Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ban on the Burqa

One of the more interesting discussions about the current debate surrounding the French senate's ban on the Burqa and the emotional response by many Australians to the recent 'visibility' of Muslim women in our communities, occurred last night on the SBS television show Insight. I was impressed by the very personal reaction of Jacques Myard, member of the French National Assembly to Muslim women who cover their faces: 'I am the victim because those people refuse me to see their face, to communicate with them and I think this violates the common will to live together, especially in our society where woman are on equal footing to men in every sphere of the Republic'. Regardless of whether Muslim women choose to wear a Burqa (and some in the audience claimed they were wearing it as an assertion of individuality) or feel compelled to wear it to conform to religious beliefs or family pressures, the Burqa has become an outward sign of fundamentalist Islam and it is difficult for many to separate in their mind the symbol from the terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists that occurred on 9/11 ~ in the same way that the swastika is a potent symbol of Nazi Germany and still causes grief to those who remember the Holocaust. On this note, Cori Bernardi, Senator from South Australia raised the issue of security in relation to the wearing of the Burqa, apparently there have been incidences of bank robbers disguising their identity by wearing it. He said: 'So why all of a sudden are we having - making exceptions for our security and our cultural practices in this country for a tiny subset of people who are adhering to a fundamental, an extreme fundamentalist version of a religion'? Good point! Are we taking political correctness and multi-culturalism a bit too far, or, are we so desperate to be seen as a nation that applauds difference that we will encourage and support separatism? As far as I can see in the Quran, both men and women should be modest, but there is a section that says that women should 'lower their gaze and be modest'. Interestingly enough, one woman in the audience did say that individuals interpret 'modesty' in their own way. But I'm getting off the point. I think that the real issue here is that Islam has become politicised post 9/11 and we have become more vigilant about possible threats not only for our own physical safety, but also for our Western ideals and culture that we feel may become eroded if we continue to make exceptions for others who differ from us in what they believe and how they live. My concern is that it is the Muslim women who are carrying the burden, not only of visibly supporting their religious views, but of suffering certain injustices because or our fears and anxieties.

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