An ugly Australia
Photo Courtesy of: Paul Zanetti
IT IS NOT OFTEN that I inject opinion when framing a new question for the regular Readers’ Poll on this page. But last night I couldn’t resist it.
I wrote: ‘Offensive question to ask but: Should the burqa be banned in public in Australia?’
Even as I posed it, I knew that in this climate of fear, even hatred -- maybe in any climate in this country – the answer would be overwhelmingly YES.
The latest figures attest to that: Yes 66%, No 20 %. Because of the debate about banks and the ludicrous decision to put burqa-wearers in a glassed-in enclosure at Parliament House, I added An option about ‘in official buildings’ and 12% said Yes to that.
Which puts some form of burqa ban at close to 80-% approval And that is sad. Although it doesn’t surprise me.
Don’t get me wrong. If they can force me to put on a tie to get into the gallery at Parliament House they should be allowed to ask you to remove identity-obscuring masks for security reasons.
If a police officer asks a driver to remove a head wrap, even a scarf, to compare a face with a driver’s licence photo, that is fine by me.
also be verboten
And if I can’t wear an identity-disguising motorcycle helmet or a balaclava into a bank or a courtroom, then a burqa (or bur-kwa as the snags-short Jacqui Lambie calls it) should also be verboten.
Come to think of it… those of us who oppose such things as burqas in court readily accept judges in their robes and wigs. Accoutrements designed to infer authority and partly to disguise the judge.
If a woman, for cultural or religious reasons, wants to wear a burqa, or the partially concealing niqab or hijab elsewhere in Australia, then that should not be legislated against. There must be freedom of choice to wear a scarf, a veil, a yarmulke, a beard.
I’m sure when little kids first see a nun, looking like a giant penguin, it must be confronting. And don’t get me started on the flowing gowns and hats that the Pell brigade regularly wear in public.
I think Prime Minister Abbott’s views were unfairly edited and skewed on the TV news last night and in some newspaper reports. In the House, and at a press conference, this week, the PM was honest in his conservative view that he personally found the wearing of the burqa ‘confronting’ but he accepted Australia is a free country and there is freedom of choice.
(Reportedly, he has also asked the Speaker to scrap the plan to put any burqa-wearers behind glass with possibly unruly schoolchildren).
demonise and alienate
Malcolm Turnbull has poured some cool waters of reason on to the debate. On the Today show he said: ‘We don't want to have debates like this being turned into some sort of coded attack on the Muslim community. The terrorists want us to demonise and alienate the Muslim community in Australia’.
My cartoonist Paul Zanetti unleashes his serious side in print today (apart from raising the irony of that man Ned Kelly wearing a metal burqa) and I am happy to air his view.
By Paul Zanetti
If we're going to have a debate about banning the burqa, a little honesty wouldn't go astray.
The niqab is a cloth facial covering, with only the eyes visible (which is often misunderstood as the burqa).
A few days ago, a misleading article in the Sydney Morning Herald stated the burqa is a religious requirement. With that false proposition, the reporter promptly marched off to a couple of constitutional lawyers seeking advice that a ban of the burqua would be 'unconstitutional' on 'religious grounds'.
Never let the facts get in the way of an agenda.
The burqa isn't a religious requirement, it's a cultural choice.
Nowhere in any Islamic teachings or instructions is the word 'burqa' or a requirement for women to cover their face. The closest you'll find is that men and women dress modestly. That's open to interpretation.
The burqa is the full body covering, head to toe. That means the eyes, too, with a mesh for seeing.
The hijab is a modest veil that covers (around) the head and chest. It doesn't cover the face,
But for this argument, we'll consider the current burqa ban argument to include both the niqab and burqa, neither of which are required by the Islamic faith.
The burqa's true origin is cultural. It stems back to the Bedouin desert tribes, to protect from harsh desert sun and sandstorms. ('Bedouin' derives from the Arabic word 'Bedu' - 'the desert dwellers')
So, as far as the constitution goes, there's no legal impediment to banning the burqa. But where there's a reasonable argument, is on security grounds.
These days CCTV is a vital part of security and identifying suspects of criminal activity. Just this week we saw the example of a couple of brothers caught on CCTV after bashing a football fan who stepped in to defend a woman.
The only way they were caught was security vision. They were immediately identified, posted on various websites, shared on Facebook. Within two hours of the first web posting, they walked into a police station and handed themselves in.
If it's not permissible to wear a balaclava, helmet or other facial coverings into a bank, or government building then all full-face coverings must apply. That includes a burqa or niqab. Racial or religious arguments are farcical and are easily dismissed.
Many non-Bedouins wear burqas. In fact, most burqa wearers are not Bedouin. Many Bedouins are not Muslim, and many Muslims are not Bedouins.
Women who choose to wear a burqa or niqab, do it by choice. That's not enough to claim discrimination if asked to remove it, or not enough for any protection under any higher constitutional law.
In these times, it's reasonable for the government to make the right laws on security grounds.
One rule for all. No exceptions.
That’s Zanetti. I’ll finish with that telling line from Malcolm Turnbull:‘The terrorists want us to demonise and alienate the Muslim community in Australia’.
And there’s always the Ned Kelly argument.