These “Ban the Burqa” sentiments I cannot avoid in Australia are driving me mad. There’s Facebook pages, a disgusting mural in Newtown (http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/should-this-mural-be-painted-over/), fringe groups organising protests in the city, and so on. Not to mention Belgium’s recent banning of the burqa, following in France’s footsteps (no surprises there…).
My friend was nice enough to take me to Q&A on Monday night, and it was a religious special. Near the end of the episode, an elderly (white) man asked the panel if they thought the burqa/niqab were barriers to human relationships. Thankfully, the panel (bar Jacqueline Grey, but she irritated me all evening) didn’t agree – Eva Cox and Susan Carland were the most vocal responders to this question. The fact that people think this perplexes me. How is it a barrier? When I’m talking to someone, I don’t particularly focus on their nose. You could, in response, argue that if you can’t see their mouth, you won’t know if they’re happy, amused, etc… If someone’s genuinely happy or amused, it shows in their eyes. What’s that quote? “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. Not the nose, mouth, cheekbones, freckles.
Some people use the argument that these garments are used by Islamic men to oppress women, and by banning them, they are helping these women. How? If a woman is made to wear one by her overbearing husband, and is then not legally able to go out in public with it on, she will not be allowed out in public. Period. And if she chooses to wear one, which many do (since I find it extremely hard to believe that with over 1 billion Muslims in the world, all of the males are oppressive and sexist; not to mention the Qur’an encourages modest dressing for both sexes), she has that choice ripped away from her by a government claiming to care for her rights. Makes total sense?
This prejudice is both astounding and depressing. I would love for people to think about their views for five minutes, which is long enough for any intelligent being to work out that their views are tainted by ill-informed prejudice.
In response to the man’s question, Jacqueline Grey mentioned that Australians want to be open to different religions, but also support equality – as if implying that allowing these women to wear their religious garments creates inequality (also, not all Australians support equality, and as a biblical scholar you’d think she’d be well aware of this). In response to that, someone tweeted “There’s nothing equal about asking one group to deny their identity”. Well said, friend. Well said.