Melbourne: Muslims, including women and children, in Australia have staged a march in Sydney to protest against a proposal to ban burqa in the country, condemning it as part of the West`s "war on Islam".
Women with veils and placards rallied in hundreds showing "my burqa - conviction not coercion" and "leave my mum alone - we love niqab" yesterday in a park in Punchbowl, southwestern Sydney, according to media reports here.
The protest against calls to ban the full face covering was organised by a coalition of Muslim groups including Islamist political party Hizbut Tahrir, which favours the creation of an Islamic caliphate, and the fundamentalist Ahlus Sunna wal Jamaah Association.
A female speaker, Umm Jamaal ud-Din, told the rally a ban proposed by Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile, which was due to be debated in the New South Wales parliament this month, had fuelled intolerance and bigotry.
"What this bill has effectively done is open the door to the racist element in Australian society, whereby some people think they have free rein to vilify, abuse and even physically assault women who wear the veil," she said, adding "all it has done is create social unrest and discord, stir up intolerance and create a further divide between the Muslim community and our fellow Australians."
The head of the Lakemba-based United Muslims` Association, Shady Al Suleiman, thanked the leaders of the major political parties for their recent assurances that they would not support legislation to ban the veil, which has been advocated by Liberal senator Cory Bernardi.
The legislative moves have been inspired by similar initiatives in Europe, such as a ban on the Muslim headscarf, the hijab, introduced in French public schools, and a ban on building new minarets in Switzerland.
Sheik Shady told the gathering of about 500 men, women and children that "We are Australians who live in this country and love and care about this country like everyone else, and we also have the right to voice our opinions, and today we voice our opinion loud and proud that we do not accept or tolerate any interference in our religion or beliefs.”
"And we say to everyone - the government, politicians, the media - stop interfering in the affairs of the Muslims."