The federal MP for the Queensland seat of Dawson, George Christensen, echoed contentious statements by Palmer United Party senator Jacqui Lambie. “We shouldn’t tolerate sharia law in Aust and the burqa/niqab shouldn’t be worn in public,” Mr Christensen posted on Twitter this afternoon.
In an interview with ABC Online, Mr Christensen said people had a “right to be safe”.
“People get worried when someone walks in and they can’t see exactly who it is,” he said. “And just like you can’t wear a helmet into a bank or a post office and other public places well you shouldn’t be able to wear this thing that covers your face under the guise that it’s some requirement of your religion. Because quite clearly it’s not – there are many Muslim scholars and many Muslims in predominantly Muslim countries that do not wear this.”
He said his concerns were shared “across the nation”.
“Many people hold this view, not just me, my constituents regularly raise the issue with me and it’s a legitimate concern,” he said. “It’s not something that’s just to be sneered at as something that’s not politically correct and we shouldn’t be talking about it. The entire nation of France has a ban on the burka – I mean, is the entire nation of France a nation of racists?”
His statement was dismissed by the Government frontbencher with responsibility for multicultural affairs, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who has been very active in the Government’s consultations with the Muslim community.
“Sharia law does not operate in Australia and it is not going to operate in Australia,” she told ABC News Online in a statement. “The law of this land is Australian law and this will remain. Mr Christensen is entitled to his view but it’s not the view of the Government”.
Liberal MP Craig Laundy, whose western Sydney seat of Reid has the highest proportion of Muslim voters, has slapped down his colleague, accusing him of stoking fear in the community. “This requires leaders to stand up, allay fears, bring the community together and not dog whistle and drive the community apart,” he told ABC Online.
Last week, as news broke of massive anti-terror raids in Sydney and Brisbane, Liberal senator Cory Bernardi also renewed his calls for the burka to be banned. His comment was rejected by Prime Minister Tony Abbott who said there was no reason for people to “fret” about the head covering.
But Mr Christensen said he disagreed with the Prime Minister. “That’s the Prime Minister’s view, that’s fine. I’ve got a different view to the Prime Minister on that issue,” he said.
The Government has been at pains to draw a clear distinction between the threat of terrorism and the Muslim community.
See also “Coalition splits on Muslim relations as National MP George Christensen adds voice to calls for burqa ban”, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 September 2014