Burqa ban 'un-Australian' rally told

Last updated 11:55 20/09/2010

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Islamic values are superior to ''flawed'' Western secular values and non-Muslims are in no position to lecture Muslims about the oppression of women, a speaker said yesterday at a Sydney rally against proposals to ban the burqa.

''Despite the intense negative propaganda against Islam and in particular the lies about its treatment of women, the number of Western women embracing Islam continues to rise at a rapid rate,'' said Fautmeh Ardati, a member of the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir. ''By turning their backs on this flawed way of life, it is testament of the superiority of Islamic values over Western values.''

Women did not wear Islamic dress out of freedom of choice, Ms Ardati told the Lakemba rally.

''Because to use freedom of choice as a justification, then we are also accepting of women who undress out of this same freedom of choice, and we can never do this as Muslim women. We dress like this because it is the command of Allah, not any man.''

Women had two options, she said. ''The Western secular way of life, which robs a woman of her dignity, honour and respect, where she is considered little more than a commodity to be bought and sold, or the option of Islam, where a woman's dignity, respect and honour are priceless.''

Later she cited high rates of rape and domestic violence and said: ''They are in no position to be lecturing us about oppression and subjugation.'' Ms Ardati was one of five speakers at the rally, held at Parry Park, in reaction to a recent unsuccessful attempt by the NSW MP Fred Nile to introduce a bill banning the burqa.

The Premier, Kristina Keneally's recent statement re-affirming the right of Muslim women to wear the burqa was welcomed but Ms Ardati said the support of key politicians did not mean Muslims could ''relax''.

''Even if this bill is not passed in NSW now, who knows what will happen in one week, one month or one year?'' Ms Ardati said.

There were about 2000 people at the rally, with men and women segregated by a row of plastic markers. Male speakers spoke to the crowd from a podium at the front. The two female speakers spoke from the women's section, meaning most of the men had their backs turned to them.

Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman said Muslims loved Australia but rejected interference in the practice of their religion. ''Keep away from our affairs,'' he said.

Umm Jamaalud-Din said Mr Nile's ''un-Australian'' bill had ''open[ed] the floor to racist elements that exist within Australian society'' who would now feel they could vilify, abuse and possibly assault Muslim women.

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''I feel empowered by the knowledge that I am in control of displaying my beauty to whom I choose,'' she said.

''I can move freely throughout society without being subjected to the eyes of every Tom, Dick and Harry and not be judged on face value but rather for who I am as a person.''

Earlier, organisers had told people not to speak to the media. One woman wearing a burqa said she would have to ask her husband before speaking to the Herald. When asked if she needed her husband's permission to speak, she said: ''We are allowed but we choose not to.''

- Sydney Morning Herald

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