Having cringed at the news that plans were afoot to introduce segregation laws into Parliament House Jacob Lynagh asks, “Is the ‘Burqa Box’ the new Jim Crow?”
There was celebration (ahem) in Muslim communities last week as news emerged that burqa and niqab wearers would be given a “private viewing” area in the House of Representatives during question time.
The so-called “Burqa Box” was to be segregated from the public by thick sheets of glass, and, as one would imagine, a security guard or two. Comparisons were drawn to the United States’ Jim Crow laws, abolished in 1965, which ensured private drinking fountains, bathrooms and waiting rooms for African Americans. The laws, and atmosphere they created, also gave African Americans the most sought-after rear seats in public buses.
After going through the same tight security screening process as other visitors to Parliament, which include metal detectors and pat-downs, the proposal required veiled women to be directed to the viewing area, a sort of corporate box set aside for the Islam-ically-inclined and school children.
I can only imagine that the purpose of the new approach, which was clearly not security related, was to prevent Bronwyn Bishop being confronted with foreign-ness in parliament – she can’t simply expel them like she does Labor members.
Satire aside, PM Tony Abbott went on to announce that he would fight the move. After witnessing the severe backlash it received, the rhetoric regarding facial coverings was toned right down.
This was the perfect way to cap off a week tainted with attacks on the Muslim community. The savage beating on a Melbourne train, robberies in Adelaide, women being spat on and prams being kicked over. Let’s not forget the time a man entered an Islamic school in Sydney and threatened students with a knife – you may not have heard of that one as it was quickly buried with stories about IS and the Muslim threat in Australia.
Our citizens are physically spitting in the faces of Muslim women in the streets and our government is figuratively spitting in their faces with various remarks and proposed policies. If the forced segregation is successfully knocked back, Australia’s Muslim community will still be required to deal with “increased security measures” wherever they turn.
Mr Abbott may genuinely think that parliament segregation is pushing things too far, but, as he recently quipped, “There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protections for others.”
Now I’m not saying that sounds like something a certain European fascist would say, but…let’s leave it at that.
Our nation has not seen segregation show its evil face in this magnitude since the Freedom Rides of 1965 in which the de-facto segregation in rural NSW consisted of “whites only” pubs, parks and swimming pools. I deeply hope these restrictions will be stopped for the sake of what remains of our collective conscience.
This government will be marked by its policy in regard to immigration, civil liberty and minorities. The history books will probably call it something like The Great Leap Backwards, but we will all remember it with shame, as we did not do nearly enough to prevent such abhorrent acts.