“We could have a huge national debate over whether or not the burqa should be allowed into Parliament House, but what useful purpose would it serve given that, as far as we are aware, no one has ever sought to enter into the building so attired and if access was ever sought under those circumstances, it would be dealt with appropriately by our security officers?”

Good point, Prime Minister. So why are we — the media and political classes of Australia — having a debate about it?

It all began within Tony Abbott’s own party: Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi fired another shot at Muslim women (backed by Liberal National MP George Christensen), Bronwyn Bishop requested a security assessment of the risks posed by facial coverings in Parliament, and Abbott said he wouldn’t oppose a ban on them being worn there.

As Shakira Hussein writes today, this latest dog-whistle from the Abbott government will leave Muslim women feeling less politically engaged “no matter what they wear or don’t wear on their heads and regardless of whether or not have any desire to set foot in Parliament House”.

A section of our community that is already under-represented by our political leaders — there has only ever been one Muslim woman in an Australian Parliament — has just been made to feel that little bit more marginalised. What useful purpose, indeed.

Peter Fray

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