The Burqa: Religious Freedom, or Religious Oppression?
Harry Richardson is a long-time student of Islam and author of best seller, "the Story Of Mohammed - Islam Unveiled', http://thestoryofmohammed.blogspot.com.au
In an article in Queensland’s Courier Mail yesterday (7/10/14), Paul Syvret took Senator Cory Bernardi to task. He implied that Bernardi was being hypocritical for supporting free speech, whilst being against the freedom to wear a religious face covering.
[For convenience, I will refer to this covering as a Hijab. According to Dr Raihan Ismail, who is a lecturer in Middle East Politics and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, “Hijab is also a general term referring to the practice of wearing veils of all kinds”.]
I felt that Mr Syvret was missing an important feature of freedom which seems to be little understood in today’s climate of general moral fuzziness. I don’t want to get bogged down in the burqa debate, but I feel this point is the key to understanding the whole issue.
The point is, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ABSOLUTE FREEDOM.
For example, a smoker and a non-smoker can’t both be free in the same railway carriage. Giving someone the freedom to keep slaves does not make him a champion of freedom.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
What people seemed to understand more clearly in the old days (and I’m not that old) was that the aim of a decent society should be to create the maximum freedom possible, even if this means restricting freedom in some situations.
The prison system restricts the freedom of thousands of criminals, but allows millions of us the freedom to walk the streets and to retain our property. Traffic laws restrict our driving behaviour, but give us the freedom to travel in safety.
When we approach an issue of freedom, it is important to frame it in these terms, in order to understand the issue clearly.
If we go back to the hijab issue, you may remember a few years ago, Sheikh Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly made comments which suggested that women who were not wearing a hijab, were to blame if they were raped.
The Sheikh was not just some random Muslim, spouting off at a barbeque, he was the Grand Mufti of Australia and New Zealand at that time and the comments were made during a Ramadan sermon.
Whilst his views surely don’t reflect those of every Muslim in Australia, it seems unlikely, given his position, that this is a minority viewpoint. Anyone who agrees with Hilaly, must by default believe that NO women should be free to walk in public without a hijab, under penalty of rape.
We can then apply the question, “Is allowing the hijab, increasing the overall freedom in our society, or restricting it?”
When we do apply this question, Senator Bernardi’s stance begins to look quite logical after all.