Muslim women's dress codes have come into the political spotlight in both Muslim-majority and non-Muslim societies. At one end of the spectrum the state has sought to enforce Islamic dress codes while at the opposite end the state has sought to ban certain items of women's religious dress.
Under the Taliban, Afghan women were forbidden to appear in public unless they were wearing the all-enveloping burka. Now, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proclaimed that the burka and other forms of face-covering are not welcome in France.
In Australia, too, Muslim women's dress has been at the center of a heated political and social debate.
This public debate brought together three leading figures to discuss questions such as whether we should ban the burka or respect the right to wear it, if the burka is a form of male oppression, what would be the effect of banning a piece of women's clothing and does the state have a place in a woman's wardrobe?
Professor Hilary Charlesworth is an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and Director of the Centre for International Governance and Justice at The Australian National University. She is an expert in international and human rights law.
Virginia Haussegger is an award winning journalist, author and social commentator. Her outspoken views on women and their place in contemporary society have been widely debated in the Australian media, in public forums and on talkback radio. She currently presents the nightly news for the ABC in Canberra.
Shakira Hussein is a writer and researcher, focusing on Islam, gender and South Asia. She is currently completing her PhD on encounters between Western and Muslim women at the Australian National University.
Julie Posetti is a journalist and journalism academic from the University of Canberra.
She is currently undertaking a PhD on the way the media portrays Muslim women and has published academically and journalistically on this theme.
There is a HUGE difference between the niqab and the burka. It's easy to have a conversation with someone in a niqab. You have eye contact, you can tell if they smile (a false smile is only with the mouth, a real smile is with the eyes) and you can recognise someone in a niqab. You can conduct a parent-teacher interview, have a laugh and react to and see the reactions of a person in a nicab.
I can understand that it makes some people uncomfortable because of the symbol that western culture ascribes to it. If those people just said "hello", "good morning" or "it's a lovely day" to the next person they saw who was wearing the niqab they wouldn't feel so uncomfortable and I believe that it would stop being an issue. If you have a conversation with a person wearing the niqab you would see that it doesn't stop these people participating in full in society.
No-one should be forced to wear the niqab, or the burqa or the hijab for that matter. In Australia the majority of the woman who wear these items do so by their own choice. I've never seen a young girl or teenager in a niqab, I've only ever seen it warn by mature women.
Despite living and teaching in suburbs with a large Muslim population, I've never seen anyone in the burka. I would expect that I would find it very difficult to hold a conversation with someone in a burka. I don't think I'd like it, but I don't think it matters when so few people wear it anyway. Banning it would just annoy a section of the community who already feels discriminated against.
Smile in a friendly way at the next person you see in a nicab, and you'll see them smile back.
Dear Burmese Muslim,
could you please stop acting like you know everything about islamic culture, or even about Islam. The fact that you are a muslim doesn't give you much more knowledge then any other person with a healthy appetite for knowledge about religion.
Second, it is extremely rude to say someone is a nazi, it would be thesame if I called you a talibansupporter (or even worse). So please get rid of the sarcasm and the ridiculous allegations. Not every person that feels that Islam is intruding is a nazi.
The idea that Islam in it's current state is incompatible with western society is indeed important. And if you think that shows ignorance, then you should do some research about the subject, instead of acting like a wiseass.
It is amazing how some people are so openminded that they can't see what's in front of them. Even though there are enough women who think they are free by wearing the burqa, common sense tels us that the burqa is a way to suppress women. In Islamic culture it is no secret that the burqa serves as a device to suppress the woman's sexappeal, circumcision is another way to accomplish this. Name me something that does thesame for men. It is our duty to free islamic woman from their chains by giving them the chance to emancipate.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free"
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe -
As a man I find it rather sad or insulting that some women believe that I'm so unable to treat them as equal human beings that they need to turn themselves into black shapeless sacks (which I sure as all hell can't interact with as a normal human being).
It's pretty close to a mental illness to be so afraid of showing their face that they need to do this to themselves. More's the pity that this situation is brought about via placing too much stock in obviously made up religious superstition.
