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Thursday, September 06, 2007
Polly and the burka

I don't, as a rule, recycle old articles I've blogged, However, the recent (July) appointment of Polly Toynbee as President of the British Humanist Association made me read her Wikipedia entry and I reread her 2001 article 'Behind the burka'. This, in turn, reminded me of an incident that happened a few years ago.

I was changing aircraft at Kingsford Smith (Sydney) airport. Here's how I blogged at the time:
A group of passengers was waiting in a boarding lounge when an Arab couple and their two children joined us. The man was much bejewelled, with rings on most fingers. He wore the most fashionable of smart suits. His wife was dressed from head to foot in a heavy, black burka. It was a very hot day and the children, aged about five and seven, were being particularly fractious.

Mr Pompous Arab strutted up and down, ignoring his family completely. His whole demeanour said, amongst other things, ‘ I am the Great I am, I am,’ and that dealing with children was women’s work, i.e. beneath him. He did nothing whatsoever to help.

The woman’s garb was a terrible hindrance in her attempts to deal with the children. I felt extremely sorry for her. Here they were, far from home, not another headscarved woman in sight, let alone a veil or burka. The whole scene was farcical. The poor woman was condemned to wear a garment seemingly specifically designed to make her task more difficult. Had she taken it off, nobody would have noticed – she would simply have looked the same as every other woman, (presumably). She would certainly have been able to deal with the children more successfully.
I wonder if I would be quite so restrained were I to have a similar experience today. Had I had a female companion with me, we'd probably have helped. Now, I think I'd do it alone, willy nilly.

Here's Polly's article that reminded me.

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