the Sunshine Coast might react. The result was positive.
the Sunshine Coast might react. The result was positive. Brett Wortman

Day in 'hijab' shows locals not fussed with the burqa

IF A woman being dressed from head to toe in black is supposed to be confronting, few people on the Sunshine Coast seemed to think so.

With the full knowledge and approval of a respected Australian Islam authority, I switched my normal colourful, summery work dress for a full-length black skirt, black blouse, ankle-high black boots and a black scarf covering my head and neck.

A male, bearded colleague and I took a stroll around the Maroochydore CBD, including the Sunshine Plaza, the bus terminal, the courthouse and the Ocean St shopping precinct to gauge whether people appeared threatened or offended by this dress, which could easily be associated with Muslim women.

Debate continues to rage about whether the burqa - a full, enveloping outer garment which includes a veil covering the eyes - should be banned in Australia.

I didn't attempt to copy a burqa as that would be insulting and inappropriate particularly on the Sunshine Coast where, in the decade I've lived here, I have never seen anyone in this dress.

We didn't even try for a niqab, a cloth which covers part of the face.

If anything, the scarf which hung demurely around my head-and-neck could have been argued to resemble a hijab, a form of head scarf.

I'll admit, with tensions running so high around plans to build a mosque in Maroochydore, I was slightly apprehensive I might encounter some of the rednecks who have been commenting on this debate online.

If you looked at the Stop the Mosque Facebook page, which already has more than 5700 "likes", you would expect there to be some reaction on the street.

Thankfully, there wasn't.

Other than a few curious up-and-down looks, no one approached us, no one made us feel uncomfortable and the only place I was required to take my head scarf off was entering Maroochydore Courthouse.

The guard politely and respectfully explained I would have to keep my head uncovered throughout our stay, which I found surprising given this is what Tony Abbott originally implied should happen in Federal Parliament.

He has since changed his mind on this, although Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie clearly hasn't.

The only person who commented was a little kid who said, "Why is she dressed all in black, Mummy?".

This may have had something to do with the hot weather and not my dress.

It would be wrong of me to assume my brief experience in any way makes me an authority on Muslim women or their dress.

All I can say is, I admire those women who do cover up for their faith in summer because it gets hot.

And my faith in the Sunshine Coast community remains strong.

While people may have strong views on mosques and Islamic dress, at large we still seem to live in an area where people save their extreme views for blogging and treat each other in public with common decency and respect.


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