When the first pictures emerged of Afghan women celebrating the demise of the Taliban by scornfully tearing off their blue burqas and trampling them into the sand and grit of their ruined country, it became clear that the burqa is a symbol of female oppression and slavery under Islamist rule. Swathed in acres of suffocating cloth, women and girls are savagely treated for showing a few inches of uncovered flesh. The same reaction to this garment is seen whenever towns or villages in the Levant are liberated from Isis control. Under Isis’s sharia laws, captured women become the property of their captors, treated at best as inhuman beings, invisible, their opinions neither sought nor wanted. And at worst as sex slaves to be brutalised. For many women, burqas may as well be their funeral shrouds.
In the Senate last week, Pauline Hanson, far from invisible in her black burqa, liberated herself from within its clutches to make a dramatic and theatrical point. Yet rather than encouraging intelligent and informed debate, Senator Hanson’s action provoked a lip-trembling tongue-lashing from Attorney-General George Brandis, who denounced her dramatic gesture as ‘appalling’, going so far as to suggest it would encourage the radicalisation of otherwise moderate Muslims.
Alas, Senator Brandis missed the point entirely, as Hal Colbatch writes this week. Burqas are not the religious vestments deserving of our respect that the ‘bed-wetting’ Senator pompously proclaims, but rather they are the trappings of the dispossessed, of those who have no hope of ever enjoying the equality that we in the West take for granted. Those cheering Senator Hanson’s actions would have included many Muslim women, although many would have cheered in silence for fear of upsetting their menfolk. Moreover, it is not the mocking or banning of burqas that causes terrorism. Quite the opposite: enjoying the freedoms of belonging to Western society by wearing comfortable, attractive, short skirts or bare arms is what enrages the jihadists most and is likely to single an individual out as a preferred terrorist target.
What was telling, of course, was the reaction to Senator Brandis’s diatribe. Thunderous applause from the Left, reconfirming Labor’s, the Greens’ and many Independents’ support of all things Islamic, including that religion’s oppressive, totalitarian misogyny.
Senator Brandis hysterically attacked Senator Hanson’s supposed ‘bigotry’, yet this is the very thing he informed us three years ago we are all entitled to. ‘People do have the right to be bigots’ he blurted out in parliament during the first failed attempt to reform 18C. He was right then, but wrong now. There is nothing bigoted about parliament debating whether or not a medieval item of female oppression has any place in modern Australia.
Perhaps the eminent Senator should see for himself how seriously he would be taken if he, too, were wrapped in black fabric, his patronising swagger concealed and his bluster lost in the smothering weave that he thinks should remain sacrosanct for fear of offending the oppressors.
This magazine does not see the need, at this stage, to ban the burqa in Australia, but understands why many nations – including Muslim countries – have done so. However, rather than being revered or admired as Senator Brandis desires, it should be made clear that the burqa is only begrudgingly tolerated in an otherwise freedom-loving society. Feminists need to drag themselves away from the utterly nonsensical idea that the burqa is in any way a symbol of female emancipation and free choice for the majority of Muslim women. Furthermore, restrictions on the wearing of the burqa in situations where citizens are subject to surveillance or identification scrutiny (such as airports, banks, courts of law, sports stadiums etc) must be enforced.
The greatest hope we have for defeating the Islamist war upon our way of life is by encouraging Muslims to move away from the harsher, more restrictive practices of their religion and culture, rather than by pandering to them. Those burqa-shredding women of the liberated towns of the Middle East deserve nothing less.
Grant’s ‘great silence’
No doubt the ABC will be delighted by the success of their latest ‘identity’ recruit, Stan Grant, in fomenting discord between black and white Australians with his spurious yet emotive attacks on the symbols of our colonial history. ‘Great silence’? The greatest silence in our public discourse is, of course, the silence of the ABC and the Left when it comes to the feral conditions, violence and sexual abuse in indigenous outback towns.