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Context Statement

Social tensions are rising. In the traditionally peaceful inner-city areas that make up Mainbrace, there has been growing agitation from anti-immigration groups, conservative media, and even some right-wing activists. This is mainly directed towards muslims and recent immigrants from Afghanistan and the Middle East. A small number of these agitators are violent extremists, others are overzealous newspaper reporters looking to make a name for themselves, and many are concerned but misinformed citizens. Worringly though, over the last year and a half, a political group called Advance Australia has unified these elements and seems to be gaining popularity in Mainbrace. They intend to field candidates in state and federal elections and, according to some political analysts, may even win a seat. For many local groups and mainstream political parties, however, Advance Australia is simply a racialy prejudiced Nationalist group running a campaign of hatred and mis- information. Many of their “information drives” spread falsehoods about muslims and immigrants and worryingly there has been a sharp increase in racially motivated attacks throughout Mainbrace and near-by areas. For the political and social activists these upshots are worrying. For the NSW police, the rising tensions fueled by Advance Australia are now reaching crisis point. The NSW Commissioner and the Superintendent of Mainbrace have now called upon the local Federal Member of Parliament, Claire Reznik, to use some political resources to push back and counter the Advance Australia media drives. This is where our involvement starts.

The most recent Advance Australia campaign has focused on muslim women and the wearing of Hijab, especially the Burqa, and Niqab. Advance Australia are calling for the Burqa to be banned. They have just released a “mission statement” making various claims and citing evidence to support their demand that muslims be banned from wearing any kind of religious face coverings. We have been recruited to help counter these claims and provide information to the local Member for Federal Parliament, Clare Reznik, in her response to Advance Australia’s “Ban The Burqa” campaign. We need you to do much of the requested research and analysis here.

Context Statement

According to the argument stated by the Advanced Australia, there is no place for Burqa in the Australian society. It is a medieval custom and is considered as backward cultural practices (Barker 2016). Majority of Australians are against the Burqa and represents a real menace to the society and it should be checked immediately. The practice of burqa represents the suppressed domination of women and in the Australian society; such suppressed domination of women is prohibited.

Australia values equality of women and the practice of burqa signify disrespect to the values of the Australian society. The immigrants must not visit Australia to recreate their old and backward cultural practices and disrespect the cultural diversity of the country. They must take part and contribute to the values and freedoms of the Australian society and the practice of Burqa prevents diversity and integration of the country.

Burqa is used as a means of criminal, robbers, terrorist and thieves. In Mainbrace, robbed a shop-owner a thug at gunpoint, whose face was covered with burqa. The police is unable to safeguard the decent Australians against the crimes that are taking place using the burqa. It has become difficult to get hold of the thieves amongst the millions of burqa wearing people in the Australian community (Keddie 2014). The use of burqa aids the wrongdoer to commit wrongs and hide their identity. Terrorist hide their identities under the burqa and commit crimes in the country. Even the motorcyclists are not permitted to wear helmets and they hide their face underneath the burqa. Majority of the Australians are against wearing the burqa in public and prohibition of the burqa practice is considered by most of them as the only solution to the threat that is caused by using burqa.

The argument advanced by the Advanced Australia is relevant to the extent that there have been incidents where wrongdoers have used burqas as a means to commit wrongs against the people and society altogether. The terrorists often use a burqa to mask themselves and prevent the disclosure of their identity (Ferracioli 2013). Moreover, if the Quran, the holy book of Islam, is construed carefully, it is nowhere written that it is mandatory for Muslim women to wear burqa. The Quran does unequivocally say that a woman is required to cover herself in such manner. However, the issue is more complex than it seems, as whether the wearing of veil is mandatory, encouraged or discouraged by Islam is a subject matter of debate among the Muslims.

However, section 116 of the Australian Constitution prevents the Commonwealth from making any laws that prohibits the free exercise of any religion, according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights restrictions may be placed on the freedom of religion. Nevertheless, such restrictions are required to safeguard the public safety, health, order or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of other persons (Miller 2017). Since people are using the burqa as a means to commit crimes, like the robbery in Mainbrace, it is important that wearing of burqa should be prohibited as it is becoming a threat to the public health. However, the proponents of the ban at a Commonwealth level would require establishing that such prohibition is necessary as it is prejudicial to the continued existence of the Australian community or is inconsistent with the maintenance of the civil government of the nation.

