This is a critical analysis of an imaginary scenario, although based on real cases, about a social issue in Australia: 'Ban the Burqa'. In this analysis, critical thinking techniques have been applied and the logical and rhetoric fallacies of the media release that has been provided by the imaginary scenario have been criticised. Supporting data is available as appendix to this analysis.
Social tensions are rising. In the traditionally peaceful inner-city areas that make up Mainbrace, there has been growing agitation from anti-immigration groups, conservative media, and right-wing activists. This is mainly directed towards Muslims and recent immigrants from Afghanistan and the Middle East. A small number of these agitators are violent extremists, others are overzealous newspaper reporters looking to make a name for themselves, and many are concerned but misinformed citizens. Worryingly though, over the last year and a half, a political group called Advance Australia has united these elements and seems to be gaining popularity in Mainbrace. They intend to field candidates in state and federal elections and, according to some political analysts, may even win a seat. For many local groups and mainstream political parties, however, Advance Australia is simply a racially prejudiced Nationalist group running a campaign of hatred and misinformation.
Many of their "information drives" spread falsehoods about Muslims and immigrants and worryingly there has been a sharp increase in racially motivated attacks throughout Mainbrace and near-by areas. For the political and social activists these upshots are worrying. For the NSW police, the rising tensions fuelled by Advance Australia are now reaching crisis point. The NSW Commissioner and the Superintendent of Mainbrace have now called upon the local Federal Member of Parliament, Claire Reznik, to use some political resources to push back and counter the Advance Australia media drives. This is where our involvement starts.
Ban the Burqa (in Australia)!
- Burqa has no place in our society
1.1. Burqa is a medieval custom and a backward cultural practice
1.2. Australia is a great and modern country
1.3. Burqa represents the repression domination of women
1.4. Repression domination on women has no place in our society
1.4.1. The equality of women is a core Australian value
[Premises 1.1 and 1.2 are Linked. Premises 1.3 and 1.4 are Linked]
- Burqa stops integration and diversity
2.1. Immigrants should not come here to recreate their old world and close themselves off from real Australian culture
2.2. Immigrants should come here to participate and contribute to the freedoms and values that have built our great nation
[Premises 2.1 and 2.2 are Convergent.]
- Burqa is a real menace to our society
3.1. Burqa is now the tool of thieves, robbers, criminals, and terrorists
3.1.1. In Mainbrace, a shop-owner was robbed at gunpoint by thug wearing a Burqa
3.1.2. The thieves had Burqa, and one of them had Middle Eastern accent
[Premises 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 are Linked.]
3.2. Police cannot defend decent Australians against menace of Burqa
3.2.1. Police have little to no hope of catching thieves
126.96.36.199. Police cannot knock on the door of every Muslims or immigrant family in Mainbrace
188.8.131.52.1. Thieves had Burqa and Middle Eastern accent
184.108.40.206. Police cannot find the right person at the growing sea of Burqa wearing in our community
220.127.116.11.1. Thieves had Burqa and Middle Eastern accent
[Premises 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 are Convergent.]
3.3. Burqa guarantees the safety of anonymity and allows wrongdoing to go unchecked
3.3.1. The ability to hide identity (with Burqa) encourages criminal actions
126.96.36.199. The thieves in Mainbrace had covered their face with Burqa
188.8.131.52. Terrorist suicide bombers use Burqa
184.108.40.206. Muslim motorists who use Burqa is hiding from persecution when they speed
[Premises 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 are Convergent.]
3.3.2. Motorcyclists are not allowed to wear their helmets and hide their face in banks or at petrol stations
[Premises 3.3.1 and 3.3.2 are Convergent.]
[Premises 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 are Convergent.]
- Most fair minded Australians are against wearing the Burqa
4.1. Recent polls tell that 81% of Australiana are against wearing the Burqa in public
4.2. Australian knows banning the Burqa as the solution to its threat to our society
[Premises 4.1 and 4.2 are Convergent.]
