The ABC, the Burka and equality


Steve Brown comment
Recently my wife Janet posted a comment on FaceBbook about the wearing of the Isalmic women’s garment, the Burka. She was subsequently interviewed about it on the ABC which asked if her comments reflected mine.
That in a supposedly modern, egalitarian society this question should have been thought necessary leaves me somewhat dismayed.
I thought we accepted women as equals. It was also quite ironic that the question was asked during an interview about wearing the Burka, a garment that in my view signifies wifely subservience and ownership.
My wife’s views, as they should be, are completely her own. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I do not. However, I absolutely support with a passion her equal right to hold her opinions, even if sometimes one happens to be the opposite of my own. There’s no drama, those moments simply lead to hours of discussion while I convince her that she is wrong. (Yes, that was a joke.)
On this occasion I do not support Janet’s initial comment because it was directed at the persons who were wearing the offending clothing, rather than confining her comments to the offending garments.
Janet has apologised for her initial poorly thought out comment, having made it far too hastily, in a shocked and indignant reaction to her encounter. Bit of a warning to you Facebookers: You are in the public space, think before you write.
Now that the matter has been raised  I must say that I share her concern at the wearing of the Burka. I see it as a confronting garment suggesting ownership and servitude, neither of which are compatible with a modern egalitarian society like Australia’s.
I also dislike it from the security point of view; we don’t allow the wearing of cycle helmets or balaclavas in some places specifically for those reasons.
The present practice of making allowances for individuals in some pathetic cringing paternalistic gesture simply because they may be of different race or culture should be completely unacceptable in an egalitarian society.
In an egalitarian society everybody lives under the same set of rules, with no exceptions! Often those fawningly espousing “tolerance” use it as an excuse to make exceptions; in reality making exceptions is discriminatory and very often racist. It is in fact, the very definition of the terms.
Yes, we should welcome people of all races and customs in this country but we absolutely must say no to  practices and customs that put us at risk, set us back or are not compatible with our established national goals, beliefs and customs. In simple terms we don’t take on the ideals of a person who thinks dictatorship is the way to go.
Suggestions were also made that Janet’s comments were somehow anti Islamic!  Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of Islamists wouldn’t even consider wearing such a garment. Our concerns are directed at an item of clothing, a custom, not at people.
There are many customs that are, and should be, deemed unacceptable by a modern forward thinking country like Australia as a modern nation: female circumcision, stoning, amputations and other appalling practices.
In my view the Burka belongs in this mix, especially given that women are being persecuted, raped, tortured and killed simply for refusing to cover up in just this way in places such as Iran right at this very moment.
Janet and I welcome people from all over the world, no matter what their race. We love seeing people from far flung places grow and prosper under the freedoms this wonderful country offers.
There is however one binding thing that gives strength to a nation like ours: It is an unquestionable obligation upon on all of us who wish to call Australia home: One rule for everyone. No exceptions.


  1. One should not use the Burka because it makes one different from them. Go back to your Muslim country. Why come to Australia? You cannot have your cake and eat it.

  2. When in Rome do as Romans do. This is Australia, not the Middle East. Start to live and understand Australian culture.

  3. Yes, Steve, you are quite right, we are in the public sphere and need to account for that. Your wife probably more than most as seen by recent online performances.
    The rule in Australia is that you can wear whatever you like while prohibiting indecent exposure and for public safety.
    I hope you can provide examples of the burka being used as a disguise to rob banks. Are you also going to ban overcoats sunglasses and hats?
    While you say you think the burka represents a dictatorship, the sentiments you express here are very much aligned with the authoritarian fascist police state. Would you like a broad based enquiry into all people who are different to you and Mrs Brown? Jewish people, Sikhs and catholic priests all wear distinctive clothing as part of the free expression of culture and religion. Some of this clothing may be confronting to you as well.
    I think you also don’t understand the garment and how Muslim women see it for themselves.
    If you perform a Google search for former President of Indonesia Megawatti and former Prime Minister of Pakistan Bhutto you can see two powerful senior women wearing a scarf.
    Perhaps you should ask a Muslim woman how she feels about it? Are you in charge of her wardrobe?

