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.

Burka Ban: Not Just Black and White

Jill Singer offers a defence of Sarkozy’s proposed “burka ban” in the Herald Sun today, arguing that it should be illegal to wear it because she thinks it is ugly and may be uncomfortable on hot days.  She writes:

No matter what your personal views about the burka — a symbol of oppression or expression of religious identity — it is an undeniably ugly item of clothing.

Burkas also make life hard for the women who wear them, being stiflingly hot in summer, and extremely restricting vision.

Only a masochist would opt to wear one, designed as they are by sadists.

It is no coincidence that Muslim men in Saudi Arabia, for example, drape themselves in cooling white while insisting their women bake in black.

It’s doubtful that Singer has spent much time in a niqab or “burka”, much less worn it in the desert climes of Saudi Arabia; rather, she is simply fantasising about what it must be like to wear it.   The fact that many bedouin and desert-dwelling tribes, such as the Tuareg, also wear black robes  is seemingly lost on the former Today Tonight presenter.  Unless these men are genetically or culturally inclined towards acts of sadism, it is reasonable to assume that things are not quite as black and white as Singer is arguing.

As this article in Nature magazine explained:

Survival in hot deserts has always posed a problem for man; Moses had to solve it in order to lead the children of Israel through the wilderness of the Sinai—a formidable hot desert. It seems likely that the present inhabitants of the Sinai, the Bedouins, would have optimised their solutions for desert survival during their long tenure in this desert Yet, one may have doubts on first encountering Bedouins wearing black robes and herding black goats. We have therefore investigated whether black robes help the Bedouins to minimise solar heat loads in a hot desert. This seemed possible because experiments have shown that white hair on cattle1,2 and white feathers on pigeons3 permit greater penetration of short-wave radiation to the skin than black. In fact, more heat flowed inward through white pigeon plumage than through black when both were exposed to simulated solar radiation at wind speeds greater than 3 m s-1 (ref. 3). We report here that the amount of heat gained by a Bedouin exposed to the hot desert is the same whether he wears a black or a white robe. The additional heat absorbed by the black robe was lost before it reached the skin.

Richard Peppiatt, a journalist for the Daily Star, decided to take a different approach to test whether the niqab was “stifingly hot”.  He writes:

My first impression as I stepped out in the blistering sun was how cool these veils are in the heat.

I wasn’t sweltering in the enclosed warmth, stifled by the closeness and lack of mobility.

The burka was flexible, breathable and relatively comfy.

However, regardless of that, he stills wants it banned because people were unable to see his face when he wore it.

Sarkozy wants “Burqa” ban

French President Sarkozy says that the “burqa” is not welcome in France and has given his support to a law that will make it illegal for a woman to wear the garment:

Mr Sarkozy said that while freedom of religion was paramount in France, the burqa represented a symbol of the debasement and servitude of women: “The burqa is not welcome on the French Republic’s territory. It is not what the French Republic wants for the dignity of women … we cannot accept in our country that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from society and all identity.”

The problem is, of course, that banning women from wearing an article of clothing doesn’t increase their freedom but limits it.  And a number of feminist bloggers appear to agree.   Regardless of what  Sarkozy may imagine, the vast majority of women who wear a niqab in the West are not “prisoners” and continue to have an identity — albeit one that the French state and their social engineers might not approve of.

NAB to offer “Muslim-friendly” loans

The Sunday Telegraph reports today that the National Australia Bank (NAB) is to offer “Muslim-friendly” loans that do not charge interest.

For the trial’s purposes NAB will pump $15 million from its not-for-profit finance division into the program, which will distribute the funds through various community finance schemes around the country. The bank will monitor the take-up and assess potential demand.

Interest-free loans of up to $1000 will be available to help finance household items, such as washing machines and fridges.

The loans would also be available to non-Muslims.

This seems to be NAB’s No Interest Loan Scheme which does not appear to be specifically targeted at Muslims although the fact that it is interest-free would obviously appeal to the Muslim community.  These loans are only available to low-income earners who cannot borrow money from elsewhere on account of their low income.  It’s unclear whether the NAB would also extend these loans to Muslims who cannot borrow money from elsewhere on account of their religious beliefs.

Return of Ameer Ali

Ameer Ali returns to the pages of the The Australian with the same argument he and others made famous during the Howard Era:  the government must use taxpayer’s money to fund some project or else Muslims might do something really, really, really bad.

The Rudd government should urgently boost funding for high-quality Islamic studies courses, moderate Muslim community groups, and police liaison teams to counter home-grown extremism, a leading Australian Islamic expert says.

Such measures offered the best hope of blunting the potential radicalisation of hundreds of Muslim students who come to Australia to study each year. They would have a hugely positive impact on Australian Muslims, said Ameer Ali, vice-president of the Regional Islamic Council of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Ameer Ali has been talking up the threat of international students for several years.  Here he was two years ago on the pages of the same newspaper:

Moderate Muslims warned yesterday that international students should be forced to undergo training about the Australian way of life to counter their radical interpretations of Islam.

The former chairman of John Howard’s Islamic reference board, Ameer Ali, said some international students needed to be stopped from poisoning the minds of local Muslims.

Leaving aside his obvious totalitarian yearnings for a government that attempts to reprogram foreign nationals entering our country and tries to intervene to stop citizen’s minds being “poisoned”, one must also ask whether the threat that is being promoted here is even remotely real.  How many international students have been involved in planning or carrying out terrorist attacks in Australia?

Mecca Redesign Leaked Video

Last year, we published a link to a story in an architecture journal on the proposed expansion to the Haram in Mecca.

Now, a video, reportedly leaked, has appeared on the internet which depicts one architecture firm’s proposed masterplan for the area:

YouTube Preview Image

Jihad Sheilas

In what must be the first time that the word ‘jihad’ has ever been paired with the word ‘sheila‘ the ABC are screening:

ABC News Special – Jihad Sheilas
8:30pm Tuesday, 05 Feb 2008 News

A journey behind closed doors into the world of radical Islam. An intimate, unguarded and irreverent insight into the lives of two extraordinary Australian women converts, whose stories are like no other.

I suspect it might have something to do with this story.

Update: It looks like our guess was correct.

Update 2: You can watch the documentary here.