Bronwyn Bishop fires up over Islamic ‘insult’ to women

A European court ruling on employers' rights to ban religious symbols is in focus
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Bronwyn Bishop praised a European court decision on religious symbols as "excellent."

Former politician Bronwyn Bishop has waded into the debate over a ban on headscarves, and she hasn’t minced her words.

Bishop, who left parliament two years ago amid a travel expenses scandal, told 2GB host Ben Fordham that Australians needed to “fight for our culture.”

“The word ‘discriminate’ gets bandied around a hell of a lot, doesn’t it, but it’s a good thing to be discriminating and not tolerate the intolerable,” the fiesty former House speaker said.

Bishop was commenting on a European Court of Justice ruling overnight that would allow European Union companies to ban workers from wearing Islamic head-coverings such as the hijab, as well as other religious symbols. The court, which was ruling on two cases brought by French and Belgian women, both of whom were sacked for refusing to remove their headscarves., found that such a ban on the wearing of religious symbols was not “direct discrimination.”

Bishop told 2GB that it was an “excellent ruling.”

“I’d like to see a similar ruling here,” she told Fordham. “Employers should have the right to set the conditions on which they employ people when it comes to the issues dealt with on the court.”

Bishop said she wanted a similar rule applied to public school uniform.

“Young girls who’re going to public schools in Australia should wear a school uniform, not a religious uniform,” she said. “If they’re going to an Islamic school and the hijab is part of the uniform, it’s part of the uniform, but it’s not at a public school.”

She then moved on to the scandal currently surrounding Punchbowl High School in western Sydney, which erupted The Australian reported that female teachers were excluded from official roles at a graduation ceremony.  The school’s principal and deputy principal were ousted but the replacement principal told The Daily Telegraph that there were still some male students at the school who were reluctant to shake hands with women.

“The kid, while he doesn’t maybe shake hands because of his belief, will place his hand on his chest. He is still showing respect to that female teacher by placing his hand on his heart,” Punchbowl principal Robert Patruno reportedly said.

But Bishop had no time for any compromise ‘hand on heart’ measure.

“They can put their hand where they damn well like but in this country, if a hand is put out by a woman, you take it,” she said, adding,  “When I hear the Department of Education saying it’s OK for a boy to put his hand on his heart instead of taking a woman’s hand, it’s totally unacceptable because the belief behind that is that a woman is unclean because she menstruates. It’s totally unacceptable in this country, where men and woman are equal, and if we don’t, as women, stand up for that continually then we’ll lose that battle. And I’m not prepared to lose it.

“We’ve got to think about what’s right for this country and standing up for ourselves,” she concluded.

Would you be offended if someone refused to shake hands with you? Do you think a refusal to shake hands with a woman indicates a deeper disrespect for females? Should employers be able to ban head-coverings and other religious symbols?

  1. Mary Lane  

    Very well said, Mrs Bishop! We must stand up for our country and lifestyle, particularly regarding respect and equal rights.
    I would be most offended if someone refused to shake hands.

    • Kathy lee  

      In these days of so many dreaded and communicable deseases, neither I nor many other people I know, shake hands. A dozen or more are in the medical profession, and will be more than happy to explain. It’s nothing personal, just self preservation.

      • Bruce Parker  

        I have been alive 67 years have been shaking hands ever since I was taught the practice by my mum n’ dad.
        Surprise surprise I’m still alive.
        To your argument I say cods wallop and regard it as fear political mongering.

    • graham cahill  

      It seems to me that it is ok for refuges to offend aussies but aussies must not offend them otherwise they might go back to where they came from. (Wishfull thinking.)

  2. Roy Tilley  

    It has always been customary for a lady to offer her hand to shake, and if she doesn’t, then, tough. It’s her choice.

    • suestanley  

      That’s not what is being talked about here if a woman offers her hand he should shake it? Vica versa too if a male offers hand should a female whoever she is shake it, yes they should…

  3. Trevor Tabe  

    I’d rather hug a woman than shake her hand

    • Mary O'Dwyer  

      Would be polite if you intend to hug a woman to ask first. I would not like a man I didn’t know to hug me!

  4. Kevin brogmus  

    I’ve never been a fan of Bronwyn but she does have that Aussie attitude and determination to stir the pot and get it sorted love her words she has a way with them that means something

  5. Madeleine Lollback  

    I’ve never been a fan of Bronwyn Bishop either, but she certainly got it right here.

  6. Paul Kennedy  

    The world has gone crazy. The decision has far reaching affects, not just for Islamic, but for Jews, Christians, Hindu, Sheik, everyone. Wait till Christians are told on Ash Wednesday – wipe that cross off your head, no more crucifixes or pictures of Jesus. Many people do not shake hands for lots of reasons. It should not be a big deal. It is funny that politicians are support this – but the ruling includes a ban on political items as well. Politicians are the worst for promoting their political party. Elections comes – and all you see are political posters everywhere.

    • ELAINE FLEET  

      It may not be a big deal to you but you are not the one being discriminated against because of your gender and because you are seen as unclean. It is ridiculous in this day and age. Should FGM not be banned because it is a ‘religious ceremony”

  7. Max  

    Religion is a private matter between oneself and god please keep it that way not in my face!

    • Lynne  

      They are keeping it between them and the entity they have faith in………….you are not in the equation and neither should you be.

  8. Terry  

    I was introduced to a female Doctor for first time so i went to shake hands which is customary in Australia and she refused to touch my hand which i found offensive i was to have had an examination which intaled physical contact so tell me what the hell was different i dont understand these muslim people

    • Lynne  

      Try doing some research then perhaps you will understand. Ignorance is no excuse for lack of understanding.

    • Ben G  

      Correct etiquette here is that when a woman offers her hand to a man to shake he shakes it. A man should not offer his hand to a woman… 😊

      • Guy Flavell  

        ABSOLUTE NONSENSE !!! In Australia and the Western World we shake
        hands … period ! If the Muzzies don’t like this … THEN DON’T LIVE IN OZ.

  9. Lynne  

    What is it that makes people so riled up? Your country, like mine, is multi racial and multi cultural. If you don’t understand something do a bit of research, expand your narrow minds, learn from the mistakes of the past!!

    • Lyndel  

      I’ve lived in a country with sharia law….it’s you who need to do some research!

    • Lynne, you too should learn from the mistakes of the past, e.g. Nice, France; Brussels, Belgium; And Germany.

    • Ron Woodward  

      The epitome of “narrow minded” would have to be a Muslim adhering to the archaic teachings of the Koran.

      • Marian Fern  

        These teachings are not in the Koran, they are man made and added to the religious views. Like out Bible, it has been tweaked to bring adherents into line

  10. Greg Hills  

    Yes. School uniforms are school uniforms. In Australia, we do not mix any religious practise with any political, or government practise.
    Saying that though, Bishop draws a long bow at saying that a refusal to shake hands is inferring a woman is unclean.
    It may just be a modesty thing too, but really, the boy should be made to face his demons, whether that be modesty or lack of understanding for women.
    If I was Principal of that school I would make sure that only women teachers presented the awards. Make these boys shake hands with them – sometimes tough love is what is required to help make the boys better adjusted adults.

  11. Peter Brown  

    Bronwyn has got it right, this is our colture and when in Rome ?

  12. Maria Baker  

    Your right on the money there Bronwyn, dont like our way of greetings , move .

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