly identifying the conduct of these individuals as appalling and unwelcome in this country is that it will get cited as proof-positive of a broader problem. It should not be used to besmirch the name of the vast majority of decent people within Australia’s Lebanese Muslim community who go about their business and live their lives in a civilised and productive manner. Equally, we should call this sort of behaviour for what it is.
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Congratulations shock jocks, David Oldfield, Cory Bernardi, Fred Nile. You have your anti-hero, your Carnita.
All causes need a strong narrative, and anti-Muslim and anti-burqa sentiment just got one. Carnita Matthews, 47, had a conviction for a false accusation against a cop overturned because the court could not be sure it was indeed her that walked into a police station and made the complaint.
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In light of laws which have recently come into effect France banning the wearing of the niqab and burqa, and WA Minister for Women’s Interests Robyn McSweeney’s recent comments that she finds the burqa to be ‘a very oppressive garment’, Senator Michaelia Cash, opposition spokesperson for the Status of Women, outlines her thoughts on the veiled women in Australia.
Much has been made of the debate over whether women living in Australia should wear a burqa.
As a Liberal, I believe in a free, fair, open and democratic society where people have the right to make their own choices about the way they live their lives.
It is my opinion however that the wearing of not only the burqa, but any apparel that completely covers a person’s face, is alien to our Australian culture and our values.
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Over the past week, two 20-something French students protested France’s new law banning the burqa by filming themselves walking through Paris in a niqab (similar to the burqa but with a slit for the eyes) – teamed with mini-shorts and black high heels.
The self-titled ‘Niqabitches’ described it as a tongue-in-cheek criticism of the ban.
You’ve gotta love the French – particularly French students. Although some may see the Niqabitches’ protest as ridiculing the niqab, their message was quintessentially French: vive la différence! or each to their own.
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This mural has appeared in the trendy Sydney suburb of Newtown.
It was painted by the owner of the property, shop owner Sergio Redegalli who also, apparently, has a ban-the-burqa bumper sticker.
Locals have complained and council officials have visited the owner to talk to him about removing but have said in a statement that legally their hands are tied. There’s a pretty simple freedom of speech issue at play here: should it be painted over?
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If I were ever going to rob a bank I would do so in character. Specifically, I’d go in wearing the giant green St George Dragon mascot suit.
Aside from the delicious irony of a bank being robbed by its own mascot, the stunt would serve as a timely reminder to Reverend Fred Nile- and others- that there are a range of uniforms, sporting apparel, masks and other coverings that conceal the face and the identity of the wearer.
Last week Nile from the Christian Democratic Party introduced a Bill in the NSW Upper House to make it an offence (maximum penalty $550) for “a person, without reasonable excuse to wear a face covering in a public place.” Note, that’s not just in banks or service stations, but in any public place.
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One night in an impromptu makeshift dance party in Mosul, in Iraq, I met a young girl of age 20 who I started to talk to about Iraqi politics. We spoke in English - her fractured English was a lot better than my fractured Arabic – and discussed topics as broad as the disconnect between the political class and the people, to the Bollywood blockbuster Slumdog Millionaire.
I fondly remember that conversation, for one simple reason - Lubna was wearing the niqab, or, what most Australians would refer to (incorrectly) as the burqa. She wasn’t what I had envisaged a typical niqab wearing woman to be like.
She was partying and dancing next to both males and females who were drinking alcohol and rocking out to Katy Perry. She was progressive, easy going and open-minded.
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This month’s debate about banning the burqa was set off by a blog post written by Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi. But instead of banning a piece of clothing, perhaps it’s time to consider banning him, instead.
Imagine a future Australia with Cory Bernardis on every street corner. Where children enjoying an otherwise pleasant family day at the beach could find themselves distraught by the sight of a horde of South Australian Liberal Party senators descending on the sand with their terrifying political thought bubbles. Is this the kind of future we want?
Left unchecked, Cory Bernardis could form ghettos, with God Save The Queen being played over loudspeakers five times a day. Youngsters dressed like Cory Bernardi will gather to listen to bands that performed at WOMADelaide, flashing their Young Liberals membership cards while they cite studies that say climate change isn’t caused by humans.
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If a woman walks down the street in a mini skirt and someone calls her a slut, feminists will be quick to object. However if a Muslim woman walks down in a burqa then many feminists are happy to concede that she is oppressed, submissive and brainwashed.
Unfortunately many feminists still believe that no Muslim woman could ever choose to wear the veil of her own free will.
As a Muslim feminist I find this infuriating, condescending and patronising.
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