Whether the burka is demanded in the Qur'an (which it isn't): we should be more concerned about the lessons on disobedient women and inequality firmly entrenched in the qur'an. 4:34 lays out beating as a way for men to treat disobedient women. This is completely and utterly unacceptable and is illegal under Australian law. Yet I'm sure there are women who would argue that is their lot in life: women defending misogyny and domestic violence.
We always limit religious freedom out of common sense and practicality: perhaps that's the case with the burka. As virginia said: public space is not owned by men, so we don't enforce dress codes to avoid offending the most fundamentalist misogynists.. We also have a certain level of interaction/face to face contact expected. So the expectation should be that these women adhere to that in public spaces where security or common courtesy are expected.
Perhaps the problem is that feminism won most of the battles too long ago and women these days are apathetic about the need to speak out to get rid of misogyny. Just like in the past you would probably find women fighting against the vote ("it isn't our place to vote") in the past. Like some big scale "beaten wife syndrome": one can hope Muslim women find the strength to throw off this oppressive religion as I fear it is a long way off the minimum level of respect demanded in modern civilisation.
testtt: Virginia has worn it, she said that early on ( 6:40 or so) and showed a picture of herself in it. Of course you have to take her word that that is actually her: but that's the point of the dress.. To dehumanise and make anonymous.
As for your rather weak attempt to paint western women as equally slaves because they "have" to wear makeup, low cut tops etc - what a load of rubbish. I work with women who wear makeup, and those who don't.
Women can't rise to the senior ranks in Islam if that's what you're trying to imply. There aren't any female clerics are there? Hell: they can't even worship in the same area because of the childish misogyny and segregation.
And yes, the catholic/anglican church should be forced to stick to the anti-discrimination/equality laws, just like Islam should.
We need less apologies for Islam and more editing of that rather distasteful book. Slavery, wife beating (qur'an 4:34 for instance) is completely unacceptable.
Nothing is needed for evil to triumph than for good men and women to stand by and say nothing. (to paraphrase a quote)
Originally Posted by icouce
Forget all the cultural relativism nonsense. It's a public safety issue. I can just see the crime spree total anonymity will spur. Carry a shotgun into a bank or liquor store and no one would know whom to look for; security cameras would be useless. Later they'd find a burka laying in the alley. (Yes; only an imbecile would think only law abiding women would wear a burka.)
Not to mention driving; the hijab is not as occlusive, but can you imagine trying to drive with a burka on? It would make cell phone use while driving look down right safe!
Originally Posted by John Thomson
Posetti just doesn't get it. She seems to regard the burka as a fashion choice and not a tool of oppression. Clearly the whole concept of the burka says far more about the men who condone it than the women who are subjected to it.
Yes, John. When I was about 16, my friends oldest brother got a married a pretty lady who didnt have to wear burka under he parents. After the marriage, at first, her husband didn't make her wear but because he didn;t like men looking at his pretty wife, he made her do it. he told us that she didn't want to wear it.
However, I feel the burka is not the point here. The point, I believe, is Islam and it's inherent incompatibility with "western" society.
John, you are maing a big mistake in thinking like that. May be it's because what you know as Islam was not what Islam is.
Australia should stop being so cowardly and assert the very values it was built on to all who wish to partake of it. Why must we continually make concessions to those who travel from across the world to live here?
Well, I see that you support cultural Nazi movement. Too bad.
[quoteCultural sensitivity and respect? Then why are we the only ones required to be respectful? Why can't those who come here be respectful towards us and our way of life which is presumably what makes this country so attractive to begin with? Those who come here and make demands are not only impolite, or ungrateful, but outright offensive. It is clear though that there is a monopoly on the right to be offended. If people feel Australia is too liberal and indecent, there are any number of other countries where they can settle and fit right in as is.
I fail to see why we accept people coming from war torn countries where they claim they can no longer live safely, and then allow them to set about turning this country into the very same shit fight they just left!
