18 August 2011
Last month Belgium introduced a ban on wearing the Burqa in public. It is the second European country to do so, France was the first in April this year. The controversial ban sparked debate and split public opinion in many countries, including Australia.
Now before I get started I want to clear up a few things. For the sake of this blog post, I am not talking about the hijab (also called a head scarf). I believe the hijab to be on the same level of individual right as a cross, turban, cap or beanie. The burqa and the niqab cover the entire body of a woman, except her feet. The niqab has an open hole for the eyes, while the burqa has a mesh netting over the woman's eyes.
Now that that's out of the way, we can get down to the juicy stuff. To ban, or not to ban?
I think that seeing a woman wearing a niqab or a burqa can be very confronting and that is one of the main reasons some people have such an objection to it. It is quite intimidating and does pose some security risks. How do you know the person wearing the burqa is actually who they say they are?
We saw this issue come to fruition in Australia in June last during the case of Carnita Matthews. Matthews, a 47-year-old Muslim woman, was pulled over by the police for not displaying her P-plates. She claimed that the officer who stopped her had attempted to tear the burqa off her face. This claim was later proven untrue by the police patrol car video camera.
She was found guilty of making a false statement and sentenced to jail for six months. Ms Matthews appealed, saying there was no proof she was the person who made the statement, as the person who handed the document in to the police station wore a burqa. Her appeal was upheld because her identity could not be proven.
It is a significant issue when the police and courts can't prove the identity of a suspect. I think it is pretty clear that there are a number of problems that come with wearing the burqa.
That being said, I am against a burqa ban in any country, including Australia.
My main reason for being against a burqa ban is that it is an attack on personal freedoms. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are a major part of any functioning society. This is a basic human right, and I think it is wrong to take it away from a certain group of people, no matter whom that group involves or what they choose to wear.
This brings me to my next point - choice. It is widely argued that a burqa ban should be enforced because the wearing of it is not a personal choice by the woman, but rather a male enforces it. This could include a father, brother or husband. Some people believe that the niqab and burqa are symbols of female oppression, and contrary to women's rights. I don't want to deny that may in fact be the case for some women and some communities, and to me, this is an incredible injustice.
However I do not believe that all Muslim women who wear a burqa or niqab are forced to do so. After all, a lot of women choose to wear nothing much at all. Is it so surprising that some would choose to cover up? For some women it is a choice, and I think that they should be able to make that decision.
If we were to enforce a burqa ban on the basis of the argument that it is a sign of female oppression enforced by male relatives, then the ban is a contradiction. It is an even bigger discrimination than forcing the woman to wear it in the first place. Banning women (or anyone for that matter) from wearing something is just as bad, in my mind, as forcing them wear something.
Australia claims to be a multicultural society. In fact, the ‘People of Australia Multicultural Policy Booklet' on the government's immigration website has a statement from our Prime Minister. Julia Gillard writes, “Australia has provided a new home and a chance at a better life for millions of people. I am a migrant. My family embraced the sense of opportunity and community that they found in Australia and the possibilities for their children that this multicultural country offered them.”
I would like to know how she would feel if her family migrated here, settled in and started a new life and were then told that red-heads were now banned and anyone with red hair was not allowed in public places. Now, I know this is extreme, and it is very unlikely that it will happen but in my eyes it has the same outcome. She would be forced to change herself, her identity and conform to a governed lifestyle. A burqa ban is asking the same of Muslim women.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this global issue, so send me a tweet @Staceylee_ or leave a comment below.
Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been approved.
Benidict, Qld (5 October 2012 7:04AM) wrote:
I have a feeling the places like France (and proponents of the burqa banning) want to ban the burqa just as a first step, and to test the legality of it. The fact that there are relatively few people who wear the burqa means that there are very few people who will be personally affected, and less challenge to it. If it can be implemented successfully, I have no doubt it'll be expanded to include other headgear, because there will be a precedent.However, issues about how many people wear it, how people feel about the burqa are irrelevant to the argument. In a free and democratic society we should not be telling people what they are allowed to wear. It doesn't matter if it's a veil or a hoody or anything else.The argument that SEEMS most credible (or maybe is just the most fashionable, because it allows bigotry to hide behind feminism) is the argument that the burqa is a symbol of women's oppression.' For some people it might be, but that doesn't mean it should be banned. It's ridiculous It would be like banning crucifixes to prevent paedophilia. Ridiculous, and ignoring the core issue. We have a criminal system that can, and will, deal with abuse.To be honest, I don't really like the burqa. I also don't like moustaches or those silly-looking wool hats with the pompoms. But, if people want to wear them, fine.
Randy, Sydney (9 March 2012 10:17AM) wrote:
Banning it was totally the right thing to do, France is a muarte, western society and needs to remain as such. The burqa simply does not promote the equality Women have battled so hard for in Western Society.On top of that the vast majority of French people (according to various news sources) are in favour of the ban, its there country and heck if they want to ban it then good on them for doing something are Politicians are quite simply to scared to do themselves.
JA, Australia (20 August 2011 12:51AM) wrote:
The Netherlands have also passed legislation to ban the burqa, as has Quebec (Canada). It is also banned in public places and schools in Tunisia, Turkey, Malaysia and Syria. I think Muslims who migrate to a Western country to avail themselves of all the freedoms and opportunities that were denied them in their country of origin, should show us the respect of integrating into our culture (as have all previous migrant groups). To isolate yourself and shut off such a vital means of communication as your face is an insult to us who openly show our face to the world. I might add it also insults the generations of Western women who have fought for the freedom and equality such Muslim women openly reject. The opinions of such women as Aayan Hirsi Ali might also be enlightening on this issue
Ben, Balmain, NSW (19 August 2011 10:55AM) wrote:
Couldn't agree with you more Miss Lee. The wearing of the Burqa does pose many issues, some of which still need to be addressed effectively (like the Carnita Matthews case). But we also need to remember that acceptance, freedom not to mention immigration, are the underlying factors that have made this country so great. We don't need to agree with everybody's choices, but we do need to accept and allow our fellow Australian's to have choices, we do not want to lose our democratic rights, do we?
Chris , Windsow (18 August 2011 8:42PM) wrote:
Ban the ducking thing