ABC Newsreader calls for niqab to be banned

ABC News Reader Virginia Haussegger writes on her blog:

I’ve seen it elsewhere around the world, but I didn’t expect to see it here. Certainly not on a hot summer’s afternoon at the Canberra Centre. But there it was. A ghostly figure walking towards me, clad from head to toe in a heavy black niqab, black gloves and dark shoes. She was trailing along behind her husband and four little children.

The sight of this hideously shrouded figure in an Australian shopping mall is confronting and offensive. And it makes me angry, very angry.

It is, of course, unclear whether this was simply a visiting tourist from the gulf or whether it was a local.  Regardless, Haussegger is hopping mad and is calling for the government to take action to protect her from having to witness such a sight as a woman who had the temerity to cover her face in a Canberra shopping centre.

She concludes:

There is no place here for the burka. Australians must rally to have the burka banned.

And what would that achieve?  How would such a law distinguish between a woman who veils her face using a traditional niqab and a woman who, for the same reason of religious observance,  chose to bypass the ‘niqab ban’ by veiling her face using a woolen scarf wrapped around her face, wearing a balaclava, or perhaps a variation on a surgical mask?

If Haussegger and Sarkozy want to see the end of the niqab then perhaps they should try to use argument to convince these women that their way is a better way.  However, it seems that it is because years of argument and exposure to Western society has failed to convert these women to their way of thinking (and dress), that they must now seek to use the instruments of the state as a cudgel against these women to force them to  ‘fit in’ with what Sarkozy et al think society should look like.


#1 GMan on 07.10.09 at 12:35 pm

I don’t get it. You worry about the very unlikely banning of face coverings in Australia and France, as though they are some incredible attack on Muslims everywhere, and yet there’s no wringing of hands and weeping and wailing for the women in Muslim countries given no choice in anything.

Why not get upset about the fact that women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, or leave the house without the permission of a male, or be caught in the company of an unrelated man without risking 100 lashes or death? Why not get upset about those poor women whose husbands, fathers, brothers and sons care so little for them that they kill them for event a hint of “dishonouring” the family? Save some tears for the millions of African women who suffer in agony as a consequence of female genital mutilation.

Who cares if a couple of people in the West call for a rally, which will never eventuate, to ban the burqa/niqab? Get some perspective. Violence and injustice against Muslim women across the world is largely perpetrated by fellow Muslims. Even the pathetic UN has finally faced up to that fact when it comes to women in Afghanistan. If Muslims are so appalling treated in Western countries and by the West, why the hell are so many lining up to get here?

#2 Friday Links — July 10, 2009 « Muslimah Media Watch on 07.10.09 at 6:03 pm

[...] burqa/niqab haterade. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Friday LinksMMW MessageNow we’re [...]

#3 Specs on 07.11.09 at 2:28 pm

I don’t see the difference between forcing women to wear a niqab and forcing them to take it off. Excuse me for being dense but isn’t there something called Freedom the right to choose your own chains?

*I* wear a hijab and I do so despite my father’s objection to it because its my right to practice religion as *I* choose.

No man will tell me when to wear the hijab and I’ll be damned if a country tells me to take it off.

That said, I would support any woman who chooses (key word,CHOOSES) not to wear the hijab and I’d march alongside her for her right to practice religion as she sees fit, Not ABC or Sarkozy, the Saudi government or whoever.

#4 Hypatia on 07.11.09 at 3:06 pm

Ms. Hausegger’s response to the threatening, supremacist, utterly dehumanized vision of this woman is absolutely defensible.

She is defending her culture of openness and equality, where women do not have to remove every shred of dignity and identity to go outside. She is defending a culture where men are expected to control their impulses. She is defending a culture where women can see, hear, feel, breathe, and interact with others without tight muffling bags on their heads, suffocating masks on their faces or awkward tents on their bodies.

Basically, Ms. Hausegger is defending free Western culture. She not only has the right to do so, she should be applauded for it.

