Burqa Banished Behind Glass in Australian Parliament

Australian House of Representatives

Australian House of Representatives
Wikimedia – By Harishrawat11 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0)

There have been strong reactions to a decision on 2 October 2014 by the presiding officers of the Australian parliament concerning the burqa. As counter terrorism expert Nick O’Brien reported at The Conversation academic blog:

[It] would relegate [burqa]wearers to a glass box usually reserved for parties of schoolchildren. The ban, if it is introduced over the prime minister’s belated objection, would include people with any facial coverings and thus the niqab would also be caught under this ruling.

The two links give details of the unfolding controversy.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott has asked for the decision to be reconsidered, despite his remarks earlier in the week that he finds the burqa “confronting”.

Twitter was ablaze with lots of opposition to and some support for the proposal.

A common response was to see it as a deliberate distraction from government failures:

Alex Greenwich drew a scathing contrast with child sexual assault by clergy, an issue currently the subject of The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The current controversy should be seen in the context of:

  • The raising of the National Terrorism Public Alert level from Medium to High, “that points to the increased likelihood of a terrorist attack”.
  • High profile security raids with subsequent terrorism charges.
  • The stabbing of two police officers by a Muslim youth who was shot dead.
  • Australia’s military participation in the coalition against the so-called Islamic State.
  • New, tougher anti-terrorism laws that have been condemned by some as striking “at the heart of press freedom”.
  • This tweet reflected the tension:

    There has been plenty of humour and satire. The satirical site The Shovel picked up the distraction theme:

    Government’s Budget Problems To Be Covered With Giant Burqa

    Government’s Budget Problems To Be Covered With Giant Burqa – The Shovel

    The GP co-payment, changes to welfare, and a range of other unpopular budget measures will be concealed beneath a fully-enclosed Islamic garment, specially fabricated by the Government, it was revealed today.

    Cartoons were being widely circulated:

    Not all were against the move behind glass. Helena Sindelar raised another side of the question of rights:

    Another tweeter responded to a morning television show with her concerns:

    Pauline Hanson, a former member of the House of Representatives, has a reputation for divisiveness. Elgar Welch quoted from her article:

    Nevertheless, the majority sentiment online has been to reject the proposed restrictions:

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