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The burqa out of habit

By John Hargreaves - 17 July 2017 18

Burka

We see and hear many people gasping at horror at the sight of a burqa or a niqab. Cries of diminishment of women, exploitation of women and the potential for a cover up of the body to assist terror.

For me, the burqa and niqabs are symbols of a religion practised by women.

Whether the women are subjective to men in regard to their garb or whether the men, insisting on this total cover up is on the basis of a woman’s modesty or whether these vestments are a way to continue the subjugation of women are in my mind moot points, albeit they are real to those affected.

I believe that we should respect the right of people to display their adherence to a God of their choice and separate this from the realities of Australian ways of life and work towards a change in culture.

I abhor the subjugation of women (and other non-heterosexual people for that matter), I detest the notion that only a husband can say what a woman can wear in the protection of her modesty, I deplore the diminution of women through the hiding of their bodies and countenances.

But banning burqas and niqabs is not the way to go.

I was reminded of when I was a kid and being taught (and flogged) by the good nuns of the Catholic Church. I don’t recall the order but there were heaps of teaching and nursing nuns who wore head to tail black outfits which only showed the face. They wore gloves and big boots (not to mention carrying around canes with fish hooks on the end to rip the flesh off the six-year-old Johno).

But things changed over the years and now the nuns don’t necessarily wear such diminishing yet intimidating outfits, although a trip to Rome or South East Asia will reveal some Orders still wear this stuff.

I wondered how it came to be that my mate’s sister, the nursing nun, who wore the garments of Christ in my youth, now wore a lovely beige skirt, with a fawn blouse and a matching cardie, with her head uncovered and the only sign of her religious commitment were the two gold crosses she wore on the blouse lapels. She even exposed her legs but covered them with stockings! Whoa!

How come such a massive change came about?

It turns out that the permission for nuns to go mufti was given by the Grand Poobahs of the Micks, the Pope(s) as a result of the Vatican II Conference.

As part of the sweeping changes to the Church, including local languages, the priest facing the congregation, the Popes, John XXIII and Paul VI, liberated the Church from a string of ancient stuff which was out of step with emerging societies around the world. I must say though, that there is still some opposition to these changes but they are shrinking.

Back to the habits. The Popes gave Bishops the OK to allow nuns (and priests and religious Brothers for that matter) to wear clothing which was functional, modest yet part of the people they were sworn before God to serve.

Nice one, Johno 23 and Pauly 6! But here’s the rub. It still took the Church hierarchy, through the Poobahs at different levels, and all males, to give the girls the permission to be girls. I don’t like the process but I like the outcome.

So now, if only the Muslim hierarchy across the world would follow suit, we could do away with the burqa and niqab and let the girls practice their religion and blend in with the rest of us.

I know a number of Muslim women who only wear the hajib when visiting the mosque as I know many Catholic women who still wear some form of head dress when going to Mass. But they are exercising a choice not allowed to too many women.

It seems to me that any religion which is dominated by one sex over another, is a falsehood.

If there is God, He or She would regard the souls of earthlings as equal. When I was at school no-one told me that souls had gender.

Perhaps, when the radicals and extreme fundamentals of religion are dispensed with, the Poobahs of all religions would be good enough to recognise that women are equals.

And for those who think I’m singling out the Muslims, think again. There is a sect of Judaism, practiced in Belconnen which diminishes women in as much a demeaning way as you could imagine. Its practices are medieval and out of the dark ages. Sensitivity prevents me from going into detail.

George Browning, Anglican Bishop of Canberra Goulburn at the time said at a dinner I went to once, “one has nothing to fear from the fundamentalist, but everything to fear from the radical.” I fear the radical fundamentalist and I don’t differentiate between the Muslims, the Jews, the Christians of the US South or anyone else who wishes to say that heaven is theirs and they can get there through either converting or killing non-believers. With that fear goes a sadness that women are subjugated and diminished in the name of a benevolent God. Yeah right!

And it saddens me more to know that the women can’t rise up against this oppression and call it for what it is.

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18 Responses to
The burqa out of habit
Mysteryman 9:55 am 19 Jul 17

Spiral said :

Garfield said :

We should, and I believe to a large extent do, have freedom of religion only so far as it does not conflict with secular laws.

Such as discrimination based on sex?

Any religion which, for example, does not allow women to become clergy should change or be fined for every service they conduct.

While we’re at it, we should fine companies like Bras N Things who refused to employ men as sales assistants and fitting specialists.