Task

The term ‘public’ used in the argument is ambiguous and vague regarding the use of burqa. It does not clearly specify whether burqa should be banned everywhere in the public or just in places such as courts or banks; these claims requires further detail clarifications. Advance Australia has inappropriately made an appeal to novelty by stating that burqa represents a ‘medieval custom’ and a ‘backward cultural practice’. There is no evidence to support the claim that burqa represents suppression domination of women. Further, Australia is considered as a multi-cultural country that embraces the cultures all over the world (Gould 2015). The argument states that wearing burqa will prevent integration and diversity of the country. On the other hand, the prohibition on the wearing burqas would falsify the claim that the country respects and embraces cultures from different parts of the world.

Moreover, the argument states that the immigrants (especially the Middle-East immigrants) must accept and respect the values and culture of the ‘real Australian culture’ prevalent in the Australian society (Jakubowicz and Ho 2014). On the other hand, the country is reluctant to respect the culture, values of the other people or the immigrants, and intends to put a ban on the practice of burqa, which forms a part of the Islam culture. This fails to justify the recognition of the country as a multi-cultural nation.

Further, the police report does not prove that the robbers used Burqa and not balaclava to hide their identity while robbing the shop-owner in Mainbrace. One of the claims is ironical in nature as Advance Australia states that the two thieves were men who wear wearing burqa, whereas Muslim men do not wear burqa. Besides, several women do not wear burqa, let alone the Muslim men. Furthermore, based on one robbery where the robbers were speaking in Middle-Eastern accent does not imply that all Muslim people pose a threat to the security of Mianbrace. Moreover, the poll report used by the Advance Australia that 81 percent of respondents are in favor of ban on Burqas have been misinterpreted to justify the claim that most fair-minded Australians are in against wearing Burqa, as no valid evidence was adduced to establish the genuineness and authenticity of such reports (White 2013). 

Advance Australia argued that Burqa must be banned in Australia  and in order o justify teir claim have used various rhetoric and misleading language in the press release. In the first two paragraphs of the press release, they used some misleading terms such as ‘liberal do-gooders’ that signified an appeal to novelty. The rationale for using of such term is to change the mindset of people who has a distinct outlook towards the wearing of burqa. The argument included the statement that ‘fair-minded Australians also agree with us with respect to the ban on burqa.’ This statement is misleading as it implies that Australians who do not agree with the notion of prohibition of wearing burqa are not fair-minded Australians. Such statements may be construed as ‘poisoning the well’ concept (Yasmeen 2013). 

Standardization of the argument used in Ban the Burqa press release

The usage of terms and phrases such as naming robbers as ‘monsters’ and emphasizing on the middle-eastern accent are some of the instances of misleading language used by Advance Australia in the press release. They stated that the thieves who robbed a shop-owner were hiding their faces behind a veil, which implies that they are indicating burqa as a means of committing g crimes or wrongs in the Australian community. They are trying to induce the emotions and mindset of the readers by emphasizing on the fact that the thieves have robbed a shop owner whose family has been serving the Australian community since Federation. It implies that they have attempted to induce people to believe that these people are a menace to the Australian society and innocent and hardworking people of the country.

In the third paragraph, they have used statement that is both misleading and erroneous. They claimed that all the Muslims are obliged to commit crimes and cause wrongs to the Australian community and Muslim women who wears burqa are subject to suppression domination in the society, which is against the values of the Australian community. Although there are certain women who wear burqas as their family compels them to do so, but there are also certain women who have willingly accepted this custom and wear burqas on their own choice (Roose 2016). Further, they stated that Australia believes in equality of women but they stated that the similarity of culture and customs signifies the equality of women, which is misleading as every community, has their own cultural interests and customs and it is expected from every nation to respect and accept the diverse culture.

According to Advance Australia, Australia is a multi-cultural country and therefore immigrants must dissolve themselves into the cultural and values of the Australian community. However, disrespecting the cultural interest and values of the immigrants does not seem to justify the claim that Australia embraces cultural diversity of other communities. Nevertheless, the rhetoric and misleading language used in the press release without any relevant evidences to support such claims and statements make the argument biased based on the erroneous and misleading reasoning.

This report deals with the Roy Morgan study, its poll result and the misuse of such poll results by Advance Australia. The survey head with ‘81% of Australian Electors don not believe that women should not be allowed to wear a burqa when giving evidence in court.’ 

