Cutting through the bullshit.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

No Turkish coffee

Australia’s Retailers’ Association has enthusiastically embraced a call from Brisbane radio 4BC shock jock, ex cop Michael Smith, to ban covered women from shops, banks and post offices.

According to Robyn Ironside in the Courier-Mail,

Smith called for Muslim women who wear an Islamic hijab in public to be fined for offensive behaviour.

He made the remarks on-air and on the 4BC website, saying: "Any reasonable person would find this offensive."
Of course, this has nothing to do with targeting Muslim women.
"Retailers should not have to fear any form of retribution or backlash for requiring the removal of any obscuring headwear, including hijabs, as a condition of entry," [Association executive director, Scott] Driscoll said.

"This is about ensuring a more safe and secure retail environment for all and being able to readily identify any and all perpetrators of armed hold-ups or shop theft."
All he’s doing is saying that if you are a women who thinks her religion requires women to cover their heads in public, you should not be able to deposit money in a bank or buy a postage stamp, but if you’re a man who thinks his religion requires women to cover their heads in public, you should.

Meanwhile, over the Tasman, Mustafa Tekinkaya, the Turkish born proprietor of the Mevlana café in Invercargill has come under fire for expelling two Israeli women, reports Will Hine in New Zealand’s Southland Times.

‘Everyone is going on about racism. This has nothing to do with racism. This is all about the killing of innocent children,’ Tekinkaya is quoted as saying. ‘He said he would not serve anyone from Israel until it stopped killing innocent babies and women in the Gaza Strip.’ His wife and business partner, Joanne, added, ‘Those dead women and children don't have a voice. No one's sticking up for them. Innocent women and children are being punished, so how can we be quiet and stand by and support that...?’

Laudable sentiments, no doubt. And yet, what have Natalie Bennie, who apparently lives near Invercargill, and her sister Tamara Shefa, visiting from Israel, have to do with the slaughter in Gaza? In my view, nobody gets to decide who their parents are or where they are born, and we are therefore not culpable for the crimes of our ancestors or the state that claims our allegiance. Bennie and Shefa may be among the most rabid supporters of the massacre, or they may not. They may even have made the error of discussing their views while in the Mevlana. But I for one would take great exception if some petty bourgeois interrogated my nationality or my political views before agreeing to sell me a cup of coffee, or ejected me because they disagreed with me.

The Israeli ambassador Yuval Rotem, based in Canberra, Ambassador Rotem said the New Zealand ‘government needed to make a declaration or statement giving the "red light" to such actions’.

Far be it from me to agree with an Israeli diplomat, but he’s right about that.

When he describes Tekinkaya’s views as ‘anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment’, however, he crosses the line. Tekinkaya has said nothing remotely anti-Semitic. By inferring from his objection to the Gaza massacre that Tekinkaya displays ‘anti-Jewish sentiment’, he buys into the anti-Semitic trope so popular among Israeli spokepersons, that to criticise Israel is to be an anti-Semite, which tars all Jews with the Zionist brush.

Echoing His Excellency, Natalie Bennie, who lodged a complaint with the NZ Human Rights Commission, claimed ‘It was very anti-semitic behaviour…He might as well have put a sign outside his shop saying `No Jews Allowed'.’

The Anti Defamation League, the EU Monitoring Commission, and the US State Department will doubtless be howling before long about the unprecedented increase in anti-Semitic incidents in New Zealand.


  1. The racism of the suggestion to ban the wearing of the hijab is incontestable. It's important to note, however, that Scott Driscoll represents The Retailers Association:

    He doesn't represent the far larger & more well-known Australian Retailers Association:

    The ARA has, at the moment, a link on its home page to a press release of theirs distancing themselves from the suggestion quite strongly.

    My guess is that Driscoll is running a fringe outfit and is hungry for publicity. He jumped on the bandwagon precisely because he knew it would be controversial. That doesn't mean he's not a racist ratbag. Rather, it shows that racism & racial prejudice are two separate but related phenomena. One is an institution of power, while the other is a psychological attitude.

  2. Thanks for that, Abim. You're quite right about Driscoll's outfit, apparently a rebranding of the Queensland Retail Traders and Shopkeepers Association (QRTSA). I'll post a clarification separately when I get around to it.

    The distinction between systematic institutional racist structures and individual racist attitudes is one I always make, usually in more or less those terms. I'd like to adopt your terminology, but I fear it might still turn out to be necessary to spell it all out anyway, as indeed you've don in your comment.