#5 null on 07.11.09 at 4:26 pm

A lot of being read into what niqab supposedly “represents”. Take out the adjectives in that article, and there’s not much else left. You could similarly weave a sad narrative about high heels and hairspray if you used the right imagery.

If commentators would just say what they really meant – that they find the burka an eyesore and it offends their aesthetic taste – and left it at that, it would be a lot more believable.

#6 loolt on 07.15.09 at 2:42 am

I am confused, why was the journalist so angry at seeing a niqab wearing woman? I can appreciate objections based on the hindrance of communication, but why get angry?

When niqab is worn for religious reasons, yes I get annoyed, because it is simply not true that Islam requires (or even condones) wearing a Niqab… but when it is done for cultural reasons, (not my culture) then I have no strong feelings towards it.

#7 GMan on 07.15.09 at 4:20 pm

A viewpoint among many:

#8 Fatima on 07.15.09 at 5:03 pm

As a wearer of niqab I always find it amusing when the articles tend to mention about the woman wearing a niqab ‘trailing behind her husband’ because obviously the husband considers his wife inferior and she is ‘trailing behind him’ as she cannot walk next to him.

Anyways I don’t really care what anyone here or anywhere else thinks. I wear it because I want to. If I am required anywhere to show my face for identification reasons I have no issue with it whether this is at a a bank, an airport etc. However I don’t think any Tom, Dick or Virginia on the street walking along has any right to tell me what I should or shouldn’t cover when I am outside. 78675

#9 loolt on 07.15.09 at 8:10 pm

Gman: I am afraid the Yasmin Alibahi-Brown confuses Iranian (recent) history with the history of all Muslims. The headscarf did not appear 20 years ago as she states, and it is Saudi and Iran that impose the hijab so strictly (and in the case of Saudi along with other restrictions). My point that Niqab was not an Islamic requirement is based of my own reading and classes I have taken in Islam . Hijab, even though not nearly the most important thing in Islam, it still an Islamic requirement, as far as we are concerned.

The objection to Niqab on the basis of social cohesion, I would not go as far as Ms Alibahi-Brown as to say it ‘denys [our] humanity’ (I think that is very rude of her!), but I personally know people who have had problems, in predominantly muslim countries, after wearing the niqab, and ended up taking it off. It is quite embarrassing when someone greets you and you dont know who they are (you feel rude). And also, I dont know maybe it is a cultural thing, but I like to see facial reaction when speaking face to face to someone.

I also think Fatima made a good observation in that Niqab wearing women are always portrayed as submissive, and people often assume that they are forced to wear it. Funnily enough, I know many examples to the contrary, where the family has objected strongly to their daughters wearing the Niqab.

My apologies to the blog owner for my copious and long comments!

#10 Eudaemonion on 07.16.09 at 3:51 am

GMan, why shouldn’t we focus on this very worrying trend in Western Countries? We do live here and work here. Whatever measures our monumentally stupid politicians enact and their equally moronic bureacrats cook up impact us directly. Thus, the rants of particularly moronic media personalities need to be tackled head on.

Yet, you prefer we ignore events here in order to focus on foreign authoritarian regimes that we cannot effect in any meaningful way, financed and perpetuated by the usual suspects for their own geopolitical interests.

Paternalism stinks, and you reek to high heaven GMan.

#11 GMan on 07.16.09 at 1:47 pm

Eudaemonion, I have yet to find anything more “paternalistic” or patriarchal than the so-called Abrahamic religions, and Islam is the big daddy of them all, the Pope not withstanding. I’m not interested in telling you what you can and can’t wear, regardless of the reasons you choose to wear it and I didn’t mean to suggest that you shouldn’t tackle the “moronic media personalities”. But so much fuss over a passing media “trending topic” when there are greater injustices everywhere?

