All around the Western world, far-right groups (some with neo-Nazi links), are gaining political ground through an orchestrated campaign against Muslim communities. These groups are spreading fear and hatred against recent immigrant communities from Muslim countries, and tap into well-resourced post-9/11 war propaganda initiated by rulers of the world’s richest and most powerful states.
I welcome the discussion in Green Left Weekly about the burqa and the question of its banning. I agree wholeheartedly that banning the burqa is not the answer for women. As in all aspects of oppression, the oppressed are the ones who must liberate themselves, with the support and solidarity of others. It is not up to the state or religious institutions to impose “liberation” on them. While the burqa remains worn by women, I support their right to wear it if they choose, for a variety of different reasons.
On September 15, France’s Senate passed a bill banning women from wearing full Islamic face veils such as the burqa and niqab. Similar laws are being considered in other European countries. In the New South Wales Legislative Council, Christian fundamentalist MLC Fred Nile has introduced a private member’s bill seeking to ban wearing the burqa. Neither major party supporta the bill, so it is expected to fail.
South Australian independent Bob Such announced on June 28 he would introduce a private member's bill into the state parliament that would, in effect, ban the wearing of the burqa or the niqab in banks and government buildings. Such claimed his bill would not be discriminatory and would target any face covering where security might be a concern. However, all his public statements have specifically raised the burqa and its possible use in criminal activity. Multicultural affairs minister Grace Portolesi said SA police have said they have no such concerns about the burqa.
It’s another election year and we’re witnessing another round of racist fear-mongering. Along with refugees, Muslims are in the crosshairs once again and the Liberal/National Coalition opposition is trying to grab votes by playing on people's worst instincts. On May 6, Liberal Senator and parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi called for a ban on the wearing of the burqa, after a case of armed robbery was committed by someone allegedly using the burqa as a disguise.
Laws punishing women for wearing the burqa and the niqab in public were passed by the Belgian lower house of parliament on April 29. A similar law has been discussed by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and the French National Assembly passed a non-binding resolution in favour of a ban on May 11. These laws have been pushed by right-wing governments on the basis of security needs and protecting national identity, but the laws have also been justified as promoting equality for women. On this basis, the laws have received support from sections of the left and the feminist movement.