Pros and cons of banning the burqa

August 11th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The burqa debate is fairly absent in NZ, because apart from anything else they are so rare.

My recent visit to London was the first in around three years, so you sometimes see changes as a snapshot, rather than bit by bit. There were tow major changes I noticed.

The first was the huge growth in eastern European waitresses – mainly Polish. They seem to have become to London, what Mexicans are to the US. Interestingly this invasion has not met much resistance – well not from male Londoners :-)

The second was the explosion in burqas. Three years ago, and I wouldn’t see one most days. Certainly would see many Muslims and many head scarves, but few burqas. This time, I was seeing oh probably 20 a day.

What reminded me of this, was this article by Australian Professor Mirko Bagaric in the Herald. He argues against a ban, unless one can link it to oppression:

Burqas should be banned only if the women who wear them do so out of a sense of compulsion.

The stock-in-trade reasons that are given for banning the burqa are demonstrably flawed and are often no more than thinly veiled anti-Muslim rants.

There are no proven cases in Australia (or New Zealand) of criminals using burqas as disguises. Hence it is nonsense to challenge burqas on security grounds.

Facial expressions are important but not essential for meaningful communication. Books, the rise of talk-back radio and email conclusively demonstrate that you don’t need to be staring at someone to understand them.

The fact that some people find the burqa jarring or confronting is not in doubt. But what is beyond doubt is that personal liberty and the right to engage in self-regarding conduct trumps the overly sensitive dispositions of individuals who disagree with the fashion choices of others.

I was against banning gang patches, so I’m certainly not into burqa banning.

However Professor Bagaric continues:

Paternalism is ugly, but uglier still is oppression – under any guise, whether it is religion or culture. Indeed, many Muslim women might say that it is their choice to wear the burqa but this is only the start of the inquiry.

As the Australian High Court noted in the recent decision of The Queen v Tang (the “slavery case”) consent can be consistent, even with slavery. People sometimes choose to sell themselves into slavery but that doesn’t mean that as a community we should tolerate the practice.

To get to the bottom of the burqa debate we need to understand what is driving the choices of the women under the burqa. If their choice turns out to be fully free and informed, society has no basis for imposing its whims on their dress code.

The circumstantial evidence, however, points to oppression as being at least one factor that influences women to wear a burqa.

Any extreme form of human conduct needs to be analysed closely. It is counter-intuitive to think that any free person would chose to erect a physical screen between themselves and the outside world.

The nature of the human condition is to pursue and engage in social contact and intercourse. It enriches life and recent studies show that it is even conducive to longevity.

Secondly, it is telling that 100 per cent of the people wearing burqas are women and that these women all come from a culture that has been shown to represses women.


The proper bounds of liberty were identified about 150 years ago by British philosopher John Stuart Mill.

He said: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

Ostensibly, Muslim women choose to wear the burqa. Unless empirically founded evidence is obtained to show that this choice is less then fully free, we need to respect their decisions.

At this stage, the bigger threat to our social cohesion is not the burqa but the calls to ditch it. Once the overblown sensitivities of others start constituting a basis for curtailing our freedoms, liberty in many forms will be lost.

Hear hear.

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Southpark Censorship

April 25th, 2010 at 2:42 pm by David Farrar

Once again Comedy Central has censored Southpark. Four years ago they banned the show from being able to show from showing a harmless depiction of Muhammad (was just him giving someone a fish) in their Cartoon Wars episodes.

The episodes were about appeasing people who threaten violence is wrong, but it didn’t work. This time in episode 201 Comedy Central have even refused to allow the name of Muhammad, after the Southpark creators cunningly discussed him onside a bear costume.

This has nothing to do with religious tolerance. Comedy Central have allowed the show to show Jesus Christ defecating on an American flag. Their decisions are purely appeasement in the face of threatened violence from extremists. The sad thing is they don’t realise that what they do, encourages the extremists. It shows threatening violence wins.

