Monday, April 25, 2011


New Zealand film Director Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame and currently working on production of The Hobbit, Part I, tells on his Facebook page today of a visit he made to Turkey in 1990 for the 75th anniversary commemoration of ANZAC Day. The Australian government had made a rare gesture, flying dozens of World War I veterans, along with a personal nurse for each and numerous family members to the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Every Australian and New Zealander knows the significance of April 25, now an annual observance: the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on that Turkish strip of land for an ill-fated mission. Their objective, along with thousands of British, French and Indian troops, was to capture Istanbul, thereby opening up the passage to the Black Sea for Allied troops and knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war. Upon landing, the ANZAC soldiers were met with fierce resistance, and what was intended to be a decisive battle turned into an 8-month stalemate with the Allied troops trapped. So it is not a victory that Aussies and Kiwis celebrate, but the sacrifice at Gallipoli has come to symbolize all those from those two countries who have paid the ultimate price in time of war. One of those was Peter Jackson's grandfather, William John Jackson, whom he never knew.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On Banning the Burqa

This week in France, the law banning the burqa (pictured) and the niqab, a full-face veil with only a narrow opening for the eyes, went into effect. A woman found wearing one of the traditional Muslim garments can be fined 150 euros (about US$215), and anyone forcing a woman to wear the veil faces a much stiffer fine. The ban does not apply within the workplace or the home. As the law went into effect on Monday, the first woman was cited in a Paris suburb Monday evening.
Needless to say, the law has sparked a heated debate. Some say the law's main proponent, President Nicolas Sarkozy, is making much ado about very little, even pandering to the far right -- as only an estimated 2,000 women in France bother with the burqa or the niqab. Others welcome the move as a liberation from the oppression of sharia law. Then there are those, in this post-911 world we live in, who believe the flowing robes and covered face pose a security threat. And more than a few must have been surprised that a number of Muslim women protested the ban, asserting that it was their choice to don the voile intégrale (full veil).
France has long been struggling to come to terms with its growing Muslim population (the highest in Europe). But the question that must be addressed above all others is not whether or not one likes the burqa, but whether the state has the right to dictate what a woman wears. 
I'm inclined to think not -- and you?