Australian prime minister rejects Muslim headscarf ban

Sydney, Australia - Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Monday slapped down suggestions by some ruling party lawmakers that Muslim girls should be banned from wearing Islamic headscarves in public schools.

Howard, who held a landmark meeting with Muslim leaders last week to secure their support for joint action against Islamic extremism, said he did not support such a ban. “If you ban a headscarf you might, for consistency’s sake, have to ban a yarmulke or a turban,” he told reporters. “It does become rather difficult and rather impractical.” Two backbenchers in Howard’s Liberal Party had called for the ban with one, Bronwyn Bishop, describing headscarves in public schools as “an iconic item of defiance.” “It’s not just a headscarf, it is a challenge to our freedoms and way of life,” she said. Last week, Education Minister Brendan Nelson told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept “Australian values” should “clear off”.