I was in the audience at ABC’s Q & A (Monday 06/10/2014) and I listened to the question from Ms. Stevens to Bob Katter about denying /homosexuality and the links to stigma and mental illness. Everyone cheered. The feeling of everyone’s passion to overcome injustice and to recognise individual rights in that one space was emotionally overwhelming.
Dr. Louise Byrne’s response about overcoming stigma and explaining to others what her job was, which exposes her illness, speaks to the face of real action on reducing stigma.
Every time I see anti-burqa posts on my newsfeed, in letters to the editor, on forum posts, my heart sinks. I believe that narrative shapes society. What we choose to express, publish and share and how we position ourselves in conversation, shapes society.
I find that all such anti-burqa posts and comments advocate stigma.
Ms. Stevens put to Katter, “that your reluctance to address homosexuals as well as their civil rights is quite detrimental to their mental health”. This question can be used again and again, replacing homosexuals with other marginalized groups and the answer should be that it is unequivocally unacceptable.
Hundreds of women are being vilified, ostracized and attacked violently in Australia, simply for wearing religious/cultural coverings. Women in particular are being targeted for attacks; women who deserve a space in our society, the same as everyone else. Why are sections of our community intent on condemning, vilifying and advocating violence against such a small minority of women; when there is no evidence that the wearing of any cultural/religious covering has threatened our security or way of life?
Growing up in the very racist 70’s and 80’s and working in community mental health in the 90s, has shown me that stigma has the negative consequences of denial of freedom of expression, mobility, achievement, integration and community contribution.
I have followed the burqa debate for a number of years and the same arguments pop up. On the issue of security, the same concern is not expressed about men in full faced beards and hats or men in suits, beards and sunglasses; but only of women expressing their individual freedom to pay respect to their religion or culture.
Then there are those who post snippets from the Koran as ‘evidence’ and boast ‘they have read the Koran.’
I think people who have a misplaced fear of women who wear any cultural religious covering, should refrain from expressing their bigotry and hatred and step away from studying parts of the Koran and go to the library and read the following books:
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
Stigma; notes on the management of spoiled identity – Erving Goffman
Witch Hunts: A graphic history of the Burning Times. Rocky Wood, Lisa Morton and Greg Chapman
Maybe these bigots and advocates of hatred and violence may want to publish their thoughts and interpretation of each book below and if it has affected their thinking on civil rights and freedom in our society.
image sourced from: http://annamariacom.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/ban-burqa-mural-in-newtown.html
Trish, thank you for an articulate, well-informed and passionate article. I agree with all you have said and admire your ability to put it so well.
The present appeal of an appallingly unethical and arrogant Federal government to the worst aspects of human nature is beyond unfortunate – it is – completely reprehensible and damaging for so many in the community and to Australia’s status as a nation within the international community.
In my view, it is this sort of bigotry which so profoundly under-writes the extremism that so often evolves in groups such as ISIL, ISIS, or IS – whatever.
It is also my view that a fear of women, probably originating in religious dogma and teachings, underpins the prevalent male attitudes to women in our society. It may seem a long string to draw but I have no doubt that if one really investigates male / female attitudes, relationships and experience then there is much evidence of this as a causative factor. Unfortunately, we tend to focus more on symptoms than on causes in our society – which, perhaps, is why we don’t seem to solve these issues but continually see them resurge.
I have taken the liberty of re-blogging your article on http://souliloquy.info and, once again, thank you for standing against the bigotry so widely and ignorantly expressed.
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Women,in the main put on the make up face, men put up the image of success, the Ferrari, and so on.
The outside look hides the face within or the face without, hides the face within, what does it matter if a burqa, is on or not? beards hide a lot.
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unfortunately we live – in the 21st century – in a patriarchal society, and this is further entrenched by the current govt – so of course women will be the target of ‘blame’ whatever the current issue may be – this is an ongoing historical occurrence and will not change any time soon, especially with so little female representation in govt…. I’ll leave it there, rather than going on….and on….
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Yes, I’d agree that some use make-up, trophies or other trappings to hide what’s on the inside but there are many other reasons for that phenomenon: to boost confidence, to conform with peer group, as a response to conditioning, for instance.
There is, however, a significant difference, between the wearing of the Burqa and the issue you raise. The Burqa is not intended to hide attitude, intention, philosophy, status or such. It is not a disguise. The Burqa is a cultural garment, originally intended to save men from themselves – ie. it was a response to a belief that men cannot control their own sexual urges in the face of the female form. Having women wear the Burqa was thus a way to prevent men from committing sin.
Today, there isn’t a single interpretation or understanding of when the Burqa should be worn. In some places it is still expected of all females beyond puberty, in others it is only required in certain situations or places, in still others it may not be required at all and a Hijab may be all that is expected. Many Muslim women *choose* to wear the Burqa but I’m sure that many may also prefer not to do so.
In my view, with reference to Australian society, the issue becomes one of womens’ place and society’s respect for their rights to participate on an equal footing with males. In that regard, to me, it is an unacceptable justification to put the responsibility for men’s behaviour and ability or otherwise to control themselves on women. In a modern world, my view is that Men have to take responsibility for their own behaviour and such a justification, to me, is as flawed as alleging that a woman has asked to be sexually assaulted or raped because she wore clothing that by someone’s arbitrary standard was “provocative.”
Given that view, in a multicultural society such as Australia, there needs to be some resolution of to what degree we expect people of other cultures to adopt our own – the dominant culture – when they visit, live in or become permanent residents or citizens of Australia.
I think it is not an easily answered question but a discussion that it is very necessary to have. Sweeping it under the carpet or dismissing it will not solve what is a significant issue within a society which seeks to accept mixed cultures, religions, and races and integrate them with harmony into the overarching society.
Our Constitution allows freedom of religion for all citizens and for some Muslims that will mean that the Burqa must be worn. For others, there will be no conflict between their own interpretation of religious requirements and not wearing a Burqa. It is no different, in essence to some Catholics being strictly non-meat eating on Fridays whilst others choose to eat what they wish. Some say grace before meals and before bed whilst others do not. Yet all will consider themselves Catholics.
Personally, I fail to see rationality in any religion but I accept that some people do believe in certain religious dogma and doctrine, whether of free will or unconscious conditioning. As someone who believes that only by accepting and seeking to understand one another’s difference can we hope to eventually obtain life in a peaceful and harmonious world, providing that it does not harm to others, I am prepared to accept people practising the rituals and tenets of a religion, despite them having no meaning for me.
I don’t profess to have the answers. I do, however, think that we have a tendency to focus on symptoms rather than taking the time and trouble to investigate fundamental and underlying causes for human behaviour. That, I think, creates or at least exacerbates many of the issues we face and often sees them escalate into slanging matches with all parties retreating to entrenched and unhelpfully dogmatic positions of their own.
With thousands of years of history behind us, we ought by now to have the intellect and the tools to resolve such questions as this. However, we will not solve them without the will. Nor will we solve them by throwing rocks. We have to engage with good faith and a blank page.
That’s my view but then, I’m only a man who does, to the best of my ability, take responsibility for his actions and attempts to understand those of others.
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