herald

Thursday 17 August 2017

Just because you don't agree with something doesn't make it a threat

There's something deeply troubling about the burqa. The idea that women should be hidden from view for reasons of modesty or religious belief is disturbing.

Any system that deems that women should be covered from head to toe in black cloth, whether out of modesty or tradition, is perturbing.

The notion that it's there to protect them or indeed prevent them from 'tempting' men is a sham.

The vast majority of men are well able to control themselves around women (For those who can't, it's nothing to do with the women, rather the men themselves).

But, equally, there's something deeply unsettling about the way that a piece of cloth has become a metaphor for some kind of threat to the West.

There's a horrible, xenophobic, anti-Islamic undertone to 'ban the burqa' campaigners.

This week Australia lifted a short-lived ban on facial coverings, including burqas and niqabs. The government had announced earlier that "persons with facial coverings" would no longer be allowed in the public galleries of the House of Representatives or the Senate.

And while I don't like the burqa, and I can't understand why a woman would choose to wear it, I don't want to live in a world where governments tell us what we can and can't wear.

Surely as long as people aren't walking around naked or wearing see-through underwear and nothing else at playgrounds, we have the right to wear exactly what we like.

The fact that a very small number of women wear the burqa has made a need to ban them even less crucial.

It also hasn't been proven that these women are victims of more gender repression than others. What about the misogyny women and girls encounter every day in Western society?

The status of women in many religions and cultures has always been an issue. What about the Catholic church and its treatment of women?

Security wise, it's not a threat either. Women can just show their face by lifting their veil and to suggest that you could hide or carry things underneath is the same as suggesting you could carry things in baggy pants or a buggy.

DEBATE

Banning the burqa, and even engaging in a debate on banning it, panders to our most paranoid selves.

And as we live in a multicultural society, the banning of a religious item seems to me to be a sure-fire way to marginalise Muslims and unnecessarily scaremonger.

To paraphrase Voltaire: "I may disagree with what you wear, but I will defend to the death, your right to wear it".

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