In similar news, Reuters reports:

A Dutch court has acquitted a Muslim group of inciting hatred with a cartoon that questions the Holocaust, in the latest case to provoke debate about freedom of speech in the Netherlands.

The Arab European League (AEL), which published the cartoon on its website, was cleared of insulting Jews because it was not aiming to dispute the Holocaust but to highlight perceived double standards in free speech.

And that is the right ruling,

The AEL cartoon shows two men, beneath an ‘Auschwitz’ sign and beside several bodies, saying the victims might not have been Jewish but the target was six million – the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The AEL said the cartoon was part of a campaign it launched in 2006 to show “the double morals of the West during the Danish cartoon affair.” The image came with a disclaimer on the website saying the AEL did not support the views of the cartoon.

Except the AEL have been proven wrong about the double morals. No one has been killed, or even threatened over their Holocaust cartoon. There have been no burning of flags or storming of embassies.

The mad President of Iran tried to make a similar claim a few years ago by hosting a Holocaust cartoon competition. To his great dismay dozens of Jewish cartoonists submitted entries, rather than protest against it.

The best response to censorship is this:

After Comedy Central cut a portion of a South Park episode following a death threat from a radical Muslim group, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris wanted to counter the fear. She has declared May 20th “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

“As a cartoonist I just felt so much passion about what had happened I wanted to kind of counter Comedy Central’s message they sent about feeling afraid,” Norris said.

Norris has asked other artists to submit drawings of any religious figure to be posted as part of Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor (CACAH) on May 20th.

On her website Norris explains this is not meant to disrespect any religion, but rather meant to protect people’s right to express themselves.

The best way to stop the Islamic extremists threatening violence unless you censor, is if the response to their threats is to triple and quadruple the number of outlets who show the cartoon.

It should be a point of principle for every media outlet in the free world, to show such images, to show that threats will not work.

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Blame Women

April 21st, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.

Wow something else to blame Britney Spears for.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

“What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?” Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon on Friday.

“There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes.”

To spare Hong Kong from destruction, we need to hope Cactus Kate converts to Islam.


Does he have a point?

February 6th, 2010 at 10:33 am by David Farrar

The Daily Beast interviews Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka.

What did the 76-year-old Mr. Soyinka—who divides his time between the U.S. and Nigeria—make of his country’s placement on a watch-list of states deemed to be incubators of Islamist terrorism? “That was an irrational, knee-jerk reaction by the Americans. The man did not get radicalized in Nigeria. It happened in England, where he went to university.

As did the 7/7 bombers.

“England is a cesspit. England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence.

And remember this is a Nigerian, who has opposed apartheid in South Africa and the military rulers of his homeland.

Our conversation turned to Nigeria, where ferocious killings had just occurred in the central city of Jos, with Muslims slaughtering Christians, and vice-versa. Mr. Soyinka, here, began to brood: “A virus has attacked the world of sense and sensibility, and it has spread to Nigeria, where it has taken on a sanguinary dimension. Roaming hordes of killers are entering homes and dragging out people of other faiths and hacking them to death. In my youth, you heard, side-by-side, the church bells ringing and the beautiful, sonorous call to prayer of the muezzin. But now, it’s a disease. One doesn’t really know how to handle it.”

In other words, it was not always that way.

The day before, in his lecture on The Road, Mr. Soyinka earned a burst of applause with his own, ingenious solution: “I think this is where our rocket engineers and astronauts can come to our rescue. We should assemble all those who are pure and cannot abide other faiths, put them all in rockets, and fire them into space.” In our own conversation, he offered—almost apologetically—a more prosaic solution: “Education. And rigorous punishment for those who feel, not ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’ but ‘I’m right, you’re dead.'”

I think such sentiments will get a lot of virtual applause also.

