Australian politician defends call for headscarf ban

School studentLiberal backbencher Bronwyn Bishop has defended her push to ban Muslim girls from wearing headscarves at public schools, despite widespread condemnation from school groups, Muslim leaders and fellow politicians.

“I think it is because a lot of people are thinking about it and I think it’s time people stood up to be counted,” Ms Bishop told ABC radio. “It has become the icon, the symbol of the clash of cultures, and it runs much deeper than a piece of cloth. The fact of the matter is we’ve got people in our country who are advocating – and I’m talking about extremist Islamist leaders – the overturning of our laws which guarantee freedom.”

Ms Bishop said she had no problem with members of other faiths adorning themselves with religious symbols, such as Christians wearing a cross or Orthodox Jews a yarmulke. “I have no concerns about people who wear a cross or people who wear a skull-cap because I haven’t heard any leaders of those communities stand up and say the very fabric of our society should be overturned,” she said.

Australian Secondary Principals Association president Ted Brierley said it was a non-issue among schools. “I’m not aware of any schools that are making this an issue,” he said.

The Age, 29 August 2005