October 05, 2014 | Ronda Jambe

The truest test of multiculturalism and tolerance

What annoys me about the current discussion on burkas and Parliament House is not the way it briefly became practically the only political issue worth of media coverage. It is that the level of discussion, and the way the matter has been mushed around, indicates scary political correctness accompanied by lack of guts.

We know only a small proportion of Muslim women wear the full face coverings in Australia. I don’t know the percentage of Muslim women, either here or in other countries, that wear the merely inhibiting head scarves.

But the discussion has focussed narrowly on the full burka, with security issues as the pretext. The real issue was not touched on: the widespread practice of Muslim women adopting a convention of clothing modesty that is not applied to men and is not normal in Australian society. And how we don’t understand the reasoning or the need.

I understand the comparison with Sikhs wearing turbans, or Hindu women in saris. But their numbers are quite small. Saris are also open and show hair, I believe.

Headscarves in our climate, however, must be hot and uncomfortable. There is surely no need to cover up to that extent in Australia. The cultural setting is different from many less developed Muslim countries, more relaxed, less tolerant of sexual assault and possessiveness, more respectful of women’s independence and freedom to choose on many fronts. (This is not to say sexual violence has been eliminated here, far from it.)

No doubt many Muslim women who do not wear the headscarf feel exactly the same way, especially younger or second gen Muslims. All migrant groups tend to drop the more distinctive trappings of their homeland, or we’d see Germans in Dirndls, and Normandy French women in white peaked caps. Logic implies that pure and correct interpretations of Islam do NOT require the headscarf. This must be the case, as not all Muslim women wear headscarves, here or overseas. Therefore, a true test of multiculturalism and tolerance of diversity in Australia would be a group of Muslim and other religious members forming to proclaim support for women who choose not to wear a headscarf. Stand up and be counted, imams and shemams, for the broad-mindedness that Islam has in the past been known for.

Would such statements be tolerated by their own community? Can women from all Muslim backgrounds make that choice freely? Is there any evidence of coercion from their conservative ranks?

A few weeks ago in Times Square there were lovely young women, body painted and wearing panties only, flaunting their advertising happily surrounded by camera happy crowds. Close by were assorted religious types with signs on sticks saying ‘Repent now!’ or ‘The End is Near’. A cheerful, if confusing situation. But no one was in danger, except maybe the Disney characters in costume who were probably about the faint in the heat. The is the real triumph of the US: enormous tolerance and enormous diversity.

A religion that adapts to new settings, welcomes diversity in its community and tolerates difference: that is what Australian values support. Headscarves and heat make me sweat, in the same way that bare midrifs make me instinctively want to cover my middle. I am prepared to tolerate both, but if given a choice between Puritans and Sybarites, give me belly dancing any time.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 1:52 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Ronda, one can understand and share your concerns, particularly, when it comes to subjugated womenfolk! I have daughters!
    However, change can never ever be forced, can only lead to further entrenched resentment; and is only ever available in small incremental steps.
    i.e., Muslim Afghan camel drivers and their families, here since we laid out the north south telegraph, over a century ago, have gradually adapted.
    They now appear no different from any other fair dinkum Aussie!
    They may be the bloke you have a beer with after the footy, or the bikini wearing babe on the beach!?
    They were assisted by the fact, that most seem to have come from the Sofie tradition, the oldest and least revised form of Islam, and are guided by the oldest, least revised or altered Qoran (Koran).
    The Sofie tradition is the one that has been most successful the world over, in PEACEFULLY gaining converts, with its do unto others as you would be done unto; live and let live example; and, encompass daily meditation as a tradition!
    That probably explains why they and every other culture/Philosophy that embodies meditation, are inherently peaceful, live and let live, won’ t do you a bad turn if they can do you a good one, good neighbors.
    Moreover, they appear to welcome investigation by interested parties; but there seems to be no active recruitment or door to door God bothering!? Thank heavens!
    I think most Australians find the burqa (burka) confronting.
    But no more so than a Ned Kelly, who also briefly wore a iron one.
    His had to be both hotter and heavier, and was therefore, only used part time. The “lead” (zing ping, make your head ring) regular/incessant panel beating, had to be murder on the ears!
    People from all nations have reasons to cover the face, to keep out the dust, sand, wind, rain, hail or flies.
    And as such are practical examples. [Albeit, the open road, a bike, the wind in your hair, the flies in your teeth, is an unforgettable experience.]
    Isil and other terrorists only cover the features to avoid identification and righteous justice; so did various brigands and scoundrels throughout the length and breadth of Human history.
    That said, we have no right to decide what’s appropriate head wear for anybody or religious tradition, and should always lead and only by example.
    Somewhere it is written you can catch many more flies with a teaspoon of honey, than a whole barrel of vinegar!
    And one can only teach tolerance by practicing it, and leading by example.
    And needed now more than ever, given we are now at war, with those who would strip such freedoms away, in the blink of an eye!
    Returning Vietnam Vets were also spat on, and reviled, for no better reason than they did their sworn duty.
    And given we all of us now regret that shameful defiling of service, there is just no good reason to repeat it, and for no better reason than we are able to!
    Such is the price of truly inherent freedom.
    There will always be a small element, who just dislike difference and for no better reason than ignorance, (the IQ of a pea) or worse, active discrimination.
    Real men wouldn’t stand by and watch a lady wearing a burqa be spat upon, any more than we any of us tolerate the same being done to a similarly attired Nun!
    Albeit, it would be passing strange, to now find one of those in a place, that is as hot as Oz!
    Yes there are real security issues here, but as long as they are being adequately dealt with by professionals and conducted with courtesy, no other action is needed except as example; and just not standing by, when evil doers are busy!
    Cheers, Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — October 6, 2014 @ 11:39 am

