Australians Have Not Engaged in Serious Headscarf Debates

December 20, 2003

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

On December 20, 2003 the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story on Australian attitudes toward the headscarf, in the wake of France's proposed ban of conspicious religious symbols in schools: "Among Sydney's 13 Islamic independent schools, the hijab is generally compulsory for girls of high school age, according to Medenia Abdurahman, secretary of the Australian Council for Islamic Education in Schools and the principal of Arkana College in Kingsgrove. A dress code is not enforced at primary school level...To some extent, [Nicky Jones, a PhD student at the University of Queensland] says, Australia began the same debate [as France] when, in November last year, the Reverend Fred Nile questioned the general appropriateness of Muslim dress. 'I don't think we engaged in it very seriously or for very long'...In Australia, apprehensiveness about the hijab is partly because it is a symbol of modesty and runs counter to the feminist catchcry of sexual liberation."