Analysis of Argument and Inferences as Standardised
The term ‘public’ has ambiguity and vagueness: where in public we should ban the Burqa? Should it be banned everywhere in the public, or just in some places such as banks (like the no-helmet rule for motorcyclists in the banks), courts, or for motorists while driving? It seems that the claim needs further clarifications.
It can be concluded from the first premise and its sub-premises that the ‘Advance Australia’ have tried to inappropriately ‘appeal to novelty’ (argumentum ad novitatem). They did so by expressing that the Burqa is a “medieval custom” and “backward cultural practice” and indicating that ‘Australia is a great and modern country”. The reasoning is irrelevant and fallacious because a custom being originated long ago has no implication on its properness for a modern society. Also, it has been claimed that “Burqa represents the repression domination of women” without any extra pieces of evidence. It means the premise suffers ‘scope fallacy’ as it has not provided any quantifier: do all Muslim women believe that wearing Burqa is repression domination? Despite, many Muslim women willingly wear Burqa.
In this premise, no supporting evidence have been provided for the claim. Ironically, it has been stated that “Burqa stops integration and diversity” while banning the Burqa will entail a reduction in cultural diversity. Also, this premise implicitly presumed that Australia is a great nation regardless of the contributions that its people with various cultures make. The premise presupposed that there is a ‘real Australia culture’ that that other immigrant (e.g. Middle Eastern immigrants) and cultures (e.g. Muslims) have to dissolve in it. Therefore, this premise suffers the ‘begging the question’ fallacy and inappropriate ‘appeal to authority’.
There is no evidence from the Police report to prove that the head cover which thieves had used was Burqa, not balaclava. Secondly, the irony of Advance Australia’ claim is that based on the Police report the thieves were two men, but Muslim men do not wear Burqa! Though some, even not all, Muslim women wear Burqa.
The sub-premises in this premises use analogy argument, but the provided inductive reasoning are not strong. Based on just one robbery in which thieves with a Middle Eastern accent that had covered their face, it cannot be induced that Burqa or Muslims are real menaces to Australia or Mainbrace security. It means the premise and its sub-premises suffer hasty generalisation of a single event to all Muslims who wear Burqa and to the Middle East immigrants. Also, this reasoning that “Police have little to no hope of catching thieves” and “Burqa guarantees the safety of anonymity and allows wrongdoing to go unchecked” suffers the same fallacy, while the sub-premises that been used to induce these claims are not strong and sound. In other words, the analogies that have been used do not have strong positive similarities and negative difference.
Premise four is an apparent misuse and misinterpretation of a survey result. The poll result indicates that 81% of respondents do agree on banning the wearing of Burqa in ‘courts’. However, regardless of the validity and representativeness of the poll results, Advance Australia used the poll result out of its context and generalised it fallaciously to claim that “Most fair-minded Australians are against wearing the Burqa”.
Analysis of the Language and Rhetoric used in “Ban the Burqa - A Campaign Promise.”
Advance Australia in their campaign has tried to argue that Burqa has to be banned in Australia. In addition to providing their premises, they have used numerous rhetoric and language devices as well as fallacious language games.
In the first two paragraphs of the press release, they used some loaded terms such as ‘Liberal do-gooders’ that can be categorised under ‘argumentum ad hominem’ fallacy by which they tried to attack the personality and the mindset of who has a different point of view on Burqa. Also, they have inappropriately appealed to the people (argumentum ad populum) by expressing that “most fair-minded Australians already agree with us” and “what most fair-minded Australian are also coming to realise”. By this fallacious argument, they have tried to tell that the Australians who do not agree with their claim are not fair minded people. In this way, it can be interpreted as ‘poisoning the well’ fallacy.
In the third paragraph, the statement started with loaded words as it stressed in “the real face of multi-cultural Australia”. Other words and phrases like naming the robbers as “monster” and stressing on their - probably – “Middle Eastern accent” also suffer similar fallacies and language games. Also, by misusing a recent robbery in which thieves had covered their head and face, they fallaciously induced that the Burqa “is now a tool of thieves, robbers, criminals, and terrorists.” They also tried to evoke readers’ emotions by expressing that the thieves robbed “a shop owner who’s family had been here serving this community since Federation”, “assault on the decent, hard-working people of our communities” and “it is a slap in the face of our police”.