  4. Good advice Fred, start to “understand Australian culture”.
    I wish you well on your quest, I hope you find that tolerance and empathy are strong parts of whatever you discover.
    The culture I grew in the fifties was changing rapidly both nationally and locally: we had the six o’clock swill; we had the beginnings of youth culture, teenagers dressing and acting very differently to their parents, gyrating their pelvises to Elvis; we had married women wanting to work so the family could have the new mod cons, TV, fridges, washing machine, a Holden; we had reffos flooding our suburb wanting to play soccer; then later we had people demanding equal pay for women, demanding that blokes no longer be able to bash their wives and kids with little of no consequence; we did this differently back then Fred … is that the Australian culture you speak of? Or has it changed, for the better?
    There were people back then bemoaning the loss of “their culture”, but I think that we now have a broader and deeper culture, less blokey and beery, more tolerant, more compassionate, more aware, more knowledgeable, less threatened by difference. Less likely to tell people to go back “where you came from”, which was what was said to our Maltese neighbours in the 50’s by some. And now we have Shaun Micallef!
    These days I feel more threatened by young people with multiple piercings and tats than I do by Muslim women, but then most of them turn out to be not so bad when you get to know ’em.
    Relax Fred, Australian culture has a life of its own you don’t own it, I don’t own it, just enjoy your little bit of it while you can. And let others do the same.

  5. You raise some interesting points, Steve.
    A couple of points – why wouldn’t you expect the ABC here in Alice to indulge in the same type of low rent gotcha politics that they are inflicting on every conservative politician around the country? Fair and balanced – not their ABC when you view some of the Facebook rubbish that WE pay ABC staffers to blind us with.
    The Burka – I read Janet’s comments and then watched the insane bullying that accompanied the toilet that the Alice Springs Community Facebook has become.
    Not one person willing to argue the point – sure what Janet said was clunky and a bit OTT, but she is entitled to her opinion.
    The people that she saw are in fact wearing the Niqab which is adopted by fundamental Muslims.
    Some of those fundamental Muslims are currently engaged in rape, murder, crucifixions and all other sorts of bastardry in Syria and Iraq at the moment.
    In fact we have defence force personnel in the ME at the moment trying to stop the scourge.
    Further – in Alice we have had a Muslim population for years, and yet in the past three months we have seen the emergence of the Niqab. Why?
    I find it interesting that those who would like to attack Janet are the useful fools of these tech savvy philistines who frantically click likes, and support #I’llridewithyou and repeat ad-nauseum about da evil Israel.
    I’m all for freedom of choice in Australia, but let’s be honest about what the Niqab represents – it is a tool used to suppress women and make them second class citizens. So to those who smile and say hello and pontificate “nicely” on Facebook about “making a connection” – the whole point of the damned garment is to separate, not to unite.

  6. Islamists? So now the author knows the political views of these people as well as why they wear what they wear. I’d be very surprised to see any burqas being worn in Alice, more likely the hijab but why let accuracy inform the debate?

  7. Mate, we voted you in for law and order issues not as the fashion police. How about you concentrate on the thousands of council issues like you are meant to?

  8. There is so much wrong with this article. I mean, for starters, it is news to me that women are treated as equals in this country and are not socially demoted to subservience.
    Look at any cleaning ad on TV, or how about the Brownlow red carpet every single year.
    Plus, considering the statistics relating to rape, rape prosecution, domestic violence and femicide (18 women have been killed by men already this year), I don’t think Australia gets the right to point the finger at other countries and accuse them of oppression.
    The article itself though is reflective of what I have come to expect from Territory politicians – ie: not much at all. Congratulations.

