I recently heard about a rally planned for a local park (in Lakemba) for Sunday 19th September organised by 'Various Muslim Community organisations'. Here is what the flyer said:
BANNING THE HIJAB
SLANDERING THE PROPHET (PBUH)
BANNING OUR MINARETS
BURNING THE QUR'AN
ATTACKING OUR MOSQUES
The hijab and niqab have increasinly been under the spotlight in the West and are the subject of attacks by Western media, politicians and academics who portrayed them as being tools of oppression to suppress women. After gaining momentum in Europe, the debate has emerged in Australia with the introduction of a bill into the NSW Legislative Council to criminalise the public wearing of face coverings such as the niqab.
The attack on the niqab does not occur in isolation. It comes at a time in the West when all things Islamic have been, and continue to be, targetted, attached and questioned: Our Prophet (saw), Islamic schools, mosques, the teaching of the Quran in schools, halal food, minarets and Islamic values and practices. Thus the attack on the niqab is not about the niqab itself but is an attack on it as a symbol of Islam. It is Islam itself that Western policy makers and media seek to challenge.
The Muslim community must not, and will not remain silent while matters concerning us are debated by the rest of society. We ask all men, women and children to join us at this important event to defend the honour of our sisters, the sanctity of our Deen, and the adherence to our Islam.HERE. Apparently about 2000 people attended. The event was reported in the following terms:
The front of the flyer declared:
It's time to UNITE & STAND WITHOUT FEAR!
STAND UP FOR YOUR ISLAM!
ALL MUSLIMS MUST ATTEND!
Islamic values are superior to ''flawed'' Western secular values and non-Muslims are in no position to lecture Muslims about the oppression of women, a speaker said yesterday at a Sydney rally against proposals to ban the burqa.
''Despite the intense negative propaganda against Islam and in particular the lies about its treatment of women, the number of Western women embracing Islam continues to rise at a rapid rate,'' said Fautmeh Ardati, a member of the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir. ''By turning their backs on this flawed way of life, it is testament of the superiority of Islamic values over Western values.''
''Because to use freedom of choice as a justification, then we are also accepting of women who undress out of this same freedom of choice, and we can never do this as Muslim women. We dress like this because it is the command of Allah, not any man.''
Women had two options, she said. ''The Western secular way of life, which robs a woman of her dignity, honour and respect, where she is considered little more than a commodity to be bought and sold, or the option of Islam, where a woman's dignity, respect and honour are priceless.''
Later she cited high rates of rape and domestic violence and said: ''They are in no position to be lecturing us about oppression and subjugation.'' Ms Ardati was one of five speakers at the rally, held at Parry Park, in reaction to a recent unsuccessful attempt by the NSW MP Fred Nile to introduce a bill banning the burqa.
The Premier, Kristina Keneally's recent statement re-affirming the right of Muslim women to wear the burqa was welcomed but Ms Ardati said the support of key politicians did not mean Muslims could ''relax''.
''Even if this bill is not passed in NSW now, who knows what will happen in one week, one month or one year?'' Ms Ardati said.
There were about 2000 people at the rally, with men and women segregated by a row of plastic markers. Male speakers spoke to the crowd from a podium at the front. The two female speakers spoke from the women's section, meaning most of the men had their backs turned to them.
Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman said Muslims loved Australia but rejected interference in the practice of their religion. ''Keep away from our affairs,'' he said.
Umm Jamaalud-Din said Mr Nile's ''un-Australian'' bill had ''open[ed] the floor to racist elements that exist within Australian society'' who would now feel they could vilify, abuse and possibly assault Muslim women.
''I feel empowered by the knowledge that I am in control of displaying my beauty to whom I choose,'' she said.
''I can move freely throughout society without being subjected to the eyes of every Tom, Dick and Harry and not be judged on face value but rather for who I am as a person.''It is interesting to observe the perceptions that Islam is being attacked. In reality the recently enacted prohibition from France has no chance of being passed in Australia. However, it is enough that someone (Fred Nile) is proposing to introduce legislation to the NSW Parliament.
Earlier, organisers had told people not to speak to the media. One woman wearing a burqa said she would have to ask her husband before speaking to the Herald. When asked if she needed her husband's permission to speak, she said: ''We are allowed but we choose not to.''
There are some pretty strong statements here about how corrupt and debauched Western society appears to be. I wonder if many Western women feel this? I wonder if Christian women could have somethng to say on the matter about how different it is for them?
I wonder what would be appropriate responses to this from a Christian point of view?
I suspect that it won't be to support any legislation to 'ban the burqa', but to uphold the muslim freedom to worship as they choose - while politely engaging in discussion about how Chrsitainity is different from Islam and from modern Western culture.
Any thoughts or comments?
PS: You may be interested to check out what is said at the Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia website: http://www.hizb-australia.org/
and an information site for Christians at: http://www.engaging-with-islam.info/