To all those agenda pushing apologists who campaign for the rights of muslims to continue their primitive and destructive traditions, I would suggest that if that way of life is so appealing to you, perhaps you should move over there. Immerse yourself in it. You have the right, I suppose, to ensure your daughter's lives begin with clitorodectomy and forced marriage, and end with honour killing. But not in this country. I guess those who claim that banning the burka would be un-Australian also regard banning paedophilia as un-Australian. After all, it's culturally acceptable in Islam to marry off your 9 year old daughter to some filthy, lecherous, middle aged uncle. Wonderful.
We need to stop being cowardly hypocrites and start making some demands of our own. Our rights to equality and freedom are clearly undermined by Islam. Islam, and not just the burka, should be banned in Australia.
I will just ask you to listen to Virginia again, that is if you have listened already, in order to hear what Virginia said, and I quote, "Islam doesn't require women to waer head to toe cover like Burka".
Originally Posted by testtt
I will make a number of points just as food for thought although there is a lot to say about this issue. First, I think the fact that none of the panellists actually wore ‘niqab’, or even ‘hijab’ for that matter shows exactly how balanced the debate was.
Do you really think women who wears burka have the freedom to even hear about this debate? In another word, most burka-wearers live a life that is in the shadow of her husband or father or brothers.
That is, there was no representative of people who wear niqab or even hijab. The only Muslim woman on the panel took particular interest in making fun of not just niqab but even hijab on a number of occasions (however subtle it might have been). She also tried to justify the wearing of niqab by saying that it protected the identity of prostitutes!
So, you want to focus on extraneous things in this debate than the point Virginia was making?
Secondly, Virginia claimed that the reason for wearing the niqab had to do with trust, whether a society that does not trust their men with women or a society that does not trust their women (whatever she means by that as she did not explain it).
By saying that Virginia didn't imply that not wearing the burka ATOMATICALLY imply that their men trusts their wives.
For a person who has lived in the West and was brought up in Western society, I can tell you that I certainly have a lot more trust in regards to religious Muslim men than Australian men.
Sweetie, you haven't met the kind of men Virginia is talking about. Trsut me on that.
I am going to leave here by saying that you should learn to understand a topic in its own context.
The fact of the matter is that Australian men cannot be trusted even more so than Muslim men because of the fact that the culture continuously glorifies the objectification of women as sexual toys. However, the niqab and the hijab are not about not trusting men or women although that does have an indirect role in it. It is about both men and women keeping themselves decent and away from sexual desires outside of marriage. Of course, whether or not I am decent does not guarantee that the person walking down the street looking at me is also decent.
Thirdly, women in the west simply do not have a choice as much as they like to think they do. Muslim women who wear a hijjab or a niqab make the decision to cover their body from all men except close relations. So they wake up in the morning before going out put on their full body covering (whether revealing the face or not) do what they need to do outside and come back home change into a clothing of their choice for inside of the house. Hence, if they are married they might make the choice to put on makeup and lingerie for their husband. However, Virginia feels compelled to wake up in the morning put on makeup and a set of clothing that whether she likes it or not has sexual overtones to it (low-cut top, etc.) for men who are not related to her and in most cases does not put on anything for her husband when coming back home. So she is compelled by a male dominated society to present herself sexually to all the men outside of the house.
Finally, a quick point. Julie made a point about Anglican Church (which has a much more liberal outlook that, for example, the Catholic Church) not allowing women ordination. This is while in Islam women are allowed to become theologians. Should we force the Anglican Church to ordain women?!
Originally Posted by Meredith Nichols
I really enjoyed the points of Virginia Hausegger, however, I'm am not completely convinced that banning the Burka is the most effective way to stop the subjugation of women under the given circumstances.
BUT THAT'D BE THE FIRST STEP IN HELPING THOSE WOMEN WHO'RE WEARING FOR REASONS OTHER THAN CHOICE.
In this country of USA where I live, I saw only once of a woman wearing a burka. I wanted to throw up seeing her slender frame covered in black robe Having a type of rihinitis where heat causes me to get sinus headache, in summer, I take all kinds of preventive measure to minimize my chance of getting it. BTW, I am a female and a Muslim at that. I 'd rather die than live waering a burka and I know that most women who waer it, are wearing it w/o choice.