In Mr. Soyinka’s view, the origins of the current phase of the world’s religious strife—including all of the bloodshed in Nigeria—lie with Ayatollah Khomeini and his fatwa against Salman Rushdie, in 1989. “It all began when he assumed the power of life and death over the life of a writer. This was a watershed between doctrinaire aggression and physical aggression. There was an escalation. The assumption of power over life and death then passed to every single inconsequential Muslim in the world—as if someone had given them a new stature.

“Al Qaeda is the descendent of this phenomenon.

While it is not quite as simple as this, I think he is close to the mark. The world should have reacted to the fatwa against Rushdie with strength – sanctions if necessary. The EU should have said it is unacceptable for a Government to declare a death sentence over a non citizen due to a book they wrote, and that until it is rescinded, there will be no trade with Iran because you do not trade with barbarians.

More recently the world missed another opportunity with the Danish cartoons. The correct response to the death threats should have been not appeasement, but every newspaper in the western world publishing the cartoons.

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Muslims speaking out against terrorism

January 11th, 2010 at 1:17 pm by David Farrar

A nice initiative in Canada:

Twenty imams have issued a “fatwa” against any Muslim who would attempt to commit an act of terrorism in Canada or the United States.

Syed Soharwardy, an imam at the Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, who organized the initiative, said yesterday that any attack by foreign elements should also be considered a direct affront to the 10 million Muslims who call either Canada or the United States home.

“We want Muslims around the world who would dare to commit terrorism on our soil to know that we stand together with all Canadians and Americans.

Since the threats against Salman Rushdie several years ago, most people think of fatwas as death threats. But in fact, the imam notes, the vast majority of fatwas are condemnations or even non-binding directives that are meant to teach fellow Muslims the proper religious response to a given situation.

He said many Muslims he has spoken to say their lives have grown miserable and have suffered societal backlash because of the perceived association between violence and Islam.

But since 9/11, he added, it has become imperative for Muslims to vocally condemn violence — even though they have no personal responsibility for those acts.

Muslims who live in this country should also stop fighting the battles that they left behind when they came to live here, he added.

“We are Canadian now. This is where our energy should be directed.”

Again what refreshing common sense.

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Good integration in NZ

January 9th, 2010 at 11:54 am by David Farrar

Muslim integration in Europe has been pretty much a disaster in many countries, but in New Zealand we are doing well:

Muslim teenagers in New Zealand adapt well to life in New Zealand, a Victoria University study has found.

The study, carried out on 180 Muslim teens, by the Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, measured their psychological and social well-being by examining life satisfaction, psychological conditions, school adjustment and behavioural issues, Professor Colleen Ward said.

The study, carried out as part of a 13-country survey of well-being and identity, drew on data from previous studies carried out in New Zealand, on other groups of teens, as comparison.

The findings revealed Muslim youth demonstrated more positive outcomes on all indicators than their Maori and Pakeha peers, Prof Ward said.

The combination of strong family support, religion and New Zealand’s relatively tolerant atmosphere helped the Muslim 13- to 19-year-olds keep well, she said.

Though the students identified themselves as New Zealanders and the ethnic group they were from, their strongest identification was with being a Muslim, the researchers found. …

The cultural environment of New Zealand allowed people to integrate, keeping their culture and ethnic groups, rather than assimilating them and forcing them to abandon the culture they came from, as in some other countries, she said.

I’m not sure what other countries they are talking about, but in most of Europe the problem hasn’t been assimilation, but an unwillingness to integrate at all. However in the US, they are much better with integration.

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Attempted assassination of Danish cartoonist

January 4th, 2010 at 11:54 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Danish police said yesterday that a Somalian caught breaking into the home of a cartoonist whose work sparked riots across the Muslim world five years ago was a would-be assassin with links to al Qaeda.

The 28-year-old had an axe and a knife when he was shot and wounded by police on Saturday after cartoonist Kurt Westergaard heard windows being broken and pressed a panic alarm at his house in Aarhus.

News of the attack on Westergaard, 74, who was with his 5-year-old granddaughter at the time, shocked many in Denmark who had believed the country’s brush with Islamist extremism was consigned to the past.

