Page last updated at 08:57 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 09:57 UK

Australia burka armed robbery sparks ban debate

Woman wearing a burka in Brussels (April 2010)
Several European countries have debated banning the veil

An armed robbery allegedly carried out by a man wearing a burka has sparked a row in Australia on whether the full-face Islamic veil should be banned.

Opposition Liberal Sen Cory Bernardi said the robbery showed the burka was "emerging as the preferred disguise of bandits and ne'er-do-wells".

Both PM Kevin Rudd and Liberal leader Tony Abbott dismissed the comments and said they would not support a ban.

The row follows similar debates on the burka in European countries.

Last week, Belgian politicians voted for a ban which would outlaw the full-face veil in public.

Mr Bernardi, senator for South Australia, made his comments after a man was held up at gunpoint in a car park in Sydney on Wednesday and robbed of a bag of cash.

The victim said his attacker had been a man wearing sunglasses and a burka, meaning he could not be identified.

Writing in his blog, Mr Bernardi said the burka was "un-Australian" and should be banned on safety grounds and for the good of society.

"To me, the burka represents the repressive domination of men over women which has no place in our society and compromises some of the most important aspects of human communication," he said.

"It also establishes a different set of rules and societal expectations in our hitherto homogenous society."


Mr Abbott said party member Mr Bernardi was "entitled to a personal view" but that he did not personally support the idea of a ban.

"I think a lot of Australians find the wearing of the burka quite confronting and I wish it was not widely worn," he told ABC News.

"But the point is we don't have a policy to ban it and we have always respected people's rights in this area."

Mr Rudd has accused the opposition of expressing contradictory views on the issue.

"He [Bernardi] goes out there and says that's what he wants to do. Mr Abbott then says it's not their policy," he told the Seven network.

"They are walking both sides of the street.''

Belgium's lower house of parliament voted unanimously last week for a law banning the public wearing of any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer.

If passed by the country's senate, the ban would be the first move of its kind in Europe. France is close to introducing a similar ban.

Muslim headscarves

The word hijab comes from the Arabic for veil and is used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in myriad styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and an accompanying tube-like scarf.
The shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf region. It is wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.
The khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. It covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear.
The chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath.
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AFP via Yahoo! Australian lawmaker stirs burqa controversy (AFP) - 2 hrs ago
Crikey Media Cory Bernardi: Ban the burqa - 16 hrs ago
New Zealand Herald Rudd on attack over opposition's burqa blog - 38 hrs ago
Telegraph Burkas should be banned as 'unAustralian' - 44 hrs ago Burqa ban sparks budgie smuggler call - 47 hrs ago

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