An AFP officer armed with a machine gun patrols outside the front of Parliament House. Photo: Andrew MearesComment: Operation Hammerhead stirs up fear and endangers Muslim womenThe Pulse Live politics blog with Judith Ireland
The Coalition is divided over engagement with the Islamic community as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned attacks on Australian Muslims play into the hands of terrorists and a second government MP joined the push to ban the burqa and sharia law.
Muslim leaders described their community as “on edge” on Tuesday as Queensland National George Christensen added his voice to Liberal senator Cory Bernardi’s campaign to outlaw full face coverings in public.
Mr Christensen told Fairfax Media he would “fret” if someone walked into a bank under a hijab or niqab.
“Team Australia needs to make this decision [to ban the burqa],” he said.
“There are many views in the community on this. People think that it shouldn’t be allowed in public places. I think if you ask the majority of the community you’d find an overwhelming no answer. It would be interesting to take a poll.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged people last week not to “fret” about a person’s religion or clothing but the outspoken Queensland MP appeared to rebuke his leader.
“If someone walked into a bank with a full covering like that I’d be fretting about it. There are legitimate security issues that people have when someone walks into a public place where you cannot identify them,” he said.
Mr Christensen even took issue with the Prime Minister’s repeated insistence that last week’s terrorist raids had nothing to do with religion, saying that was just “one view”. His decision to speak out has highlighted divisions on how best to maintain community cohesion during what Mr Abbott has described as “darkening times”.
Mr Turnbull has been urging calm and even suggested that those who provoke division are helping recruit for Islamic State, also known as ISIL.
“Those people who attack Muslims and Islam in Australia are doing precisely what ISIL wants,” he said. “Now more than ever we need to stand up for our tolerant, multicultural society. Racial and religious vilification is totally unacceptable.”
Mr Turnbull believes the slickly produced calls to jihad such as the one posted online by Islamic State on Monday could alienate some Muslims by stirring division.
“They claim to be an ‘Islamic State’ and they commit shocking crimes in the name of Islam because they want to divide our society and make Muslims within our society feel isolated and threatened to the point where they feel that they have no place in Australian society and their only protection can come from extremist groups like ISIL. This is the classic tactic of terrorists the world over,” Mr Turnbull said.
Lebanese Muslim leader Jamal Rifi said Mr Turnbull had been the government’s “voice of reason” but said “everyone is on edge” in the expectation of a backlash from the wider community.
He said Mr Christensen’s intervention was “ill-timed and divisive”.
“Women should be able to choose what they wear, full stop,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wrote to Islamic leaders on Tuesday to say Labor “stands shoulder to shoulder” with the Islamic community.
“Labor will continue to work with you to stop misinformation, bigotry and prejudice directed at the Australian Islamic community,” he wrote.
“Regrettably, some in our community, including a very few elected representatives, have made comments which have the potential to damage community harmony and inflame tensions. Labor strongly opposes these ill-informed and dangerous views and we will continue to speak out against them.”
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.