A legislator in Australia is calling for new laws banning the burqa in public places in the country’s most populous state, New South Wales. Reverend Fred Nile has introduced a private members bill to State Parliament that would make it an offense to wear a full-face veil in shopping centers and on buses.
Reverend Fred Nile, a Christian Democratic Party MP in the New South Wales upper house of Parliament, insists the burqa does not fit Australian values.
Only a small number of Muslims in Australia wear the loose garment that covers a woman from head to foot, including the face.
But Reverend Nile believes Australia should follow the example of European governments, including France, that have outlawed the burqa.
“My bill only deals with any face-covering that conceals the identity of a person in public,” he said. “So, it deals with freedom for women that they won’t be forced to wear any face-covering and also provides for security from terrorism and from anarchists who use face-covering to conceal their identity.”
Reverend Nile has been accused of religious bigotry and Muslim groups in Australia have branded the proposed law a “dangerous attack on women’s freedom.”
Critics of the bill say it will encourage hostility to the Muslim community, which has faced discrimination and contempt in Australia following the attacks in New York and Washington DC in September 2001 and the Bali bombings a year later, which were blamed on Islamic radicals. Eighty-eight Australians died in the bombings on the Indonesian resort island.
The tragedy sparked a backlash against Australia’s Muslim minority and although much of the antipathy has subsided, many Muslims still complain of alienation from mainstream society.
Reverend Nile’s controversial bill is scheduled to be debated in the New South Wales Parliament in September.