In the past couple of days there has been a push by some of the liberal backbenchers (namely Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Panopoulos) to outlaw the wearing of hijabs in schools. John Howard has disagreed with this view, but here’s some of the Sydney Morning Herald’s report:
Mr Howard said he opposed Mrs Bishop’s push to ban Muslim girls from wearing headscarves at public schools because it would be impractical. But he defended Ms Bishop’s “right to express a view”.
Mrs Bishop has called the headscarf “a sort of iconic item of defiance”, and echoed the call of the Victorian Liberal MP Sophie Panopoulos for a ban. Mrs Bishop’s remark prompted much criticism, including a rebuke from the NSW Minister for Education, Carmel Tebbutt, who yesterday ruled out any change to the uniform policy, which allows schools to develop a dress code in consultation with the community. She said she supported the right of students to wear the headscarf as long as it was within the school code.
Mr Howard said: “I don’t think it’s practical to bring in such a prohibition. If you ban a headscarf you might for consistency’s sake have to ban a yarmulke or a turban.
However, Labor’s education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said Mr Howard had not gone far enough in opposing the MPs. “John Howard must show leadership and pull [them] into line over their calls. We need national leadership … not extremist knee-jerk reactions.”
The federal Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, John Cobb, said Mrs Bishop’s comments were ignorant and an insult to many Australians. In a statement he said: “The government does not seek to impose cultural sameness on Australians … Do we ban nuns from wearing a habit?”
I am really shocked that two women politicians are behind the push to ban the hijabs. They’re using a feminist platform and claiming that the hijabs are an affront to women’s freedom (well, Sophie was, I couldn’t work out Bronwyn’s stance). Ummm what about religious freedom in a society that is multicultural and tolerant of difference in lifestyles? (I could write an essay on this but I don’t think the blog is the right place for it)