~ image from Senate CCTV footage
PAULINE Hanson’s stunt in the Australian Senate on Thursday – for that is what it was, banal to its bootstraps – has caused an outbreak of comment. It also caused Attorney-General George Brandis to deliver to Hanson a condign rebuke in the chamber, for which he is due high praise, whether or not you like his politics.
The burqa is not banned in Australia, and neither should it be. It is a Middle Eastern garment unrelated to Islamic beliefs, rites and practices, except by human interpretation. For some people it is a confronting thing. Perhaps it is for the women who wear it not by choice but by law, in Saudi Arabia, other Arabian places, and in societies where misinterpreted patriarchy is all the go, and where the local time is Medieval. But perhaps it is not, for other women, in other places, who choose to dress that way.
For Hanson and others who see or for political reasons wish to boost the idea of pandemic Muslim intention to murder and cause mayhem, it is a handy tool for making a political point. That’s what motivated the leader of One Nation in her Senate demonstration yesterday. She had no thought for the offence she might cause among women in Australia who wear a burqa, or that parenthetically she was offending an entire religion by her act.
She didn’t care. That’s her stock in trade. It plays to the galleries she wants to impress: those who have been taught to fear a global Muslim insurrection; and those (astoundingly, given the dispossession that British settlement brought to the Australian people who were already living there in 1788) who seem to believe that settler Australia’s way of life is fixed in amber, and consists of beer, barbecues, and plumber’s crack.
It is entirely legitimate to question the principles of the burqa, on any number of grounds. It does not reflect the general attitudes or practices of modern western liberal democracies, for example, although where women are concerned the continued prevalence and domination of the Neanderthal male is probably a greater threat. It is – so it is said – a security threat, since the wearer is obscured from view. That’s largely tosh. Most terrorists are madmen – literally, mad men: “It woz me gonads wot dunnit, Yer Onner.”
None of the Islamic terrorists who have just killed 13 people and injured scores in Barcelona wore a burqa. None of their despicable companions in a second planned attack, who fortunately were found and shot dead by Spanish police before they could do any harm, did either.
The burqa is irrelevant to the terror threat, which is very real and which must be dealt with on the spot when a murderous outrage is committed or planned.
Hanson is trying to polarise an Australian constituency for views that support a notion of “exceptionalist” Australia, something else that’s been borrowed from the land of the free and grossly over-armed. But it’s a legitimate political objective in a democracy, even though it’s completely mad. Wrapping yourself in a flag and shouting slogans is apparently less offensive than being allowed to dress as you wish.