Dandenong “hijab experiment” draws criticism
By: John Masanauskas
Source: Herald Sun
A CALL by a suburban council for non-Muslim women to wear hijabs around the streets has been slammed as promoting separateness.
The City of Greater Dandenong wants women to wear the Islamic headdress for three hours today as part of a “social experiment” for National Youth Week. Girls from the local Islamic school, Minaret College, will staff an information table, and women taking part will relate experiences of posing as Muslims.
The event, to be filmed, is aimed at “providing awareness, insight and education”.
But Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskam said the council approach was wrongheaded.
“What the council should be encouraging is allowing people from any walk of life and any religion to integrate,” he said. “This doesn’t encourage integration, this encourages separateness. This is not what multicultural Australia is all about.”
Mr Roskam said that based on events in the Middle East and Africa, Christians were currently the world’s most persecuted religious group. “If we’re going to have people dressing up as Muslims for three hours, why doesn’t the council encourage people to dress up as Christians,” he said.
However, Islamic Friendship Association president Keysar Trad said Muslim women couldn’t go around without their hijabs.
“It is part of our religion for women to cover their hair … it’s a statement of religious observance; it’s saying, ‘I am a devout Muslim woman’,” he said.
Mr Trad said the council project would be criticized by some, but it was a positive way for non-Muslims to get a different perspective.
A spokesman for Minaret College, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the hijab experiment wasn’t unusual. “What we believe is embracing diversity and sharing it with others,” he said.
Greater Dandenong Council has previously had public pool sessions for Muslim women, and it once asked a tribunal to approve a ban on uncovered shoulders and thighs for those attending a family event at a pool. The hijab event will be held from midday today outside Dandenong Library.