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Vincent Van Gough

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Over the past 100 years, governments of countries have been increasingly becoming secular. This can in some circumstances affect the values of religious freedom, which impacts on not just Islamic citizens but everyone in a religious group. France, Australia and Turkey are just some examples of countries which to varying degrees have rejected religious-based decision making, and have opted to reject religion as being relevant to partial decision making.

Frances parliament voted in 2004 to outlaw the wearing of Islamic headscarfs and other "obvious religious based symbols" in state schools, prompting both outrage, criticism and applause throughout Europe. Their excuse was that the legislation ostensibly aims at protecting France's commitment to being a secular state, its position acknowledged since the 1789 revolution. Many critics wonder as to why it is introduced now, 215 years later, when secularism has rarely been seen as an issue in France. Other European nations feeling under threat of this new circumstance from Islamic extremism also considered not only the limitation of the scarfs as a debate but the Burqa itself. Many feel it as being prejudiced and suggest it be "an anti-Muslim measure that will stir up anti -Muslim pressure". Lord Grevillea Janner (Vice president of the world Jewish congress), states that "In their efforts to secularise their schools or marginalise the Muslim community, the French legislators have disgracefully punished the entire Muslim population and other religious communities". In any case the French government believes it necessary to uphold the separation of Church and State in education, and to protect the secular State from the perceived threat of religious fundamentalism, particularly Islamic fundamentalism.

Now Australia is having to face the same debate in terms of the Burqa being a threat to Australian society, some suggesting that most people find it "confronting", Others suggest banning the Burqa would be against what Australia truly represents as a "multicultural country". Is the Burqa however anymore confronting than the head to toe garb that used to be worn publicly until recent years by catholic nuns and priests? In saying this it seems however that in fact through more recent evaluation, Priests and nuns have adapted to our culture and expectations, having changed their garb for a more suited style revealing more of the face and in some cases even discarding the robes for a more casual outlook. Is it not to say that Muslims who wear the Burqa should also follow the change? Others argue against this remark and point out "Why single out Burqas and not inappropriate typical Aussie behaviours in the wearing of clothing, or is it just a secret government strategy to shape the social agenda and mould the nation's view of thinking? In any case research from the policy passed in previous years (based on the multicultural law of rights) suggests that to ban the Burqa would fly in the face of religious freedom, and Australia's multicultural policy, with our principles and traditions of religious freedom and tolerance. The policy that allows those who choose to call Australia their home have the right to practice and share in their cultural traditions and languages within the law free from discrimination. It may be possible that whilst Jihadist terrorism remains a fear that it may one day become a threat to Australia that the parliament and others within the state also identify and compare that to the racist



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