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?

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