MEDIA RELEASE 31st August 2013
Muslim women shocked at Mr Abbotts attacks on religious dress.
“Recent public comments by the Leader of the Opposition Mr Tony Abbott supporting multiculturalism must surely be questioned after his surprisingly ill informed and shocking comments on Muslim women’s dress”, said Ms Maha Abdo, Executive Officer of the Muslim Women’s Association.
Ms Abdo was responding to Mr Abbott’s statement that he found the dress of some Muslim women confronting and would not like to see such dress on the streets of Sydney. Mr Abbott’s statement came as he rushed to support the views of the Liberal candidate for the Western Sydney seat of McMahon Mr King, a former Liverpool based police commander, who is reported to have commented that Muslim women’s dress is oppressive and may have links to criminality.
“Such statements are at best ignorant and at worst a deliberate attempt to target the Australian Muslim community. It is extremely disturbing to Australian Muslim Women that Mr Abbott, who may be Australia’s next Prime Minister, holds such views and supports such comments from a Liberal candidate “, said Ms Abdo.
The Muslim Women’s Association finds these comments exceptionally offensive as they imply that Muslim women lack the ability to make an informed decision about their dress, that somehow such dress is associated with criminal elements in society. Worse still is that such statements imply that Muslim women’s dress is “not Australian enough” to be accepted in public. These comments have an historic ring to them that are extremely disturbing. Mr Abbott, a man of faith himself, must know that the vast majority of Australian Muslim women make free and considered decisions about their dress. As to the issue of criminality and Muslim women in burqas Mr King and Mr Abbott are obviously ignorant of the recent amendments to the NSW legislation Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 which require Muslim women in NSW to remove their face covering in policing situations. That Act was enacted not because Muslim women are oppressed or the dress is confronting but because there are accepted situations where facial identification is necessary.
The Muslim Womens Association asks Mr Abbott what is it about Muslim Women’s dress that makes it unacceptable? Surely a country that values freedom and prides itself on its multicultural nature can accept the decision of a small minority of the community to dress in a manner that accords with the tenets of their faith. Such basic human rights are guaranteed in International Human Rights documents that Australia has ratified. Furthermore, freedom of religion is one of the very few rights embedded in our Australian constitution and one which we are disturbed and disappointed to hear is being compromised when it comes to discussions about Muslim Women. Ms Abdo asks Mr Abbott to “appreciate the impact that his words have in the community and to use them to recognise the importance of our common values rather than our differences”.
Source: United Muslim Women Association