Pauline Hanson, the leader of Australia’s right-wing One Nation party, provoked gasps in the Australian national Senate Wednesday after she entered the chamber wearing a full-length burqa to demand the item of Muslim clothing be banned.
Hanson, who has in the past caused controversy by saying students with disabilities should be removed from mainstream schooling, wore the full Islamic dress while waiting quietly to be called for questions. She removed the burqa, which had a conservative face mesh, with a flourish and launched into an attack on the item, which the Australian Senate will debate banning later on Thursday.
The actions by the senator for Queensland, in northeastern Australia, have been widely dismissed as a stunt, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. As Hanson removed the garment, one of her colleagues could be heard to say: “Oh, what on earth?”
Australia’s attorney general, George Brandis, offered a stinging rebuke to Hanson’s decision to wear the burqa in the chamber, coming close to tears as he accused her of undermining relations with the country’s Muslim community
Brave Responses by Majority
While a tiny fraction of Australians practice Islam, let alone wear burqas, the full-body coverings have become a target of anti-immigrant groups and politicians around the world, regardless of whether many people actually wear them. In one notable example of hysteria, a group of Norwegians became alarmed by a photo of what turned out to be empty bus seats.
Hanson told the radio host she found the garb “horrible” when she tried it on this week.
“More than just uncomfortable,” she said. “It’s really hard to describe. I’m hiding behind something. I feel for these women that are forced to wear it.”
Hanson chose to, of course.
“It is clear that Muslims particularly those with extremist views have chosen to live separately from other Australians,” she said near the end of her speech, after calling for a five-year ban on Islamic immigration.
“Islam threatens our way of life,” she said.
When she was done, Attorney-General George Brandis rose to reply, his voice sometimes catching as he defended his country’s Muslim population.
“Senator Hanson, no, we will not be banning the burqa,” he said. “To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments, is an appalling thing to do, and I would ask you to reflect on what you have done.”
Applause then filled the chamber, despite calls for order. Hanson stood again too, as if to say something, but the clapping continued, and she remained as silent as when she’d come in, covered up.
Speaking to radio 2GB, she said she had been able to enter the Senate building by having a colleague vouch for her, rather than identifying herself. She went on to claim that she feared all Australian women might one day be forced to wear burqas.
“With the amount of kids that these Muslims are having and breeding here in Australia….possibly, one day, maybe not in the next five years but further down the track, it might be [that] my daughter or grandchildren will be told, ‘You must cover up,’ as is the case in many countries,” she said.
Hanson has repeatedly taken an anti-Muslim stance since her election in 1996. In 2016, she claimed Australia was being swamped by Muslims.