The Age reports today:
A CONTROVERSIAL review of Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act is threatening to become a political headache for the Brumby Government, with many churches, religious leaders, parents and private schools vowing to defend discrimination based on faith.
The parliamentary review, covering all areas of discrimination — including whether private men’s clubs can continue to exclude women — has sparked widespread alarm among religious Victorians, from the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne to Islamic, Christian and Jewish schools, and faith-based hospitals and aged-care centres.
At stake, these groups say, is their religious freedom to discriminate within churches, schools and church-run welfare services.
ABC News Reader Virginia Haussegger writes on her blog:
I’ve seen it elsewhere around the world, but I didn’t expect to see it here. Certainly not on a hot summer’s afternoon at the Canberra Centre. But there it was. A ghostly figure walking towards me, clad from head to toe in a heavy black niqab, black gloves and dark shoes. She was trailing along behind her husband and four little children.
The sight of this hideously shrouded figure in an Australian shopping mall is confronting and offensive. And it makes me angry, very angry.
It is, of course, unclear whether this was simply a visiting tourist from the gulf or whether it was a local. Regardless, Haussegger is hopping mad and is calling for the government to take action to protect her from having to witness such a sight as a woman who had the temerity to cover her face in a Canberra shopping centre.
There is no place here for the burka. Australians must rally to have the burka banned.
And what would that achieve? How would such a law distinguish between a woman who veils her face using a traditional niqab and a woman who, for the same reason of religious observance, chose to bypass the ‘niqab ban’ by veiling her face using a woolen scarf wrapped around her face, wearing a balaclava, or perhaps a variation on a surgical mask?
If Haussegger and Sarkozy want to see the end of the niqab then perhaps they should try to use argument to convince these women that their way is a better way. However, it seems that it is because years of argument and exposure to Western society has failed to convert these women to their way of thinking (and dress), that they must now seek to use the instruments of the state as a cudgel against these women to force them to ‘fit in’ with what Sarkozy et al think society should look like.