I’ve been planning to blog on this for a couple of days. What is significant is that it no longer looks like some madman acting alone, but that the cartoonist was marked for death by al Qaeda or an associated group.

Hopefully this will wake up some of the appeasers. Some on the left (not all) think that the extreme Islamists will be happy if the US leaves Iraq and Afghanistan and a Palestinian State is formed. Others advocate Israel should be destroyed/moved, as no peace is possible with it there.

This attempted assassination is a good reminder that there are a significant number of extreme Islamists who want nothing less than their religion enforced on the entire world, and they will kill any who refuse to submit.

The extremists are a small sub-set of all Islamists, and an even smaller sub-set of all Muslims. But they do exist, they will (sadly) never go away, and there is no appeasing of them.

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Direct Democracy

December 1st, 2009 at 9:29 am by David Farrar

This story from Switzerland is a prime example of why direct democracy, rather than representative democracy, can be a bad idea.

Switzerland became the first country in Europe today to vote to curb the religious practices of Muslims when a referendum banning the construction of minarets on mosques was backed by a solid majority.

The surprise result, banning minarets in a country that has only four mosques with minarets and no major problems with Islamist militancy, stunned the Swiss establishment …

This is simply a horrendous decision. Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right, and should not be at the whim of referenda.

The campaign to ban minarets was described by the country’s justice minister as a “proxy war” for drumming up conflict between ethnic Swiss and Muslim immigrants. But the ban was supported by a majority of 57.5%, 20 percentage points more than predicted in opinion polls in the run-up to the vote.

This is interesting in that many back the ban, but did not want to admit to it. The advantage of parliamentary votes is they are public and people have to stand by their vote.

There are problems in Europe with Islamic extremism and non-integration. But the solution is not to ban minarets on mosques, targeting an entire religion.

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Kiwi Muslims

October 24th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

It’s possible to be Kiwi, Muslim and an All Black fan, says MICHAEL FOX, but it’s not always an easy road.

Young Muslims in New Zealand have impressed their elders by integrating well through adopting a laid-back Kiwi attitude, supporting the All Blacks and embracing the local culture.

And integration over isolation is the key, in my opinion. Integration does not mean assimilation where everyone is the same, in some Borg like collective. The diversity of races, cultures and religions in New Zealand is a great thing, with integration and tolerance for others being the key.

As Muslims gather in Auckland this weekend for their first national convention, they will be reflecting on why young followers have avoided problems such as violent crime associated with disenfranchised youth in other countries.

Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand president Anwar-ul Ghani called the convention a hui.

“Our community is now getting quite a reasonable size and really once in a year we need to start to have a hui like this to reflect on things and get the grassroots involved.

“We need to strengthen our Islamic belief and way of life and yet identify ourselves as Kiwi Muslims.”

Even just little things such as calling their convention a hui, is quite cool – it is reflecting that Kiwi side.

There are now almost 50,000 Muslims in New Zealand.

Dr Ghani says young Muslims are leading the way in integration. He believes they are “Kiwianised”, with as much interest in New Zealand’s popular culture as their own.

He says this is in marked contrast with European countries where youths have felt like outsiders and rebelledthrough crime, riots and terrorism.

“I won’t say that it is not an issue [in New Zealand] but it is certainly less of an issue. We’re finding that the transition is reasonably smooth.”

I think in New Zealand we are remarkably blessed that the extremism and isolationist you get in the UK, much of Europe and even Australia is very rare here.

I think part of the credit goes to the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand themselves. While obviously I have different views on issues, they have always struck me as taking their leadership position responsibily. And the fact that they are led by an accountant with NZ Post, rather than a DVD distributing preacher, is helpful.

She said Muslims could remain strong in their faith while also identifying themselves as New Zealanders. “When people ask me where I’m from I don’t have any answer to them apart from New Zealand, although I don’t look like a typical Kiwi. I’m definitely Muslim and I’m definitely a New Zealander.”

