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Sunday, 24 November, 2002, 05:18 GMT
Australian MP sparks Muslim dress row
Muslim women in Sydney
The Bali bombings raised fears of Islamist attacks
A Christian politician in Australia has stirred controversy after saying that Muslim women should be banned from wearing traditional costumes because they pose a security risk.

The Reverend Fred Nile, a Christian Democrat MP in New South Wales, said Muslim women in Australia could use their chador - a combination head covering, veil and shawl - to hide explosives.


A terrorist could wear that chador that would conceal either explosives or weapons

Reverend Fred Nile, MP
His comments have been condemned by Islamic leaders, trade unions and the Anglican Church.

The row comes amid a heightened state of alert in Australia following the Bali bombings last month, which were widely blamed on Islamic extremists.

Mr Nile has refused to apologise for his remarks, saying the involvement of women in the siege of a Moscow theatre in October by Chechen militants proved a need for action.

"A terrorist could wear that chador that would conceal either explosives or weapons. It's not a fairytale," he said.

Appeal for calm

Australian Prime Minister John Howard called on Australians to show religious tolerance but stopped short of condemning Mr Nile's comments.

Muslim woman in Sydney

The prime minister has advocated tough action against terror suspects in Australia since the Bali bombings, in which at least 75 Australians were killed.

But, he said, anxiety over the threat of terrorism should not be directed against minorities.

"One of the things that hasn't changed [since the Bali bombings] and mustn't change is the character of Australia as a free and open and decent and tolerant nation," said Mr Howard.


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07 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
03 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
30 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
31 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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