October 27, 2006 | Graham

Hijab hysteria

You can’t strip a man of citizenship because he thinks that some women “ask for it”. Whatever the merits of Sheik Hilali’s comments, the response by some of his detractors, like Sunshine Coast MP Peter Slipper, is no better. You can’t on the one hand condemn Hilaly for being uncivilised, and then on the other exhibit the same tendencies in yourself. Australia is a civilised country because you’re allowed to offend people here, and because stupidity isn’t abolished by law.
In fact, in a rather odd way, it’s quintessentially Australian to say that some women “ask for it”. It’s certainly a sentiment that you’ll find in pretty much any public bar in the country. So it would be a new twist to attempt to deport someone not for being “un-Australian” but for being “too Australian”.
Not that many Australians now think that women ought to cover their heads, but it’s not so long since it was a majority position, which lingered into the 60s. I remember Saturday afternoons driving past the Catholic church at Tugun and watching all the girls, with names like Donna, Brigitte, Mary and Bernadette, walking out of 6:00 o’clock mass with their heads covered by black mantillas. On Sundays at Coolangatta Methodist self-respecting matrons all wore hats in church. I don’t remember hearing any sermons about women wearing provocative clothing, but I do remember vague rumours of them, and the church schools were all very severe on hemline length.
What is most reprehensible in the case of Taj din al Hilaly is not so much what he said – although that was pretty bad – it’s that it is the latest in a long list of statements he has made which he and the Islamic community have tried to cover-up. The latest was when he praised the 9/11 attacks as “God’s work” when opening a mosque in Lebanon. This was explained away as a translation error. That’s the excuse being made in this case.
It is a measure of the intractability of the Islamic issue that Hilaly can not only hold a position of importance, but apparently be very popular in his own area. According to this article in The Australian he gets all his restaurant meals for free as a mark of respect.
Hilaly holding an unpopular set of views is one issue, but the community covering up for him is another one, and much more dangerous. It makes me both alert and alarmed.

Posted by Graham at 8:51 am | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. At least, with this ratbag individual, we know what he thinks. What we are not so sure of is what the Islamic community which always claims that his remarks were “taken our of context” thinks. What we do hear from most of them is their self-interested fear of a “backlash against Muslims” as a result of the Mad Mullah’s ravings.

    Comment by Leigh — October 28, 2006 @ 9:25 am

  2. Mind you I remember a debate last year about changing the law to allow citizenship to be stripped from people in Australia. I’m wondering if it’ll come back.
    Hilaly’s comments should be condemned but one thing that must be remembered is that Muslim community is not homogenous and this in turn as meant problems with dealing with him. For the last few months there’s been problems in the Australian Federation of Islamic Council (I think that’s what it’s called) particularly because of the ethnic divisions. It means they can’t really do much as they’re fighting each other for recognition and a bit of power. It’s a general problem with quite a few ‘ethnic’ organiations. They’re controlled mainly by males from the first generation with little representation of women and youth. It’s a general problem but has manifested itself the worst in the case of the AFIC
    In regards to covering up for him, it’s probably part of a defensive mentality they have because the community, mainly Lebanese Muslims, whether correct or not feel they have been targetted and persecuted by the media.
    I also found it interesting that after Hilaly’s comments you had comments from other religious leaders about the importance of dressing modestly.

    Comment by Oz — October 28, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

  3. Yeah, the Bondi riots were a joke, weren’t they!

    Comment by David Matheson — October 29, 2006 @ 11:01 am

  4. I dont think comments made by the the Sheik can be equated to the ramblings of a Drunken Aussie male in a pub! The infuence of his ramblings probabaly are not going to influence the bar tenders actions towards women,or anyone elses, unlike the emotive passion that can influence Muslim males in the name of Allah and doing ‘gods’ work.

    Comment by Sue — October 30, 2006 @ 9:49 am

  5. Great post Graham, very amusing. I have deleted that dinosaur of Australian Politics and am now running a Not Safe For Work/Children/Middle class reputation blog, where I have kept the few good posts from the old blog. Scroll down to find the crap.

    Comment by Benno — November 1, 2006 @ 10:53 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.