Wellington’s Aneesa Adam, 27, who grew up in New Zealand with her Fiji Indian parents, said a clash between faith and Kiwi values occasionally posed problems. “As a teenager at times things were a little bit difficult, particularly with things like drinking. I basically had to choose who my friends were.”

Ms Adam didn’t wear a headscarf until she started university because she was self-conscious.

“As a teenager I was always too shy. As I got older it just became easier and I decided that I was ready to wear it.

“As soon as people see you wearing a scarf there’s immediately a barrier and an idea that they have about you. For younger people I think it’s harder, but as an adult it’s very easy and people are very good about it.”

She said Muslims could remain strong in their faith while also identifying themselves as New Zealanders. “When people ask me where I’m from I don’t have any answer to them apart from New Zealand, although I don’t look like a typical Kiwi. I’m definitely Muslim and I’m definitely a New Zealander.”

One of my favourite sayings is that the only thing I am intolerant of is intolerance. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical Kiwi, but I think diversity is a great thing.

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Liquids on planes

September 9th, 2009 at 8:46 am by David Farrar

Like many I get frustrated at the airline rules over liquids on planes, having had to dispose of tubes of sunscreen and drink bottles etc.

But this story on the conviction in the UK of three British Muslims, reminds us why the rules came about:

Three British Muslims were convicted yesterday of plotting to commit “mass murder on an unimaginable scale” by blowing up transatlantic airliners in an attempt to kill thousands of people in the air and on the ground.

In a plot that changed rules on what passengers can carry on to planes, the terror cell, operating under guidance from jihadist overseers in Pakistan and inspired by al Qaeda, planned to simultaneously detonate liquid bombs disguised in soft drink bottles on board at least seven flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to North American cities, a court heard.

What shocked many is that most of the plotters were born in the United Kingdom. In fact three of them had only recently converted to Islam.

Thank goodness the security services were on the ball.

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Headscarfs in Court

September 3rd, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A judge who barred a Muslim woman from entering a courthouse because she was wearing a headscarf has admitted he made a mistake.

Yasmeen Ali was attempting to enter Hastings District Court on Tuesday to support her brother Carlos Manuel Brooking, 22, who was appearing for sentencing on a charge of assault. …

Ms Ali, a 25-year-old mother-of-three, was asked by a court attendant to remove her headscarf on entering the courthouse. She refused and took a seat.

When she tried to re-enter court after the morning break, she was blocked.

Unless the court would also force a nun to remove her headdress, or a Sikh his turban, it is inappropriate to require a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf.

However it seems, this was not intentional with regard to a general ban.

Her brother had earlier been put into custody after refusing to remove a hat while sitting in court awaiting his sentencing, despite being requested to do so by Judge Rea.

Brooking apologised later in the dock and was sentenced to 125 hours’ community work for the assault.

Judicial communications adviser Neil Billington said the incident was the result of Judge Rea’s “mistaken assumption of what was occurring in the courtroom”.

“The judge required the removal of the woman because of her association with [her brother] who had just been removed.

“The judge had mistakenly assumed that her headgear was a demonstration of protest at the court.

“He did not require her removal because of any objection to the wearing of Muslim headgear. “

So in a way, it is a fuss about nothing. The Judge has made clear there is no general ban. It was a mistaken assumption based on the conduct of her brother.


Afghan law

April 6th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Life for women in Afghanistan is a lot better since the fall of the Taliban. It is not illegal for them to be educated now. But as the NZ Herald reports, there is still a long way to go:

In a copy of the law obtained by Reuters, Article 132 states “a wife is obliged to fulfil the sexual desires of her husband”. It also states that a husband should spend one night in every four with his wife, have sexual contact with her at least once every four months and that a woman has to wear make-up if her husband demands it.

Islamic sharia law is often the exact opposite of classical liberal beliefs. They have detailed laws and rules to govern every aspect of your life.

