'Burqa ban fuelled by fear, ignorance'

THE ban-the-burqa issue sweeping Australia is based on ignorance, fear and cultural misconception, according to a former Toowoomba Muslim woman.

Aseyah Shipman moved to Toowoomba in 2006 where she started the Islamic Sisters Association aimed at breaking down the cultural gaps between Muslim women and the women in Toowoomba.

She feared the group's many achievements in social cohesion would backslide as the result of events in Iraq and actions of the nation's politicians.

Ms Shipman recently moved to Logan with her husband Abdullah McCracken where they were the subject of an anti-terrorism raid by police two weeks ago.

"They didn't take a single thing and afterwards said they'd received bad intel," Ms Shipman said.

>> Burqas in parliament restricted to glass gallery

>> Burqa ban: One rule for all, no exceptions

"I felt raped. We've only tried to bridge gaps between Muslims and non-Muslims and now they're turning people against us."

She said she believed it was links with terror suspects Agim Kruezi and Omar Succarieh which led to the raids.

Her partner had been in contact with Mr Kruezi because he'd organised to pick up some incense and Yemeni honey for the pair. Mr Kruezi also mowed their lawn.

Ms Shipman, who grew up in a rural NSW farming town, started practising Islam in 2006 and said she chose to wear the niqab, a veil for the face which leaves the eyes clear.

She said the decision to restrict the burqa in parliament was based on cultural ignorance and fear rather than security.

Muslim women will be able to visit Parliament House while wearing a burqa or niqab, but they will be forced to sit in a glass-enclosed public gallery to watch the proceedings.

The rules, released by the Department of Parliamentary Services, said the new rules would "ensure that persons with facial coverings can continue to enter the Chamber galleries, without needing to be identifiable".

While the rules do not explicitly state what will or will not be considered a "facial covering", it is understood the common hijab, which covers only the hair and neck, will be allowed into other public galleries.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he finds the burqa "confronting" and, although people should be free to wear what they wanted, the rules of secure buildings needed to be obeyed.

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Ms Shipman said under Islamic Law women were expected to remove their covering and identify themselves for security reasons and didn't see a good reason for the ban.

"Firstly, it's not a burqa," she said.

"The burqa is an Afghan dress which has a thick mesh from head to toe; there are very few people who wear the burqa in Australia.

"What is seen is the niqab and there are varying degrees. I wear the niqab for religious reasons, to please Allah.

"For me it's an obligation as a Muslim woman but most Muslim women choose not to wear it and that's their choice."

"The media and government have a lot to answer for by creating misconceptions.

"Would you ask a nun who wears the traditional habit and believes in her faith to remove that?"

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