Muslims protest against banning of the burqa

ABOUT 2000 Muslims held a peaceful protest in Lakemba yesterday, angered by growing local and international pressure to restrict the wearing of face- covering veils in public.

The rally was a response to recent bans in Europe and two failed attempts by Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile to have a Bill banning burqas and other face veils in public introduced in the NSW Legislative Council.

Umjamal Eldin, a seventh-generation Australian, said she wore the burqa out of choice as it allowed her to control to whom she “exposes her beauty”.

The Muslim women’s group labelled the banning face covers as “ridiculous”.

Ahead of Sunday’s rally at Parry Park, the United Muslim Women’s Association issued a statement to distance itself from involvement.

Association executive officer Maha Abdo said: “Whilst there is no doubt that Muslim minority communities all over the world are facing fierce opposition to the free practice of their faith, we do not believe that a community rally in Lakemba will address any real concerns.”

United for Islam (UFI) group called on the rally to protest against the proposed Bill before the NSW Parliament calling on the banning of the burqa.

But earlier this month Premier Kristina Keneally said Fred Nile’s proposal had no place in multicultural Australia. Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell also said the Liberals and Nationals would not support the Bill.

The comments prompted Ms Abdo to describe the weekend rally as “too late” and ridiculous.

“We have made every endeavour to voice our concerns, and in this case we have been successful,” she said.

“We acknowledge that this won’t be the end of this debate in Australia, for our recent past has taught us that this issue will come up again and again.”

Before the rally, Ms Abdo said it was likely “to perpetuate feelings of fear and victimhood amongst the Muslim community, something that we should not be promoting”.

In an email encouraging people to attend the rally, the UFI said Western media, politicians and academics had portrayed the niqab and burqa as oppressive.

Last week the French Senate passed a law to ban French Muslim women and tourists wearing face-covering veils in public places.

“The Muslim community must not, and will not remain silent while matters concerning us are debated by the rest of society,” the UFI said.

For many, any restriction of religious dress was a direct attack on Muslims.

“This is a personal attack on Islam and people get upset when they are denied the right to practise their religion,” event spokesman Ahmed Dabboussi said yesterday.

Some may see it as an attack on Australian culture.

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