Banning the burqa

The media have gotten themselves into a tizz today concerning the wearing of the burqa by Muslim women in Australia. It all started with this article by Liberal senator Cory Bernadi, in which he says “For safety and for society, the burqa needs to be banned in Australia.”

Bernadi makes some excellent points about the burqa, in particular these two:

the burqa represents the repressive domination of men over women which has no place in our society and compromises some of the most important aspects of human communication.

Equality of women is one of the key values in our secular society and any culture that believes only women should be covered in such a repressive manner is not consistent with the Australian culture and values“.

Predictably, the media have overlooked this entirely rational and justifed feminist position, in favour of the more sensationalist ‘freedom of religion/racism/bigotry/’ line. And the comments on The Age article reflect views that I suspect fairly well reflect those of the general public.

Whilst I’d love to see Muslim women the world over liberated and freed from the burqa, I wonder what the psychological and mental health consequences of a burqa ban would be. Surely, a Muslim woman choses to don a burqa because she believes that God or Allah, wants her to do so. When a woman has seen her female role-models wear the burqa, been raised from birth to believe that she must obey what her holy text, religious leaders and most importantly, husband, tell her to do, surely a government law enforcing that she should not wear it must have a profound effect on her emotional well-being. Should she be forced to remove it, would this conflict with her idea of what is ‘right’ so severely as to impact upon her mental health? Is the suffering of one generation of Muslim women worth it to break the chain of oppression and free their daughters and grand-daughters? And might we see (or not see, as is so often with domestic violence), husbands of these women reacting adversly to the ban, and taking it out on their wives.

Whilst I’ve found numerous news articles, editorials and opinion pieces on the banning of the burqa, I have been unable to find anything addressing any possible repurcussions regarding the pyschological wellbeing and mental health of women who are forced to remove their burqas. Maybe I am completely off track here, I know very few Muslims, and certainly none well enough to have a conversation about this issue with. I do hope that this issue doesn’t go away though, as I feel it will serve to  open more people’s eyes and minds as to the crimes against women that are committed in the name of all religions, not just Islam.

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