Another burqa blog post

The wonderful Lexy sent me a link to this story this morning, about the anti-burqa mural by glass artist Sergio Redegalli. I saw the mural on the way to work and was not impressed. I’m a little reluctant to blog about it, because I don’t want to give this idiot any more attention. But then, I give lots of idiots attention by blogging about them, so here goes.

From the Inner West Courier:

Mr Redegalli said he is not racist or anti-Islamic but the mural on Station St was “anti-extremist, attempting to stop violence in the future”.

“I would not like to see Australia have Sharia law (the sacred law of Islam),” he said.

“It might never happen but it will be challenged. It’s through that process of it being pushed I’m worried about the violence.

“Just because the Cronulla riots happened six years ago doesn’t mean the tension isn’t there.”

Let me get this straight – he’s so worried about violence caused by something that might never happen that he’s painted a deliberately inflammatory mural to prevent this violence that might never happen? And how does painting a deliberately inflammatory mural help ease tension, Redegalli? How?

(Never mind equating Islam with violence, which probably isn’t his fault since that’s how the mainstream media has portrayed Islam for decades.)

Mr Redegalli is using his shop, Cydonia Glass Studio, to create discussion about the issue because he believes state and federal governments are too scared to bring the issue up.

“This mural has come from frustration that political correctness has gone so far you can’t say anything about Muslims without getting in trouble,” he said.

Seriously? We’ve had a free-for-all on anti-Muslim bullshit for decades in Australia. And mate, political correctness is not about stopping free speech – it’s about being adult enough to recognise that it’s offensive to use someone’s gender/sexuality/disability/religion/thing-that-is-not-like-yours as an insult. But, if you don’t like the idea of showing the same respect to other people that you want them to show to you, then you’re very welcome to be a complete douchebag.

Redegalli says this is about anti-extremism, so why isn’t his mural ‘Say no to extremism’? That way there would be no confusion. But no, it’s not about anti-extremism at all – it’s about being part of an infantile public “debate” (word used very loosely because there’s no real debate going on, just a whole heap of intolerant people who feel they’re entitled to control what women wear, voicing their anti-Islam opinions about “political correctness gone mad”).

My opinion on the burqa is clear: if a woman is being forced to wear it (the justification given for calls to ban it), then forcing them not to wear it is no different. All it will do is take away the freedom these women have to leave the house and move around in public. Banning it is not the solution.

And finally, why is this public discussion still being controlled by people who don’t wear burqas? Elizabeth Farrelly had a rant about it in the SMH earlier this week:

It is alarming to find one self agreeing with Fred Nile, especially on gender issues. But feminists should fess up. The burqa belongs in cultures that still have bride-price. It is an antediluvian title deed, an all-enveloping, owned sexual identity. It’s not for sale, because it is already bought and paid for. If that’s not commodification, I’ll burn my bra.

And now I’m ranting here. Two privileged white women discussing the politics of a garment we will never wear, and its role in a religion we do not belong to.

Update: I stopped by on my way home. Thanks to some feisty women, this is what it now looks like:

Newtown anti-burqa mural

And, Redegalli was apparently recently trying to get neighbours to sign a petition asking Marrickville Council to remove all the street art/graffiti in the area (the area is so known for its street art that there are weekend walking tours). And then he goes and paints his own wall. Interesting…. (she says, stroking her beard… ha, that sounds rude!)

23 responses to “Another burqa blog post

  1. And now I’m ranting here. Two privileged white women discussing the politics of a garment we will never wear, and its role in a religion we do not belong to.

    That says it all really.

  2. ” I’m a little reluctant to blog about it, because I don’t want to give this idiot any more attention”

    Sadly, Channel 7, that bastion of unbiased, uninflammatory and centred journalism, has been buzzing around the street all day filming it. So it looks like Mr Redegalli will have his 15 minutes and fred Niles will claim he has a public mandate.

    The whole debate is anti-Islam sentiment or to be more simplisitic racism, dressed up (pun intended) as women’s rights issues. The loudest voices seem to be the those who usually care little for women’s rights. Its ugly, very very ugly.

  3. “Just because the Cronulla riots happened six years ago doesn’t mean the tension isn’t there.”

    … So, you’re talking about violence and Islam, yet reference bogan-induced violence? Good one Sergio.

    That Farrelly article made my eye twitch.
    This was my response to it:

    “Proponents of a burqa ban may be driven by religious or culture-war motivations (as Nile certainly is), but the opposition I’ve come across is not about religion or appeasing religion – particularly since, as noted, the burqa is a cultural garment not a religious one. It’s not about trying to avoid looking racist. It’s about basic freedom of choice.
    It’s opposition to a law that basically says “you’re not allowed to wear too many clothes”.
    Yes, there are many people who are forced into it, whether overtly or by simple cultural pressure. But there are also those who choose it.

    Fundamentalist Christians expect their women to stay at home and pop out babies. Does this mean that, to prevent the wives of fundie Christians being abused, we ban all women from being stay at home mums?