I did have to laugh though that the husband has to spend every fourth night with his wife, but only has to have sex with her once every four months. So what do you do on the other 29 out of 30 nights you are forced to be together? Play tiddliwinks?

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Very sadly ironic

February 19th, 2009 at 10:36 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

ORCHARD PARK, New York – The crime drips with brutal irony: a woman decapitated, allegedly by her estranged husband, in the offices of the television network the couple founded with the hope of countering Muslim stereotypes.

Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan is accused of beheading his wife last week, days after she filed for divorce. Authorities have not discussed the role religion or culture might have played, but the slaying gave rise to speculation that it was the sort of “honor killing” more common in countries half a world away, including the couple’s native Pakistan.

Sadly stereotypes exist because there is usually an element of truth to them. The problem is when people apply a stereotype to all individuas in a group, rather than treat people as individuals.


UK bans Dutch anti-Muslim MP

February 12th, 2009 at 1:32 pm by David Farrar

How disgraceful to have the UK ban a Dutch MP, because he is seen as anti-Muslim, Would they ban someone who is anti-Christian?

Many western countries slowly but surely are imposing self censorship. We saw thi with the Dutch cartoons. There is no right not to be offended by criticism of your religion.

Mr Wilders is under 24-hour police protection because of his anti-Muslim stance.

He has been receiving death threats from Muslim groups outside Holland since the anti-Koran film appeared on the internet earlier this year.

The film features verses from the Koran alongside images of the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, Madrid in March 2004 and London in July 2005.

The film equates Islam’s holy text with violence and ends with a call to Muslims to remove ‘hate-preaching’ verses from the Koran.

So Wilders says the Koran encourages violence, and to prove him wrong, he recieves death threats. And now to really prove him wrong the UK Government bans him from entering the UK, because they fear the violence that may erupt. Anyone see the irony?

I oppossd David Irving being banned from NZ. He may be a anti-semitic Holocaust denier, but the correct response is to let him attend and speak, and allow those who disagree with him, protest, mock and ridicule him. This is not hard with Irving.

Now Wilders is no Irving. Yes he is anti-Islam, but that is no excuse for the death threats he receives and the UK banning him.

I recall No Right Turn agreeing with me that Irving should not be banned from NZ. I wonder if he agrees the UK Govt should not ban Wilders, no matter how much some may be offended by him?

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More irony from the United Nations

November 17th, 2008 at 11:50 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports on how the United Nations is having a two day conference on religious tolerance. It has chosen Saudia Arabia to chair the conference.

Saudi Arabia:

  • bans the public practice of non-Islamic religions
  • views its interpretation of Islamic law as its sole source of guidance on human rights
  • Muslims who do not follow the official strict and conservative version of Sunni Islamcan face severe repercussions at the hands of Mutawwa’in (religious police)
  • forbids missionary work by any religion other than Wahabi/Salafi Islam
  • Jewish, Christian or Hindu houses of prayer are not allowed
  • the government can search the home of anyone and arrest or deport foreign workers for owning religious icons and symbols
  • Under Saudi law conversion by a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy, a crime punishable by death if the accused does not recant.

Yes the perfect country to chair a UN conference on religious tolerance – one that executes you if you swap to a non tolerated religion

Hat Tip: Micky’s Muses

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Two years jail in Finland for Insensitivity towards Islam

June 12th, 2008 at 10:13 pm by David Farrar

A disturbing case from Europe, where Seppo Lehto has been jailed for two years for hate speech, including violating religious sensibilities.

Now the man in question is an objectionable racist, He is an extremely offensive individual.

But just as I don’t support David Irving going to jail for denying the Holocaust, I don’t support Seppo Lehto going to jail for saying offensive things. I recall the words of Noam Chomsky who said something along the lines of there being no virtue in defending popular speech.

Unless the speech is directly inciting violence or criminal acts, it should not be a crime to say offensive things which upset religious sensitivities.

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