Eyes wide shut
NSW Premier Kristina Keneally says her government will not support a ban on the burqa, the head and body veil worn by some Muslim women, because “such a ban has no place in multicultural NSW”.
Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile had called on both major parties to allow members a conscience vote on his private member’s bill, which was introduced into Parliament in June.
Mr Nile wants NSW to follow a growing number of European countries trying to ban women from wearing in public the burqa and the niqab, a veil with a narrow opening for the eyes.
Interfaith kumbaya for the Muslim vote:
However, at an interfaith dinner with about 300 religious leaders last night, Ms Keneally announced that cabinet had decided to oppose the Full-face Coverings Prohibition Bill, which is modelled on legislation recently passed by the Belgian Parliament.
“We are fortunate to live in a largely harmonious state where differences in language, culture and faith are rightly seen as things which enliven and strengthen our society,” Ms Keneally said.
“It is in this spirit that the NSW Government has decided to oppose the bill seeking to create a criminal offence of wearing a burqa in public places.”
Mr Nile said he was disappointed that MPs would not be allowed a conscience vote when the bill returns to Parliament next month.
“The bill is an exact copy of that passed in Belgium – it’s not extreme or radical legislation,” he said.
Mr Nile said the burqa oppressed women and could be used as a disguise by terrorists.
He claimed his bill had some support with both the government and opposition.
“I was hoping we would at least get a conscience vote, so individual members of Parliament could at least vote for and against the legislation,” he told Macquarie Radio.
“It seems like the cabinet has decided to clamp down on that freedom of expression … and gag Labor Party members.”
The cabinet decision follows a recent ruling in aÂ Perth court that a Muslim woman must remove her full covering should she give evidence in a fraud trial.
The NSW Greens have already said they were opposed to the ban, labelling it racist.
But Islam is not a race…..
Without government support, the bill now has little chance of success.