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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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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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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