Update from this story:Â Sydney: Buses & Burkas, in Your Face
You knew they would cave in. But so fast?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Kadijah demandsÂ “attitude change”
A Sydney bus company has apologised to one of its customers after the driver argued with a Muslim woman over her right to wear a niqab, or veil.
Hillsbus now says its driver behaved unacceptably when he told Khadijah Ouararhni-Grech to ‘take off her mask’.
The company says its actions were born out of ignorance and not malice, but it has refused to speak publicly about the incident.
The New South Wales Government says it should serve as a clear warning to private bus operators that they need to lift their standards.
“I was approached by the bus driver who stood up from his chair and said ‘right, you can’t get on this bus with that mask on; you have to show your face and take that mask off’,” Ms Ouararhni-Grech said.
She says she told the driver it was discrimination but he still argued with her.
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“I said to him, ‘what’s it to you what I wear? And what’s the difference between me wearing this and anyone else wearing like a swine-flu mask or wearing what they choose to wear?’ No-one tells me how to dress in the morning.”
After a few minutes the driver relented, telling Ms Ouararhni-Grech that it was only because she was a woman.
“It’s almost being like raped of your culture. It’s like something has been taken away from you. You feel very victimised – you can’t help to feel that; it’s a natural, human natured feeling,” she said. (its not her culture: she is Maltese born Aurstralian. Its Islam that’s doing this to her. And her chldren…/ed)
Hillsbus received a complaint that afternoon from Mrs Ouararhni-Grech but didn’t contact her again until a Sydney newspaper publicised what had happened a few days later.
They then arranged for the bus driver to apologise this week over the phone.
“They’ve tried to pacify me. I don’t even think that my four-year-old daughter would accept that,” she said.
The bus company was asked by PM to do an interview explaining what they’ve learnt from this case but declined the offer.
Hillsbus says it has issued a public apology in the form of a statement issued to journalists who ask for comment.
And a spokeswoman says speaking on the radio would only cause hurt to Ms Ouararhni-Grech.
“If that was true, then what am I doing here?,” Ms Ouararhni-Grech said.
“It has upset me to the point where I feel the need to stop this counter-terrorism as an excuse of racism. I feel the need to protest for people’s rights.”
Eagerly aiding and abetting the spread of Islam in Australia:
New South Wales Transport Minister David Campbell is disappointed Hillsbus isn’t prepared to speak publicly.
“I share her upset. I wasn’t there and it didn’t impact on me personally but I want to live in a society where people’s individual religious background is welcome and I think, broadly, people in Sydney want to do that as well,” he said.
“All of the private bus operators should lift their game in terms of their passenger service and in terms of their preparedness to explain to their passengers and to explain to the taxpayers who subsidise their bus routes, the actions of their businesses.”
Breaking down resistance to the cult:
Ms Ouararhni-Grech says growing up as a Catholic before converting to Islam has given her a valuable insight into discrimination.
“I understood what it was like to be a Muslim and I’d go to the shop and it was horrendous, you get this look from the people who knew you before and you’d never seen them in that way and then they go, ‘oh my gosh, look what she’s wearing’,” she said.
But according to the man who chairs the state’s Community Relations Commission, Ms Ouararhni-Grech’s treatment is becoming less common.
Stepan Kerkasharian says non-Muslim Australians have become more accepting.
“I think by and large there’s a broad acceptance nowadays and it is not unusual for anyone in Sydney to walk into a restaurant or to walk into a supermarket into a Woolworths store, a Coles store, into a bank and see someone working there who is wearing the hijab,” he said.
“It’s becoming part and parcel of scenery in Australia.”
Ms Ouararhni-Grech says she would like to go to Hillsbus and speak to all the staff there about what it’s like to feel discriminated against.