By Krishangi Singh:
When on October 1st, Australian House of Representatives speaker Mr. Bronwyn Bishop and Senate President Stephen Perry announced a push for ban on facial coverings which would mainly target women of Muslim community, the idea of security-madness attained a new height.
What further shocked the Parliament was PM Tony Abbott’s statement in support of the ban saying that he found the burqas to be a “fairly confronting form of attire, and frankly I wish it weren’t worn“.
The ridiculous statement was in support of the idea that if women wearing niqab and burqas while attending parliamentary proceedings are made to sit in an isolated glass box (usually reserved for school children) under guard, it would further the security of the parliament.
This ban is flawed in two major ways. First is the fact that a burqa is not an invisible cloak that would sheath knives and weapons under it without coming to notice, and if the idea is to ban loose clothing, then overcoats and jacket should also be included. Metal detectors would surely detect other forms of explosives since last I remember, burqas weren’t equipped with some out-of-the-box technology to trump metal detectors.
Second is the fact that if the apprehension is regarding letting face-covered personnel enter the parliament and not subjecting them to identity checks, then it should be stated that the Australian parliament has airport-level security checks which include the provision that men and women wearing facial coverings can be asked to step aside and lead to a separate room for identity check.
Moreover, what exactly is the Australian parliament trying to claim by imposing such security regulations solely on the House of Representatives? Either the security in other public places is not important enough or this is a mere political statement to show the religious minorities are uninvited in the Australian parliament.
This ban seems has little to to with actual security issues and more with Islamophobia. The entire notion of segregating Muslim women into a glass box and keeping them under guard is not only humiliating but also a move to propagateÂ the second-class treatment meted out to women and religious minorities.
On the one hand Mr. Abbott talked about how burqa was a sign that Muslim women are being ‘vulnerable and oppressed’, and then went on to support the restrictions on a woman’s basic right to follow her religion and wear what she wishes. How will you make these Muslim women independent Mr. Abbott, by caging them behind glass walls?
There is no available record of a niqab or burqa clad woman entering the House of Representatives till yet. Australian Muslim Women’s Center For Human Rights chairperson, Ms. Tasneem Chopra, stated that full facial coverings weren’t worn in Australia and those exposing just women’s eyes were rare.
The Australian Parliament was certainly trying it’s best to disguise this ‘religious apartheid’; first by the idea of women’s oppression and later by shifting it to an issue of national security. It was only after facing severe criticism that Mr. Abbott changed his stance on the issue and is now asking the House of Representatives to do away with the ban.
In his new statement against the idea of burqa box, he recently said, “Common sense should prevail”.Â It really should Mr. Abbott, shouldn’t it?