Native Languages and Hijabs

One of the things I like about living in Melbourne is the free weekday afternoon newspaper, MX, available at all major train stations around the city. My favourite section is MX Talk where the readers get to have their say. I learned a lot about what my fellow Melburnian commuters think just by reading their printed letters and text messages.

Although I like the talkback section, it sometimes causes me great distress when I read stupid, ignorant and rude comments sent in by some readers. One of the things that always gets discussed on and off is the issue of people not talking in in public. There are some people who just can’t accept that there’ll be people in public who would speak to each other in their native tongue. I understand that this may seem rude if done while in the company of friends who do not speak the foreign language.

However, when I’m in public with my wife, I should be allowed to speak the language we’re most confortable with. It’s not that we don’t want to speak English or can’t speak English (we can, as evidenced by this very blog), it’s just that speaking in the language we grew up with is just a lot easier. We’re just talking to each other so why go over the hassle of translating everything we want to say in our heads before we actually speak out?

I bet that if these whingers take a trip to France, they’d be talking to other Aussies in English, whether or not they can speak French. I bet if they go to Bali for a summer holiday they’d speak English amongst themselves and not Bahasa Indonesia. I bet that even if they decide to live in Bali and master the language, they’d still talk in English when talking to other Aussies who may have similar Bahasa skills. It’s not that you can’t speak the second language, it’s just easier to speak with your first.

Of course, I totally agree that if a person intends to live in Oz for good, that person should learn the local tongue, if it’s in their means to do so. It just makes it easy for everyone if we can all communicate with each other using a common tongue.

Another hot issue in the talkbalk section right now is that there are people who want to ban muslim women from wearing a hajib, a sort of head scarf. According to the people calling for the ban, it’s a symbol of male oppression. The only problem is that there are women who prefer to continue wearing the hajib regardless. Maybe they want to keep on wearing it not because of any religious reasons at all. Maybe they just feel exposed without it.

I thought we live in a free country. If people want to start wearing daggy oversized shocking pink 80’s shirts again, I can’t stop them (even though I secretly wish that trend doesn’t come back). If some women want to wear turtle neck shirts instead of shirts with plunging necklines thereby showing much of their cleavages (which I think is quite popular here in Oz), I say let them. If nuns want can wear habits, women who prefer to wear hijabs should be just as allowed to do so.

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Published in: on September 1, 2007 at 8:24 pm  Comments (9)  

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. yep..,it’s talking loud that is annoying,not talking in some other language.,some people simply just don’t care about their surroundings.,i get on the train every morning.,come the 3rd station.,the Chinese are on board,talking as if they’re on the mountains..just in time on my train nap..,well it’s not just Chinese,.Indians,Viets,and even Filos..it’s a sickening habit.

  2. At my workplace, we Filos do have a tendency to talk loudly and laugh in Tagalog, which does tend to annoy people around us who can’t get the joke.
    I personally admit that in retrospect it is rather rude, but certainly a difficult habit for any Filo to shake off. Being married to an Aussie I know what it feels like. Hubby feels left out at all Filo parties no matter how hard he tries to follow the conversation. He just gets shut out.
    It’s in our blood to be loud and exclusive…but all we need is more awareness, greater understanding and more consideration for others. I’m probably the worst offender of all, but I have toned down a lot ever since I started to see how other non-Filos feel about being excluded from our conversations. Good manners take time to happen, but one day we will all eventually learn, like our kids have in this country.

  3. Well, people talking very loud, whatever the language they were speaking, is always annoying.

  4. there are people in the train who talk VERY LOUD in their own language. these are the people who should be told.

  5. Hi Linda, thanks for commenting. 🙂 And I agree with you about the public swimming pool issue you mentioned. It’s a public pool. If they want ti to be for Muslim women only, they should hire out a private pool for that purpose.

  6. PS: I also thought, “If nuns want can wear habits, women who prefer to wear hijabs should be just as allowed to do so” was a brilliant point also!

  7. I think you make some really good points, especially the bit about if it were those complaining Aussies and they were in France, that they’d speak English amongst themselves, not French – and I agree. So why should it be different for people from other countries when they are in Australia?

    I also think it’s kind of insane to say, let’s ban wearing a face scarf because it’s a sign of oppression (ie women being forced to hide their hair/face) – because isn’t telling them they CAN’T wear a face scarf a form of forcing them to do something also?? I agree that they should be able to dress as they please, so long as it is not infringing anyones safety.

    What I do disagree with though, is the way some Muslim women have petitioned local councils to create special swimming sessions for Muslim women only. At a public pool, I think this is wrong – a public pool is for the entire community, not just a section of it. Well imho anyway!

  8. Well, sort of scarf. I understand it covers most of the head except the face. I thought the clothing that covers the entire body was called the burqa. I could be mistaken.

    I think that people should be allowed to wear what they want as long as it isn’t immodest (though what is considered immodest is always changing) and appropriate (should wear business suit if the office policy demands it, etc).

    However, I still think that anybody should have the right to ask that people not cover their face so they can be identified easily.

  9. You sure the hijab is just the scarf? I understand it can be that thing that covers the entire body leaving only a slit across the eyes.


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