John Hargreaves 6:25 pm 18 Jul 17

Maya123 said :

Garfield said :

As to Burqas, I dislike the sight of them and see them as a symbol of the oppression of women and a commitment to a refusal to integrate into Australia. From what I’ve read they’re not even required by the religion. I believe in individual freedoms, which dictates allowing women to wear them where they so choose, however I also believe that a key to success in maintaining a functional multicultural society is regular interaction and integration between different cultural groups. Burqas are specifically designed to isolate women from strangers with the physical barrier in front of the face, and so effectively work against that interaction and integration. Considering moderate Morocco has banned the production and sale of Burqas, I’m leaning towards banning them being good for Australia despite being rather libertarian.

I agree and I object to John Hargreaves, a man, telling me, a woman, that “For me, the burqa and niqabs are symbols of a religion practised by women”.

They are designed to keep woman out of the eyes of ‘other’ men (and in the outside world in practice, other women too), as the only men who should be able to see her face are family members. They are designed to separate these woman from society; to isolate them; to make it easier to control/’own’ them. Covering the face should be banned; unless their is a good medical reason. I have read a translation of the Koran and I did not read where a woman must cover her face. Have you read the Koran John before commenting? The translation (or interpretation I read; I think it might have referred to the translation that way) said a woman must be modest and cover her breasts (quoting from memory) with two layers of cloth when of child bearing age, but can remove one layer when past this age, but it is better if she doesn’t. It didn’t mention covering her face. There are always a few strong speaking women, even in the most fundamental religions (including Christian groups and other religions in this comment too) who speak strongly in favour of their religion’s restrictions on woman as being their religion; their choice, modesty, etc, and these few woman likely have raised, ‘respected’, and more privileged positions in their religion. But this is not the situation for the majority of women in their society. The majority don’t have these visible, spokeswomen privileged positions; they are discriminated against and would be stepped on if ‘they’ attempted to speak out. It would be very difficult for them to practice freedom and remove their burqa. It is not a choice without a struggle. Therefore it is not a choice!

Actually I agree with you but don’t have a silver bullet to change this attitude other than the lesson learnt by the nuns of Oz, not the nuns of elsewhere.

John Hargreaves 6:21 pm 18 Jul 17

Garfield said :

Spiral said :

We need to stop allowing religion to be an excuse for evil behaviour.

True Freedom of Religion has no place in Australia. We wouldn’t allow someone of Aztec descent to kidnap people and cut their hearts out atop a tall building. Thus what we call Freedom of religion is really only allowing people the freedom to practice religions we find acceptable.

It is time we put all religions on notice. Improve yourself or ship out..

We should, and I believe to a large extent do, have freedom of religion only so far as it does not conflict with secular laws. If a religious person decides not to drink alcohol or to save themselves for marriage, that’s fine. However if someone marries off their under age daughter or subjects them to FGM they should be, and I believe are, prosecuted.

Most critically, citizens need to retain the right to criticise religions. Blasphemy laws need to remain a strict no go area. Seeing the former governor of Jakarta sentenced to 2 years in prison for telling some fishermen they were being lied to when they were told they couldn’t vote for him because he was not a Muslim was a tragedy. I’m glad to see that Amnesty International is campaigning for his release. That sort of thing happening in a “moderate” & “tolerant” Islamic nation is scary as all hell.

As to Burqas, I dislike the sight of them and see them as a symbol of the oppression of women and a commitment to a refusal to integrate into Australia. From what I’ve read they’re not even required by the religion. I believe in individual freedoms, which dictates allowing women to wear them where they so choose, however I also believe that a key to success in maintaining a functional multicultural society is regular interaction and integration between different cultural groups. Burqas are specifically designed to isolate women from strangers with the physical barrier in front of the face, and so effectively work against that interaction and integration. Considering moderate Morocco has banned the production and sale of Burqas, I’m leaning towards banning them being good for Australia despite being rather libertarian.

This is a very enlightened post. Thank you.

John Moulis 4:23 pm 18 Jul 17

I can’t see anything wrong with Muslim women wearing Burqas and Niqabs and Muslim men having beards but no moustaches. It’s called multiculturalism.

I’m in hospital at the moment and the Greek priest came in to see me this morning. Some people might think he looks a bit strange as well.