    Pull your head out of your self-righteous arse. Feminism is about gender equality, about giving women and men the same opportunities to make their own choices about their own lives. Invariably some people will try to impede that freedom of choice. But the solution to that is not taking away that choice.

    Just because someone makes a choice that doesn’t fit with your idea of being a modern female, doesn’t mean they’re betraying the sisterhood.”

  4. from my friend who lives next to the mural

    “Well the circus hasnt stopped all day. It has become a very clear debate between men (who want to ban the Burqa) and women who are sick of men telling us what we can and cant wear. A colourful bunch of hippygals are now protesting… ahh newtown”

  5. Maybe the dick head just wanted publicity for his shop .We all know the media will show up at something like this ,heaps of shoppers .
    My take on it is ,the garment appears oppressive both physically and psychological ,women who wear this style speak favourably . It is their right to do so .We as a society can only stand up for those who have no choice but educated woman should be allowed to dress any way they want .
    As for the shop keeper what ever his reasons he is a prick he knows there will be a shit fight and nothing gained for anyone except maybe his cash register. A grub.

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  7. Awesome post. I so agree. And I’m really glad you blogged about this. The guy is a fuckbag.

  8. Re update: I am v surprised that he wants to ban the graffiti down there – I’d rather ban his ‘glasswork’ if we are going down the banning road – its pretty tacky stuff. I walk past the graffiti ( and his shop) on my way to yoga and I was only thinking how cool it was this weekend. There are books on Newtown graffiti that include those few streets as well as the mural outside my kung fu school. I find it strange people want to live in an ‘arty’ or ‘edgy’ suburb and then object to the art or edginess it produces.

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  10. “And now I’m ranting here. Two privileged white women discussing the politics of a garment we will never wear, and its role in a religion we do not belong to.”
    I disagree wth this, as privileged white women we have opinions, no less valid than the next person. And if those WITH privilage stop speaking up, well…

    “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good (wo)men to do nothing”

    Keep up the ranting.

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  12. Hi NWN

    I thought I might add my voice as Muslim woman who has many burqa-wearing friends.

    Do you know what that mural felt like to me? It certainly did not feel like someone airing their views about “the burqa”. He was airing his views about the women who wear them.

    That could have been any one of my friends behind the big red no sign.

    And that’s the problem with this “debate”. It’s not fueled by anger at the burqa. It’s fueled by anger at those who wear it.

    • Hi PerthMum, welcome to the News with Nipples. I’m glad you said this. I thought the same thing – that it was about women who wear the burqa, not the burqa itself – but being a non-Muslim woman, I worry that I sound like an idiot writing about something that I’ve never experienced.

      So, how would you like to see the public conversation about burqas move on?

      • To be honest, I don’t actually think there needs to be a public conversation about the burqa, any more than there needs to be a public conversation about any group of people who dress a bit differently (where, for example, is the public conversation about goths?)

        Nor do I think that such a public conversation would be of benefit to Australian society. I don’t believe that the “burqa ban” in France will be applied solely to burqa-wearing women – it will be used to suppress the rights of “average” French citizens, particularly those with political views that do not suit those holding power.

        A “public conversation” about a marginalised group of society is not going to increase the social cohesiveness of society – it will serve to further alienate the group, and to deepen the divisions within society. Especially when that public conversation:
        (1) is not directed towards the best interests of that marginalised group; and
        (2) does not include the voices of the marginalised group.

        And I don’t see how the public conversation in Australia can include the voices of the marginalised group, when the members of that group feel like they are the target of so much hatred. Recently, I tried to find a burqa-wearing woman to give an interview to a news organisation regarding the burqa ban in France. Not one person was willing to consider it, because they all feared their views would be misrepresented, and used to further whip up hatred against them. In such an environment, how can any public conversation take place?

        So, in short, what I would actually like to see is a greater acceptance that people will be different, will behave differently and will believe different things, and we don’t need to be threatened by it.

        (I understand that some issues may arise, such as being identified by police officers, giving evidence in court. But these are specific issues that can be dealt with by the specific organisations involved – and generally are dealt with appropriately and sensitively – without the need for a wider debate on whether we should “allow” the burqa at all.)

        • I’m a little more optimistic. I think a public conversation about the burqa is needed, involving mainly those who wear it, because we’re at a place where there is a lot of ignorance around, and this ignorance breeds fear and hatred. The conversation shouldn’t be about whether to “allow” it or not, but about why some women wear it. And, hopefully, with more knowledge there will be greater acceptance of difference.

          But you’re right – unless the public conversation involves those in the marginalised group, it will only marginalise them further.

  13. It is absurd that people use the argument that women are ‘forced to wear this oppressive garment’ while essentially saying that governments should have the right to legislate what a woman can and can’t wear.
    Can/can’t. Either way it sets a dangerous precedent.

    • It sets an extremely dangerous precedent. Plus, don’t they see the irony in trying for force someone not to wear something simply because they may have been forced to wear it in the first place?

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