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The burqa and cruise missile liberals

Late last month, the Age published a piece by Sushi Das re-opening the so-called ‘burqa debate’. Das argued:

The burqa is not just confronting, it is frightening because of what it looks like and what it stands for. You simply cannot discuss it without at least a passing glance at what is happening to women in conservative Muslim countries such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

When people pussyfoot around injustices because they fear being labelled racists or worry they will fan bigotry, or think they have no right to pass judgment, it creates a void, not intelligent debate. This void is inevitably filled with rants from those who hold polarised positions.

The Das article provides a remarkable confirmation of the argument put forward by Michelle Carmody in the current edition of Overland. Carmody writes:

[C]ontemporary forms of liberalism engage in a kind of humanitarian colonialism whereby the imposition of a new social or cultural structure is legitimised though a discourse of freedom – one of the ‘highest aspiration[s] of the common people’, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The practice is evident in phenomena as diverse as the continued military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, the banning of the burqa in France and elsewhere, and the intervention in the Northern Territory here in Australia. In all of these cases, freedom from the oppression of culture and tradition gone wild is given as the raison d’être of the action. The civilising mission, mark II.

Carmody’s essay can be read in full in Overland 200.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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