Burqas or Bikinis

, posted: 26-Aug-2006 09:39

The Dominion Post has quite a remarkable story about National MP Bob Clarkson, who is in hot water for saying muslim women should not wear full body-covering burqas in public.

I don't think MPs should dictate what people wear in public, but it is inevitable that some forms of dress will be controversial at times. While not making any comparisons with burqas beyond controversy, think about the reaction wearing balaclavas/ski masks ("rapist masks") and say Nazi-era uniforms in public would engender.

Burqas are controversial because they hide the features of the person wearing them. Even so, Clarkson's comments that this somehow means burqa wearers would hide guns underneath the clothing are just silly. You don't need a burqa to do that - your average baggy gangsta togs will do just fine, and they get in the way less if you're going to do the deed.

That said, driving in burqas and appearing in them in court is a no-no for practical reasons. I'm surprised this has to be debated because common sense tells you that driving around with your vision hampered by veils is plain dangerous. Likewise, if you're in court, you have to be identifiable unless under exceptional circumstances. Otherwise, the trial becomes pointless.

However, Javed Khan, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations in New Zealand, is right to highlight the hypocrisy here that permits some religionists to wear what they like under any circumstances while muslims are being criticised for doing the same.

The answer to that is simple though: ours is a secular society where religionists have to accept that they have no right to force their superstition upon others through their dress or actions. This includes christians, muslims, sikhs, buddhists, younameitists.

Frankly, a bunch of nuns in full habit or monks in frocks wandering around in public is just as disturbing as burqa wearers. I used to laugh quietly in Italy, when I saw older people especially do the evil eye sign when nuns and priests crossed their paths, thinking what silly superstition that was. Now however, I can see their point.

And Mr Khan: no, fitting into a secular society doesn't mean wearing bikinis only. Stooping to cheap rhetoric like that isn't helpful.

Update Here's Bob Clarkson back-pedalling furiously:


(Windows Media audio file)

Putting it like this, the good burghers of Tauranga didn't exactly upgrade when they elected Clarkson instead of Winston Peters.


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