March 11, 2015

Jess Fleming

burqaThere’s a certain angst I’ve found among some teenagers where I work and live. Surprisingly, it isn’t the usual where’s-my-iPhone-what-kind-of-prison-is-this attitude, but one much more concerning to a teen’s developing moral conscience.

It’s a bit like lazily throwing around racist and bigoted attitudes with the disregard normally reserved for Nicholas Cage movies and the Richmond Football Club’s latest performance.

Living  in a predominately Anglo-Saxon area as I do, the VB slugging, Southern Cross tattoo bearing, ‘get back in the kitchen’ bellowing personalities are a group that I have unfortunately, come to know.

They are a subgroup of people that may seem harmless until the can of worms cracks open, bringing more heat than a meat pie.  The horrifically ignorant cry of ‘get back on the boat’ has become more common, and the accompaniment of commentary from mullet-sporting teenage boys is enough to make your skin crawl.

Unaccustomed to different cultural expression, many teens have taken advantage of our liberties, using them to belittle and stigmatise other cultures and traditions, as in the recent burqa debate.

It may come as a surprise to some, but Australian citizens, no matter the background or religion, have the right to dress, practice their faith and behave as they please free from religious persecution – it’s in our constitution.  Is it that hard to believe?

Some thong-sock-combo wearing hypocrites claim their bigotry is really a deep concern for women ‘forced’ to wear Islamic-style headgear.  But their desire to ‘save’ these women is laughably ignorant when we consider the facts: Australia has fewer women in parliament than Afghanistan does and, according to White Ribbon, one in three Australian women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of someone known to them.

It certainly makes it difficult to see our own moral high ground when we’re too blinkered by our own inequality.

Unfortunately, our concern can sometimes be more a case of talking the talk rather than walking the walk, particularly when you look at our past treatment of religious communities and the distasteful behaviour towards their customs.


During the Cronulla riots of 2005, a drunken group of hooligans claimed they were ‘saving’ a 14 year old girl by tearing off her hijab.  Why is it that we presume these people need to be saved? Does it offer some sort self-esteem boost that makes us feel like humanitarians, while in the process stripping away the rights from others that we proclaim to cherish?

Where do these attitudes stem from? What is it that makes one culture think they are better than another? The migrants who enrich almost every aspect of the Australian community are also, in many cases,  Australian citizens and sometimes have to put up with racist tirades – drawling ‘f**k off we’re full’, insulting their cultures and threatening to beat them.

Perhaps its time for a re examination of how our children are being raised, and whether they really are being taught the basic lessons of human decency.

– Jess Fleming

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