An Australian senator provoked an angry backlash from politicians by wearing a face veil in parliament on Thursday as part of her campaign for a national ban on the Islamic face veil.
Pauline Hanson, the leader of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigration One Nation party, sat wearing the black head-to-ankle garment for more than 10 minutes before taking it off as she rose to explain that she wanted such outfits banned on national security grounds.
“There has been a large majority of Australians [who] wish to see the banning of the burka,” said Hanson, an outspoken fan of President Donald Trump, as senators objected.
Attorney General George Brandis drew applause when he said his government would not ban the veil, and chastised Hanson for what he described as a “stunt” that offended Australia’s Muslim minority.
Sam Dastyari, an opposition senator and an Iranian-born Muslim, said: “We have seen the stunt of all stunts in this chamber by Senator Hanson.
“The close to 500,000 Muslim Australians do not deserve to be targeted, do not deserve to be marginalised, do not deserve to be ridiculed, do not deserve to have their faith made some political point by the desperate leader of a desperate political party.”
Senate President Stephen Parry said Hanson’s identity had been confirmed before she entered the chamber. He also said he would not dictate the standards of dress for the chamber.
Greg Barton, a professor of global Islamic politics at Deakin University, said Hanson’s calls to ban the veil had little public support.
Parliament House briefly segregated women wearing face veils in 2014.
The department that runs Parliament House said that “persons with facial coverings” would no longer be allowed in the building’s open public galleries.
Instead, they were to be directed to galleries usually reserved for noisy schoolchildren, where they could sit behind soundproof glass.
The policy was branded a “burqa ban” and was widely condemned as segregating Muslim women, as well as a potential breach of anti-discrimination laws.