As for impacting on foreign authoritarian regimes, are you not the Ummah? If jihadis are able to stir the Ummah in foreign countries into action and slaughter and rioting over rumours of cartoons and whispers of insults to Qurans, surely 1.3 billion Muslims, all connected by Islam, can have some impact on the misery of their fellows at the hands of their fellows? I don’t have much influence over foreign authoritarian regimes either but it didn’t stop me participating to the best of my ability in opposing the invasion of Iraq. Much good it did, but still.

#12 GMan on 07.16.09 at 1:49 pm

Off to check my deodourant…

#13 Ibn Rushd on 07.19.09 at 1:29 am

These niqbas and other towels worn on head are not religious, they are political symbols. Look, while you are not all offensive and totally not worth our time, there are far, far too many who are. Banning things causes tensions in a society we have built very successfully to avoid. The best way to treat this pox on our society is at the source; through the immigration program.

#14 Fatima on 07.19.09 at 1:48 am

I think what I find amusing is the more they rant about topics like niqab and hijab the more I notice in our community that people are wearing it more.

#15 Umm Yasmin on 07.20.09 at 11:15 pm

Fatima – me too. I’ve seen *two* niqabis today (in totally separate venues) and that’s more than I normally see in a month.

Having said that, little birdy told me said journo may be pumping for pre-selection for a Liberal seat. So she may be doing a desperate Pauline Hanson-Sophie Panopolos-Bronwyn Bishop-please-notice-me bid to establish her creds with the the ultra-conservative Liberal right. Time will tell I guess.

#16 null on 07.21.09 at 12:51 pm

Wow, Umm Yasmin. Two niqabis spotted today, and its not even lunchtime yet. Hehe

#17 Eudaemonion on 07.22.09 at 2:25 pm

Interesting tidbit Umm Yasmin.

#18 Khadija on 08.11.09 at 8:08 pm

Niqab is anti-social and prevents these people interracting with the wider society. Humans require eye contact and rely on facial expression and facial recognition to go about many of their daily social interractions.

It’s not a religious obligation. The requirements are clearly outlined in the Quran and they don’t come close to encouraging niqab. Scholars dispute it, Turkey & Egypt have niqab bans in place for certain areas of society.

We have the right to choose what we wear as long as it doesn’t pose a risk, threat or negatively affects the wider social good. People are threatened by a niqab, it has a multitude of ways that it can be used in a criminal manner, people don’t like them here.

The point is that people are meant to integrate into society and contribute positively, when it starts becoming about religious labels, mesh fences blocking people from being able to interact with you on a basic human level, then it is a good idea to ban it.

It’s a sign of extremism, political Islam and has no place in Australia. There are reasons why general facial coverings are banned, this is a progressive society and no one is forced to stay here. I would join the rally. I am a travelled person, I have been to many of the traditionally regarded ‘Islamic countries’…

I don’t have a problem with Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, just be pro-active in being committed to this society and stop behaving in ways that prevent everyone feeling safe, happy and calm.

Wearing a niqab makes more people uneasy and the reason has little to do with the fabric or the religion, but a more basic human need to be able to identify with each other through facial recognition. It’s a very very basic human instinct, which is why it was never in the Quran, Allah (swt) created us this way, it’s ridiculous that people then do things that go against what has been made for us to socialize and better ourselves.

Stop following false teachings, think about the bigger picture and promote an honest, true Islam.

#19 ms on 08.31.09 at 5:34 am

@ #4 Hypatia “Ms. Hausegger’s response to the threatening, supremacist, utterly dehumanized vision of this woman is absolutely defensible.”

I find Ms. Hausegger to be threatening, supremacist, and utterly dehumanized. Clearly she must be banned in order to protect the Australian society we have worked so hard to cultivate over all these years. Perhaps this could be done though the immigration program.

#20 Hawa on 10.15.09 at 8:22 am

Wow, that lady is messed up…
is it any of her buisness to get mad… people walk around topless and its okay but when people try too look modest… u get pissed. I think u juss dont want to accept another persons culture.and religion because you’re scared, or believe the sterotypes that surround the niqab.

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