In the third paragraph, the statement suffers the fallacy of ‘oversimplification’. They presumed that all Muslims who wear Burqa are obliged to do so and, therefore, wearing the Burqa in all cases is a kind of repression. While the fact is although there are some Muslim women wears Burqa unwillingly just because of their family or husband wants, there many who willingly decided to use this custom by their decision. Furthermore, they interpreted the ‘equality of women’ as ‘similarity in culture and custom’ when they expressed that “the equality of women is a core Australian value”. Based on this assumption, they irrelevantly argued against Burqa and missed the point ( ‘Ignoratio elenchi’ fallacy).
In the last two paragraphs, many equivocal, vague, emotional and loaded terms (e.g. “wishy-washy”, “old world”, “real Australian culture”, “freedom”, and “great nation”) have been used. They also used ‘circular reasoning’ as well as committing the ‘begging the question’ fallacy by presuming that the multicultural mosaic in Australian is great by itself regardless of the contributors.
Overall, numerous rhetoric devices and language ploys that have been used in the Advance Australia’s statement in addition to many unsound arguments without providing enough evidence makes it a biased, untempered and fallacious reasoning, let alone the formal issues in their inferences that already have been analysed in the previous section of this report.
Report on Roy Morgan Study
This section is a brief report on the Roy Morgan study and its poll results, as well as the Advance Australia's use of it. The survey has been issued in the Roy Morgan website on 6th of August 2010 with this headline: “81% of Australian electors do not believe women should be allowed to wear a burka when giving evidence in court.”
The survey, as indicated in its report, conducted only with 434 people while Australia had more than 22 million in population in 2010. It means the poll survey less than 0.002% of Australians. Here some questions arise about the representativeness of the sample. Also, it has not been pointed out whether the sample is homogeneous. In other words, it has not been indicated whether these 434 respondents are selected across Australia in pro rata to the population of the area that respondents’ lives.
The poll has been conducted via SMS. The report does not provide any further details of the way that survey has been conducted. However, the selection method raises some concerns. First of all, it limits the respondents to anyone who has a mobile handset and actively uses it. Secondly, it is not told how the selected respondents were selected; whether they volunteered or been randomly selected. Thirdly, the survey does not differentiate between the respondents in urban areas (where most of the Muslim populations live), and the respondents in rural areas.
The poll report described the survey questions and corresponding answers as follow: “People surveyed were asked ‘Should women be allowed to wear a burka in public places?’ A small majority 52% said ‘No’ and 48% said ‘Yes’. The 48% who said ‘Yes’ were then asked: ‘Should women be allowed to wear a burka when giving evidence in court?’ Of the 48% - 29% said ‘No’; 19% said ‘Yes’.”
The report does not reveal whether the respondents preliminarily have been asked if they know about Burqa and its implications. Furthermore, it seems that the first and the second questions contradict each other. Knowing that in Australia ‘court’ is a public place, once respondents who answered ‘No’ to the first question should not be asked ‘Should women be allowed to wear a burka when giving evidence in court?’ It means the items are not mutually exclusive and have overlaps in their possible set of answers. Therefore, the number of respondents who answered ‘No’ to the first question cannot be added to the number of respondents who answered ‘No’ to the second question.
Terms and Questions
Although the result of the survey has been generalised to all ‘Australians’, it has not been clarified whether all the respondents were Australian citizens, or they were a combination of citizens, permanent residents, tourists and holders of other types of visa. It means ‘Australian’ has not been precisely defined and targeted in the survey. The same objection applies to the vagueness of the term of ‘Burka’ (Burqa): many kinds of face covers lie under the broad definition of Burqa while some of them are not Islamic customs at all and are merely traditional customs. Also, the questions do not provide any room to find out the age of the respondents, their religion, and their political views that could help to analyse and use the results precisely.