Firstly, the survey was conducted with less people and does not include the entire population in 2010. The report was conducted via message and does not provide any details about the procedure in which the poll was conducted; therefore, the method used to conduct the poll is matter of concern. This further implies that the method used was only restricted to people who had mobile phones and the manner of selecting the respondents have not been mentioned in the report (Lyon 2017). 

The report simply reveals that 81% of respondents have been asked whether women should be wearing burqa while giving evidence in court. It does not mention whether the respondents were aware of burqas and its implications. Further, although the survey was generalized to all Australians and has not mentioned whether all the respondents were Australian citizens. Furthermore, the term burqa includes several kinds of face covers; hence, the term is vague. Advance Australia has used the poll result out of its own context and used it as the result of ‘Ban the Burqa’ from ‘electors do not believe that women should be allowed to wear burqa while giving evidence in court’. Therefore, the poll result is not justified and is the outcome of hasty generalization.

The report of Advance Australia’s inferences reveal that the claim ‘Ban on Burqa’ does not have sufficient evidence to support the claim and the arguments advanced in favor of the prohibition is based on biased, erroneous and misleading reasoning. The report and the arguments advanced signify that they lack accurate information and understanding regarding the custom, values and culture of the Muslim Community. It implies that the Advance Australia has misinterpreted, if not deliberately, the values of the Islamic culture and values, more so, the inferences of Burqa for Muslim women with what the thieves or wrongdoers commonly use to hide their identity while committing crimes or wrongs against the Australian community.

Therefore, it is recommended that the MP laid more emphasis on the expressed fundamental anti-Muslim and the anti-immigrant notions that are inconsistent with the cultural values and beliefs of the country and the Constitution of Australia. In regard to the shop robbery, the MP must consider the incident to be irrelevant with respect to the wearing of Burqa or the Muslims being a threat to the Australian public security. As per the report on Roy Morgan study, the MP must consider such poll imprecise and non-representative, owing to its erroneous method and the misuse of the poll result.

The MP may use the following points to bring about a moderate perspective on the wearing of Burqa and the custom and values of the Muslim community:

  1. The concern related to the use of burqa by criminals as a means to commit wrongs may be resolved by stating that prohibition of burqa will not prevent the wrongdoers from covering their faces while committing crimes.
  2. There is another concern related to burqa, which is that it signifies a suppression of domination of women. The MP may state that although it denotes an oppression of women in few cases, but there are accessible services provided by community members for women who are subject to any domestic violence or any abuse.

References

Ashni, F.Z. and Gerber, P., 2014. Burqa: Human right or human wrong?. Alternative Law Journal, 39(4), pp.231-234.

Baehr, P. and Gordon, D., 2013. From the headscarf to the burqa: the role of social theorists in shaping laws against the veil. Economy and Society, 42(2), pp.249-280.

Barker, R., 2016. Rebutting the Ban the Burqa Rhetoric: A Critical Analysis of the Arguments for a Ban on the Islamic Face Veil in Australia. Adel. L. Rev., 37, p.191.

Ferracioli, L., 2013. Challenging the burqa ban. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 34(1), pp.89-101.

Gould, R., 2015. Islam Returns to Spain: Religious Diversity, Political Discourse and Women's Rights. Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, 26(2), pp.165-182.

Hussein, S. and Poynting, S., 2017. We’re Not Multicultural, but…. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 38(3), pp.333-348.

Jakubowicz, A. and Ho, C. eds., 2014. ‘For those who’ve come across the seas...’: Australian Multicultural Theory, Policy and Practice. Anthem Press.

Keddie, A., 2014. Australian multicultural policy: Social cohesion through a political conception of autonomy. Journal of sociology, 50(4), pp.408-421.

Krayem, G. and Ahmed, F., 2017. Islamic Community Processes in Australia. Gender and Justice in Family Law Disputes: Women, Mediation, and Religious Arbitration, p.246.

Lyon, T.E., 2017. Fear and Political Rhetoric.

Miller, C., 2017. Australia’s anti-Islam right in their own words. Text as data analysis of social media content. Australian Journal of Political Science, pp.1-19.

Roose, J.M., 2016. Muslims in Australia. In Political Islam and Masculinity (pp. 33-49). Palgrave Macmillan US.

White, J., 2013. The Anti-Surveillance State: New products that are challenging law enforcement. Journal of the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers, 21(2), p.17.

Yasmeen, S., 2013. Australia and the burqa and niqab debate: the society, the state and cautious activism. Global Change, Peace & Security, 25(3), pp.251-264.

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