OLydia 1:57 pm 18 Jul 17

I find it strange that some say that wearing of burqas and niqabs are symbols of a religion practiced by women. The burqa is mainly worn by muslim women in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the niqab is favoured on the Arabian Peninsula, while women in many other countries wear a scarf or hijab. This geographic discrepancy indicates that the wearing of coverings is more a cultural aspect than a religious one. This extract from “The Other Side of the Veil: North African Women in France Respond to the Headscarf Affair” indicates that wearing of headcoverings by muslim women has been influenced by different religious interpretations as well as by politics. https://www.facinghistory.org/civic-dilemmas/brief-history-veil-islam

CanberraStreets 1:22 pm 18 Jul 17

The problem is not what people wear but why they wear it. We might all do better dealing with the actual issues, rather than the symbols. What is evident is that many women choose to wear certain attire as a visual representation of their faith – whether it is the burqa or a crucifix/star of David/Pentagram. If a person chooses to wear or not wear an item of clothing then it is up to them; if they are required to wear it than it does require further analysis.

In terms of enforced wardrobe, I found a recent furore in the US Congress more interesting. The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, directed that a reporter should not be admitted to the Speakers Lobby because she was wearing a sleeveless dress. It has created the amusing memes “women have the right to bare arms” and Sleeveless Friday; Ryan has now committed to modernising the dress code. This occured in a country we regard to be culturally equivalent to our own.

What seems to occur is that various institutions – religious, parliamentary, judicial being obvious examples – apply dress codes on people for reasons that are all but lost in the mists of time.

More broadly, few religions operate equitably or even logically. It wasn’t until 2008 that Australia consecrated its first female Anglican bishop and the rights of women to hold leadership roles in the Catholic Church are still lagging.

I do wonder how we, as a society, manage to tolerate institutions that apply restrictions that would be illegal if undertaken by any other legal entity.

Affirmative Action M 11:47 am 18 Jul 17

Full face coverings are horrible – they are designed to marginalise women and make them invisible.
To wear them in Australia is frankly an insult to Australians and shows contempt to us.

It would be like Australians going to a conservative Muslim country like Saudi Arabia and parading around in skimpy clothes – it would not be tolerated.

dungfungus 10:43 am 18 Jul 17

Garfield said :

Spiral said :

We need to stop allowing religion to be an excuse for evil behaviour.

True Freedom of Religion has no place in Australia. We wouldn’t allow someone of Aztec descent to kidnap people and cut their hearts out atop a tall building. Thus what we call Freedom of religion is really only allowing people the freedom to practice religions we find acceptable.

It is time we put all religions on notice. Improve yourself or ship out..

We should, and I believe to a large extent do, have freedom of religion only so far as it does not conflict with secular laws. If a religious person decides not to drink alcohol or to save themselves for marriage, that’s fine. However if someone marries off their under age daughter or subjects them to FGM they should be, and I believe are, prosecuted.

Most critically, citizens need to retain the right to criticise religions. Blasphemy laws need to remain a strict no go area. Seeing the former governor of Jakarta sentenced to 2 years in prison for telling some fishermen they were being lied to when they were told they couldn’t vote for him because he was not a Muslim was a tragedy. I’m glad to see that Amnesty International is campaigning for his release. That sort of thing happening in a “moderate” & “tolerant” Islamic nation is scary as all hell.

As to Burqas, I dislike the sight of them and see them as a symbol of the oppression of women and a commitment to a refusal to integrate into Australia. From what I’ve read they’re not even required by the religion. I believe in individual freedoms, which dictates allowing women to wear them where they so choose, however I also believe that a key to success in maintaining a functional multicultural society is regular interaction and integration between different cultural groups. Burqas are specifically designed to isolate women from strangers with the physical barrier in front of the face, and so effectively work against that interaction and integration. Considering moderate Morocco has banned the production and sale of Burqas, I’m leaning towards banning them being good for Australia despite being rather libertarian.

Not only is Morocco being pro-active about banning the medieval garb these women are forced to wear but now several countries in Europe are wising up too.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/belgium-burqa-ban-upheld-european-court-of-human-rights-dakir-v-full-face-islamic-veils-headscarf-a7835156.html

Maya123 9:55 am 18 Jul 17

Garfield said :

As to Burqas, I dislike the sight of them and see them as a symbol of the oppression of women and a commitment to a refusal to integrate into Australia. From what I’ve read they’re not even required by the religion. I believe in individual freedoms, which dictates allowing women to wear them where they so choose, however I also believe that a key to success in maintaining a functional multicultural society is regular interaction and integration between different cultural groups. Burqas are specifically designed to isolate women from strangers with the physical barrier in front of the face, and so effectively work against that interaction and integration. Considering moderate Morocco has banned the production and sale of Burqas, I’m leaning towards banning them being good for Australia despite being rather libertarian.