  2. Good and reasonable thoughts, as always, Alan. I am all for tolerance in general.

    I guess the unwritten assumption in my post was that women are expected to cover up so as to deter assault. If that is the underlying reason, it should be challenged. Why should one gender be more modest than the other?

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — October 6, 2014 @ 6:10 pm

  3. Why indeed Ronda.
    It occurs to me that this modesty, is because the covered may have a face only a mother could love, like the south end of a northbound camel.
    Or that the Husband is so possessive, to be virtually insane.
    For the alleged ownership of another human, but particularly, without their informed consent, is madness personified.
    Maybe the husband is so ugly, that anybody else able to catch a glimpse of his wife will want her, and she, anybody else!
    Another reason could be, that the woman is so beautiful, or the sun shines out of her Whatsit, that all males affected by her unclothed appearance, (ravishing beauty) will go immediately blind or become inflamed with an impossible to resist sexual desire; and start molesting/humping everything in sight? (Who gave that dog a bone?)
    Including very old lampposts or anything that’s still standing? (He said, with a sheepish grin.)
    Others have a similar problem with the sight of a bare female ankle, though it beats the hell out of me, how they can recognize it’s female, under all that attire!?
    Maybe it’s just a problem for some men, who have a perennial problem keeping their over-sized peckers in their pants.
    Well some of them do work like horses! And now we know why?
    There’s a well known Aussie cartoonist Pickering, who has included some in his, always sold out, caricature calendars.
    Bob Hawke depicted drinking directly from a beer can on the ground, with an Elephant sized tackle!
    Possibly explains the incredible memory? Or the sheer number of trunk line calls? Or plow pulling abilities?
    Very old lampposts are a terrible problem, given the splinters and where they may lodge.
    And the splinter forceps may be working overtime today, in north western Iraq!
    Q: How do you know when a DATE terrorist is really on the level?
    A: He dribbles equally out both sides of his mouth.
    Cheers, Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — October 7, 2014 @ 10:29 am

  4. “a true test of multiculturalism and tolerance of diversity in Australia would be a group of Muslim and other religious members forming to proclaim support for women who choose not to wear a headscarf.”

    Yes, agreed, Ronda, however I’m not optimistic.

    “..the broad-mindedness that Islam has in the past been known for.”

    Certainly at different times in history, however Islamic ‘tolerance’ is often overstated, non-Muslims, the Kuffars, were always socially, legally and politically inferior to Muslims and still are in many countries.

    Comment by RussellW — October 7, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

  5. Once again Russell, you have adroitly read between my lines.
    I really want to give them the benefit of the doubt, and find again the glory days of the Muslim world, when all faiths lived (briefly)in harmony in Spain, for example.
    We hope to have moved beyond the infamous days of the Christian religion, when non-believers were tortured and Jews expelled whenever the sovreigns couldn’t pay them their accumulated war debs.t

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — October 8, 2014 @ 7:29 am

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