MEDIA RELEASE: Bishop's comments on hijab un-Australian, unconstitutional; apology demanded
SYDNEY 29 August 2005 - Muslim Women's and Civil Rights groups have condemned suggestions by Bronwyn Bishop that the hijab should be banned in schools.
“Her likening of Muslim girls to slaves and Nazis demonstrate a complete ignorance of even basic Islamic teachings,” said Ms Maha Abdo, spokeswoman for the Muslim Women's Association. "It is insulting, inflammatory and contrary to everything that the Prime Minister has said about respect for difference and religious tolerance. We are appalled and offended that Ms Bishop would compare Muslim Women to slaves or our religion to Nazism. We demand an unequivocal apology.”
“Ms Bishop’s statements have achieved nothing other than inciting hatred and distrust of Muslims generally and Muslim women in particular, especially at a time when our elected representatives should be playing a role in uniting rather than dividing the community.”
"Bishop's argument is Swiss cheese -- it's full of holes," adds Agnes Chong, co-convenor of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN). "On the one hand Ms Bishop claims it's a type of slavery, then she claims it's an act of defiance -- it can't be both. The argument itself is tainted with racist overtones, and assumes Muslim women are weak and not fully intellectually developed. We can assure her that this is absolutely not the case.
"Australia is about freedom and tolerance, and this shows neither. It is unAustralian to prohibit the free exercise of any religion. In fact, it is one of the few rights enshrined in the Australian Constitution."
We call upon the Prime Minister Mr John Howard to take on a leading role in this debate and openly condemn the statements of Ms Bishop. We urge Mr Howard to make it clear that neither he nor the Australian government hold such views nor would they consider any laws which infringe upon the rights of Muslim women in their choice of dress.
Such measures would also have the potential to sour our international relationships with nearby neighbours such as Malaysia and Indonesia. This could severely damage trade and have an impact on Australian producers.
For more information contact:
Muslim Women's Association
Mobile: 0403 522 972
Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN)
Mobile: 0414 925 225