I agree and I object to John Hargreaves, a man, telling me, a woman, that “For me, the burqa and niqabs are symbols of a religion practised by women”.

They are designed to keep woman out of the eyes of ‘other’ men (and in the outside world in practice, other women too), as the only men who should be able to see her face are family members. They are designed to separate these woman from society; to isolate them; to make it easier to control/’own’ them. Covering the face should be banned; unless their is a good medical reason. I have read a translation of the Koran and I did not read where a woman must cover her face. Have you read the Koran John before commenting? The translation (or interpretation I read; I think it might have referred to the translation that way) said a woman must be modest and cover her breasts (quoting from memory) with two layers of cloth when of child bearing age, but can remove one layer when past this age, but it is better if she doesn’t. It didn’t mention covering her face. There are always a few strong speaking women, even in the most fundamental religions (including Christian groups and other religions in this comment too) who speak strongly in favour of their religion’s restrictions on woman as being their religion; their choice, modesty, etc, and these few woman likely have raised, ‘respected’, and more privileged positions in their religion. But this is not the situation for the majority of women in their society. The majority don’t have these visible, spokeswomen privileged positions; they are discriminated against and would be stepped on if ‘they’ attempted to speak out. It would be very difficult for them to practice freedom and remove their burqa. It is not a choice without a struggle. Therefore it is not a choice!

bikhet 9:29 am 18 Jul 17

dungfungus said :

It’s very relevant to note that the women are not allowed to pray with their men though.

Nor can they under Orthodox Judaism. They can under Reform and, I think, Conservative Judaism though.

Spiral 8:59 am 18 Jul 17

Garfield said :

We should, and I believe to a large extent do, have freedom of religion only so far as it does not conflict with secular laws.

Such as discrimination based on sex?

Any religion which, for example, does not allow women to become clergy should change or be fined for every service they conduct.

Garfield 12:47 am 18 Jul 17

Spiral said :

We need to stop allowing religion to be an excuse for evil behaviour.

True Freedom of Religion has no place in Australia. We wouldn’t allow someone of Aztec descent to kidnap people and cut their hearts out atop a tall building. Thus what we call Freedom of religion is really only allowing people the freedom to practice religions we find acceptable.

It is time we put all religions on notice. Improve yourself or ship out..

We should, and I believe to a large extent do, have freedom of religion only so far as it does not conflict with secular laws. If a religious person decides not to drink alcohol or to save themselves for marriage, that’s fine. However if someone marries off their under age daughter or subjects them to FGM they should be, and I believe are, prosecuted.

Most critically, citizens need to retain the right to criticise religions. Blasphemy laws need to remain a strict no go area. Seeing the former governor of Jakarta sentenced to 2 years in prison for telling some fishermen they were being lied to when they were told they couldn’t vote for him because he was not a Muslim was a tragedy. I’m glad to see that Amnesty International is campaigning for his release. That sort of thing happening in a “moderate” & “tolerant” Islamic nation is scary as all hell.

As to Burqas, I dislike the sight of them and see them as a symbol of the oppression of women and a commitment to a refusal to integrate into Australia. From what I’ve read they’re not even required by the religion. I believe in individual freedoms, which dictates allowing women to wear them where they so choose, however I also believe that a key to success in maintaining a functional multicultural society is regular interaction and integration between different cultural groups. Burqas are specifically designed to isolate women from strangers with the physical barrier in front of the face, and so effectively work against that interaction and integration. Considering moderate Morocco has banned the production and sale of Burqas, I’m leaning towards banning them being good for Australia despite being rather libertarian.

Spiral 7:49 pm 17 Jul 17

We need to stop allowing religion to be an excuse for evil behaviour.

True Freedom of Religion has no place in Australia. We wouldn’t allow someone of Aztec descent to kidnap people and cut their hearts out atop a tall building. Thus what we call Freedom of religion is really only allowing people the freedom to practice religions we find acceptable.

It is time we put all religions on notice. Improve yourself or ship out..

Mysteryman 12:59 pm 17 Jul 17

For me, the burqa and niqabs are symbols of a religion practised by women.

And it saddens me more to know that the women can’t rise up against this oppression and call it for what it is.

It’s probably a little hard for them to do so when people like you are so quick to dismiss it “symbols of a religion”.

dungfungus 8:12 am 17 Jul 17

“For me, the burqa and niqabs are symbols of a religion practised by women.”

It’s very relevant to note that the women are not allowed to pray with their men though.

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