Letters to the editor

Issue 

Banning burqa not progressive

Dave Bell is welcome to his opinion about the “idiocy” of wearing the burqa (GLW #856). Since he dislikes it so much, I suggest he refrains from wearing one.

Yet his demand that socialists line up with the call from Christian fundamentalist politicians in Australia to ban the burqa is wrong, dangerous and is not feminist.

Far right-wing Liberal Senator Cory Bernadi was the first federal politician to raise the call for a burqa ban. Even Liberal leader Tony Abbott disagrees with him — a fact that makes Dave’s position all the more perplexing.

Dave deems it “political cowardice to fail to act to rid our society of this alien blight”.

But verballing the tiny minority of Muslim women in Australia who choose to wear the burqa hardly strikes me as politically courageous.

The cause of women’s liberation is being abused in this debate.

Laws that take women’s freedom away cannot liberate them. Disliking the burqa and banning the burqa are two very different things.

The state has no business deciding how women should dress. The socialist left should defend this right to choose, while supporting women’s struggle for full equality.

Simon Butler
Glebe, NSW

Unknown Prisoner X held in Israeli jail

Israel is holding a mystery prisoner, known only as Mr X, with information being suppressed by order of the Israeli intelligence service, Shabak.

The case is mysterious and deeply disturbing, with glaring Orwellian overtones to it.

Though there are no details of Mr X’s “crimes”, it is thought the prisoner is either being held for alleged “espionage or terrorism offences”. But no one even knows if the prisoner has been charged, tried or convicted.

Prisoner X is a person without a name. Apparently, not even his jailers know his name and he does not receive any visitors. The prisoner has been placed in conditions of total isolation from the outside world, where even other prisoners cannot see or hear him.

Israeli human rights activists are campaigning to pressure the Israeli state to reveal who Prisoner X is and disclose his alleged crimes. Israel’s oldest human rights organisation, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, has protested about the secrecy about Prisoner X’s detention.

Israel loudly asserts that it is a democratic state, yet the Israeli authorities can just secretly arrest people and have them disappear from the streets without the rest of the world knowing about it. The Israeli government and prison authorities have refused to confirm or deny the existence of Prisoner X on “security” grounds.

I urge those concerned about Prisoner X’s plight to protest by calling for the Israeli authorities to reveal this person’s identity, respect his human rights and release him from the complete seclusion he is being held in.

Please write letters to the newspapers and to do whatever you can to publicise the situation and expose this injustice.

Steven Katsineris
by email [Abridged.]

Why should Australia act?

Columnist Paul Murray, writing in the October 12 West Australian, said Australia should not commit to reducing greenhouse pollution until our major trading partners do likewise since we only (!) produce 1.5% of global emissions.

It is worth pointing out that this 1.5% is more than five times our fair share. Moreover, governments have had credible warnings about global warming and the need to reduce emissions for more than 20 years but have refused to take anything like appropriate action.

Now that the warnings are more acute, governments are still dragging their feet.

Witness the circus in Canberra, which even now, has not progressed beyond establishing a committee to consider over the next year and a half which out of several inadequate market mechanisms will get a chance to be watered down before the public notices that not much has changed.

The conclusion is obvious: pressure on governments from their own population is required if we are to avert a climate disaster.

Reducing global emissions by 1.5% would actually be a good start (so far global emissions are still going up). However, the most tangible benefits of Australia adopting serious efforts to eliminate greenhouse pollution (such as the Beyond Zero Emissions plan for 100% renewable energy by 2020) would be the power of a good example.

This would dramatically increase pressure on governments around the world and might give us a chance of winning a safe climate future.

Cleaner air, less depletion of fresh water resources, cheaper electricity (after an initial outlay) would merely be beneficial side effects.

Alex Bainbridge
Perth, WA

Comments

Debate on the burqa has wandered all over the place from Fred Nile to feminism to human rights to religion. However, the strongest argument against the burqa (and niqab) is a sociological one. In Western countries the face is an essential part of one’s identity and social interaction. We all rely on the face as an expression of who you are and the emotions you feel. In many ways, you are your face; without it, you are a figure without identity. People with covered faces become in a sense invisible. In particular, one’s eyes and mouth can convey a lot in conversation. What a loss to us all if smiling and laughing should no longer be visible. So I have no problems with the hijab, but the burqa and niqab are blatantly antisocial and therefore unacceptable. This would be just as true for males should they advocate wearing a full face covering in public. The fact that not many Muslims wear a burqa is irrelevant to the principle. If you’re not prepared to accept a large number of burqa wearers, why wait until a large number eventuates? It is not acceptable for anyone to appear naked in public, thus demonstrating that “freedom” is always constrained to some extent.
The burqa will also encourage ghettoisation in the community and this is in no one's interests.

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