  9. Steve you said: “I must say that I share her concern at the wearing of the Burka. I see it as a confronting garment suggesting ownership and servitude, neither of which are compatible with a modern egalitarian society like Australia’s”. What do you think about the book and the movie 50 shades of grey? Should we ban it in Australia? The contract that the girl signs with the man stipulates that “the Dominant may flog, spank, whip or corporally punish the Submissive as he sees fit, for purposes of discipline, for his own personal enjoyment or for any other reason, which he is not obliged to provide.” If this is progress for women, what would regression look like? Why are we not against domestic violence?

  10. I see nothing confronting or sinister in any items of clothing or fashion in general.
    I think people wearing unusual items of clothing or makeup or tattoos are generally insecure or simply wishing to be noticed.
    This may be due to a lack of confidence or shyness or an attempt to project an identity in the absence of one.
    Sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s sad. Maybe they just wish to belong.

  11. Just a tad of hypocrisy in this retort to justify what Janet said. I’ll paraphrase her words: “I was so upset these people need to get on a plane and fck off.” Defend her free speech but then say how offensive the clothing is to you?

  12. My mother told me that back in the 1950s/60s women’s magazines always captioned photos of women in their gossip pages as – Mrs Edward Smith or Mrs Robert Jones etc. It infuriated many women then and the ABC infuriates me now.
    The ABC is one organization the country does NOT need. We need that money for hospitals, aged care and education.
    But I’m pleased the ABC keeps showing how outdated it is – so more people will see them as irrelevant and want to them binned.
    Bye, Bye ABC.

  13. Recently I caught the end of a quick question / response on (I think) the ABC.
    A young woman in a hijab was asked something about how her look fit into the look of modern Australia.
    Her response was I am the look of modern Australia.

  14. Steve, we all are free of our opinions, but it seems from your piece of writing and the many comments, that there is confusion between garnments: Burka, and other head-wears that allow the face to be seen, Niqab, Hidjab, and omitting Chador!
    You also say: about the omission of wearing a burka, all the horrible treatment of women “in places such as Iran right at this very moment.”
    Sorry but in Iran, and only in the streets of Tehran and large cities, women wear a chador, for decency, or a colourful scarf on the head, a long beige or grey or black overcoat, but not a BURKA!
    In fact if you look at some of the FaceBook pictures Iranian women go to the mountains and to picnics wearing exactly what we wear in Australia and they are a happy lot.
    Domestic Violence is not a matter of country or religion, it happens everywhere, and at this very moment in Australia without burka, chador, niqab, hidjab, etc. Happy International Women’s Day to all!

  15. I thought your response was reasoned and reasonable Steve. Married people are not joined at the hip (nor the brain).
    It seems to me that too many of the responses you have had are from people who would not be capable of such self scrutiny or frankness.
    You and your wife seem to me to be open to difference and welcome the variety of people from different backgrounds who now call Alice Springs home. I endorse that.
    Your wife was too hasty with a comment and has lived to regret it. It has probably been quite a learning curve for her of the power of words. Let she or he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  16. Those amongst us who have not yet found an “own comment” we lived to regret, have not looked hard enough.
    Australia needs our ABC political bureaus move away from the ABC ark in Sydney – and other capitals. At least half their presentations need be both prepared and presented from outside metropolitan areas, from within our regional towns and cities.

  17. People wearing burkas would not be employed in industry or with machinery due to being unsafe. Since the arrival of these people we are losing our freedom. Try getting on a plane at the moment. Australia has boosted security. Slowly we are losing our freedom. Next we will not be able to celebrate Christmas because it may offend them.

  18. Re Janet: Dinosaur views from the 50s. Absolutely laughable. Take a trip, sprout your views in any city over a million people and I’d have the delight of you being frog marched to the city limits back to your little Utopia.

  19. Well said Steve. I painted the first of my SAY NO TO BURQAS murals in Newtown in 2010, even 5 years later it is a difficult topic to discuss or debate without the left going crazy. The garment is the topic, and the fundamentalism that goes with it.


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