Advance Australia's use of Poll Results
The representativeness and validity of the outcome of the study are questionable. Advance Australia has taken the result out of its context and generalised the result from ‘electors do not believe women should be allowed to wear a burka when giving evidence in court’ to ‘Ban the Burqa’ in Australia. This implication is not what the poll result can justify and is a fallacious and hasty generalisation, if not a deliberate misuse of the results.
In the previous 18 months in Mainbrace, social tensions toward Muslims and Middle Eastern migrants have been raised. ‘Advance Australia’ - a political group that overarches right-wing activists, conservative media, and anti-immigration radicals - runs a campaign of hatred and misinformation against Burqa. A local Federal Member of Parliament, Claire Reznik, has been asked to review analytically and refute Advance Australia’s claims stated in their recent media release “Ban the Burqa - A Campaign Promise”. What will follow is some recommendations for her to show the weaknesses and fallacies of ‘Advance Australia’ claims expressed in their press release, as well as some points and facts to be used as positive responses.
Responding to the ‘Advance Australia’ Argument
- The accompanying report of Advance Australia’s reasonings and inferences shows that the stated claim - Ban the Burqa - has not been supported by relevant premises and what have been already provided in the name of the argument is fallacious, distorted, and biassed.
- The accompanying reports also show that the Advance Australia has no accurate understanding of Burqa and Muslims’ customs and culture. Therefore, they have misunderstood, if not intentionally misused, the implications of Burqa for Muslim women with what commonly thieves use to hide their identity e.g. balaclava. It is recommended that the MP
- To emphasis on the provided shop robbery case as ‘irrelevant’, ‘oversimplified’ and ‘loaded.'
- To focus on the expressed radical anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ideas as something inconsistent with our cultural mosaic and with Australia constitutions.
- As it has been shown in the report on Roy Morgan study, it is recommended that the MP focus on the provided poll result as a ‘non-representative’ and ‘inaccurate’ survey that has been conducted with inappropriate questions, methods and measurements. Also, given that the poll result is representative, the use of it by Advance Australia in their statement is out of its context and fallacious.
I recommend the MP to carry out some manoeuvres on the following points to bring out Liberal and other non-radical parties’ perspective on Burqa and Muslims’ custom and culture:
- There was a concern about wearing Burqa as a tool for thieves and terrorists and a threat to community members’ security. It will be wise to express that banning the Burqa will not force criminals to discard covering their head and face in robberies once they do their operations.
- It seems there are some concerns about Burqa as a kind of repression against women. It is wise to emphasise that although assuming that Burqa is an oppression of women is a hasty generalisation of a few cases to all Muslim women, there are very accessible services for community members to report any abuse and domestic violence and ask for help.
Roy Morgan Poll on Burqa Wearing
Today’s special Morgan Poll finds: 81% of Australian electors do not believe women should be allowed to wear a burka when giving evidence in court
August 06 2010 | Finding No. 4553 | Topic: Special Poll | Country: Australia
Australians are divided on whether women should be allowed to wear the burka in public places, but a solid majority (81%) say ‘no burka in court’ according to a special Australia-wide Roy Morgan sms survey of 434 electors conducted today.
People surveyed were asked “Should women be allowed to wear a burka in public places?” A small majority 52% said ‘No’ and 48% said ‘Yes’.
The 48% who said ‘Yes’ were then asked: “Should women be allowed to wear a burka when giving evidence in court?” Of the 48% - 29% said ‘No’; 19% said ‘Yes’.
Overall, 81% of Australian electors believe women should not be allowed to wear a burka when giving evidence in court. Analysis by men and women shows virtually no gender difference.
This special SMS Morgan Poll was conducted today (August 6, 2010) with an Australia-wide cross section of 434 electors.
For further information:
Gary Morgan: Office +61 3 9224 5213 Mobile +61 411 129 094
Michele Levine: Office +61 3 9224 5215 Mobile +61 411 129 093
Margin of Error
The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. The following table gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. The figures are approximate and for general guidance only, and assume a simple random sample.
25% or 75%
10% or 90%
5% or 95%
The Morgan Poll is conducted by the ONLY Australian and New Zealand member of the Gallup International Association.
No other public opinion poll taken in Australia has this qualification.