Even before the embarrassing backdown there were problems. For starters, it’s not a burqa. A burqa is that particularly Afghan garment, usually blue, with the mesh covering the eyes. The one you’ve seen on the news (or perhaps on Jacqui Lambie’s Facebook page), but almost certainly never in Australia.
False reassurance. In fact, I’ve seen burqas worn near the Flemington housing commission flats and in a Bunnings hardware store in Hawthorn.
We’re talking about the niqab, common in the Gulf and worn by – my guess – a couple of hundred Australians. I have to guess, because we don’t even bother with such basic research…
Strip it all back and they’ve done nothing to invite this. They aren’t the ones charged with plotting “demonstration killings”. They aren’t the ones being busted carrying weapons or attacking police officers.Â
True, but some haveÂ their sons join jihadists abroad, or are
extremists devout Muslims who harass police:
They are, however, the ones most often assaulted or abused on the street or on public transport. They’re the ones whose freedom we try most to restrict.
Pandering to victimology. What freedom have women in burqas and in niqabs actually had restricted here, other than by the costume itself?
In short, they become the symbolic target for our rage; the avatar we choose to represent a generalised enemy, and the threat it poses. In this, we obey what seems a diabolically universal principle: that whatever the outrage, whatever the fear, and whatever the cause, it is women that must suffer first and most.
More victimology. In fact, of the 21 Muslims we have jailed for terrorism-related offences, not one is a woman. Of the Muslim Australians most often mentioned in the current debate on terrorism, not one is a woman. Try Mohammed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf.
So perhaps you’ll forgive these women if they don’t come out in droves to thank Cory Bernardi for rescuing them from what he regards a “shroud of oppression” that “represents the repressive domination of men over women”.
Reverse the scrutiny. Can Aly seriously deny the burqa and the niqab are oppressive, designed to limit the freedom of women?
Before the change of heart it was a burqa ban (see, even I’m doing it now) in Parliament House. The argument was about security, but it’s a thin pretext. If you need to identify someone entering the building, it’s dead easy to do: you take them aside to a private space and ask them to reveal their face for identification purposes. Then you subject them to the same screening as everyone else.
Alarmism. And that is now exactly what will happen.
In fact, we already do this sort of thing in airports and secure buildings with no fuss at all. The only reason there’s a fuss now is that we’ve dreamt one up, as Abbott’s “mountain over a molehill” response suggests.
False target. The proposed new rules in Parliament were not Abbott’s idea, were not run by Abbott and have been overruled by Abbott.
I can find only one isolated example of an Australian using the anonymity of a niqab to commit a crime. By a man.
Evasion. TheÂ anonymity of the niqab has been used to protect a womanÂ who falsely accused a police officer or racism and trying to remove her covering.Â In Britain a male terror suspectdisguised himself in a burqaÂ to evade police. In the US a (non-Muslim)Â man in a burqa allegedly tried to rob a bank. In Afghanistan,Â five terrorists disguised in burqasÂ attacked an election centre. In Pakistan,Â suicide bombers disguised in burqasÂ killed 41 people.
No, the security discourse is mere rhetorical camouflage. Peta Credlin advised her party’s anti-burqa brigade to mount their case in security terms – not because it is their primary concern, but because it was most likely to succeed.Â
False accusation to demonise the Government. Credlin advised one Liberal not to make his case against the burqa on anything other than security grounds because that would inflame tensions. She has no wider ambition.
Now is when we find out what Team Australia really means. Now is when we discover if it’s designed to unify a diverse nation or to demonise the socially unpopular.
Trivialisation and another appeal to victimology. Team Australia was never meant to merely “demonise the socially unpopular” but to marginalise jihadists seeking to physically harm us or other Muslims abroad.
Which team does he have in mind when he decided to share that he wishes the niqab “weren’t worn”? Given, on his own testimony, no niqabi has ever entered Parliament House, he knew that any ban would be symbolic. Before the backdown, it was merely a matter of which message he wanted to send. The one that upholds “our own best traditions”? Or the one that tells a minority they aren’t welcome in their own Parliament?
Straw man and appeal to victimology. Abbott has made clear this week (again) he does not support any ban. He never had supported a ban. He did not back down since he never proposed what he’s overruled. Nor does Abbott want a minority to feel unwelcome in their own Parliament.
Aly has once again constructed a narrative popular among extremists, too – of a wicked Australian Government at war with Muslims and persecuting them for no reason other than their prejudices.
These are dangerous and tense times, and Aly’s rhetoric is unforgivably reckless.
Note also:Â as so often beforeÂ there is absolutely no mention whatsoever by Aly of the factor that makes Australians wary of Muslim Australia in a way they are not of the equally numerous Buddhist Australia. You know, the terrorism, the threats, the jihadists marching in Sydney streets, the stabbing of police?
Plus the sowing of resentments by the likes of Aly, of course.