There are times when I like to take a step back and consider things from a fresh perspective.
Not being able to see someone’s face is a security risk, the argument goes, so we should ban the burqa from Parliament. We’re not being anti-Muslim, the argument goes, we just want to be safe.
So I step back and consider this for a second. Why the mention the burqa specifically? After all, given the general ignorance about what constitutes a burqa, would we have people arguing for entry rights on the grounds that they’re actually wearing a niqab? But if not being able to see someone’s face is a concern, why not simply make it a requirement that anyone entering the Parliament needs to have their face exposed? No motor-cycle helmets, no balaclavas, no masks, no outlandish make-up and certain members of the Coalition would be banned from wearing their Klan white sheets while entering. (Yes, I know that no member of the Coalition has ever actually entered wearing a white sheet, but how many burqa-clad women have entered in the past year?)
Ok, this would prevent people who are wearing the burqa from entering, but then it becomes more about the perceived security risk from anyone covering their face rather than suggesting that Parliament is particularly threatened from someone in a burqa. That way it’s less discriminatory and more like being excluded from a night club because you’re wearing the wrong shoes.
Now, I suppose some of you are thinking, I’m being a little superficial there and that it’s still discriminatory and many of you may want to argue that people wearing the burqa have a right to go wherever they wish, but, at least then we’ll be arguing in a general way about whether customs or beliefs should give one an exception, rather than the implied suggestion that a Muslim woman with her face covered is more threatening than an armed man in a balaclava.
But it’s the whole idea that not being able to see someone’s face makes that person a greater threat to security that I find most absurd when I take a step back.
Let me try and put myself in the shoes of a terrorist. (Yes, I know that’s rather dangerous in Abbott’s Team Australia, but I always remember the wise words of the person who said that if you find someone offensive you should always try to walk a mile in their shoes – that way you’re a long way away from them with an extra pair of shoes!)
Imagine I want to launch an attack on Parliament. (This is hypothetical, Mr ASIO agent, but, hey, it’s always good to have another reader, I hope you enjoy my blog. :D) So, would I get someone who looked like a fundamentalist Muslim, or someone who could blend into the crowd so that security wouldn’t even give them a second look? Logic dictates that you wouldn’t want the person to stand out too much.
Ok, ok, terrorists aren’t very bright. I’ll give you that. Which, of course, brings me to my next point. What are we frightened this woman (or man) in a burqa will do?
If we’re worried that she is concealing a placard saying, “Seeking asylum is not a crime” then I can understand the concern. The security checks may not pick up something that threatening that has no metal in it and she may even get away with it for a couple of minutes before one of the Coalition MPs capable of reading notices and tells the independent Bronwyn Bishop to order her ejection.
However, if it’s something more sinister, what would she be able to do thanks to that burqa?
Smuggle in a weapon and open fire? In which case I don’t imagine the security officers issuing the command: “Don’t shoot till you see the whites of her eyes. Oh no, she’s wearing a burqa – we’re all doomed.”
Similarly, if we imagine her as a suicide bomber, then it hardly seems likely that the police will need a good description, if she were to be successful.
Yep, no matter how I look at it, I can’t see any need to specifically ban the burqa. But I’m always open to changing my mind when confronted with evidence. Has someone collected statistics on how many violent crimes have been committed in Australia by women wearing burqas? If so, please let me know.