"When hypocritical old sexists like PM John Howard, Treasurer Peter Costello and radio shock-jock Alan Jones start delivering pious sermons about the rights of women, something very suspicious is happening", Pip Hinman, the Socialist Alliance's anti-war spokesperson, told Green Left Weekly.
Hinman was commenting on the media furore around remarks by Sheikh Taj El-din Al Hilaly to a service at Sydney's Lakemba mosque that women who do not wear the hijab are like uncovered meat. "The sheikh's view reflects the sexism that is rife in this society - something that cuts across all religions and communities", she said. "Feminists and their supporters have been campaigning against such backward attitudes for decades."
However, Hinman said, "We'll start listening to Howard and Costello on discrimination and violence against women when, for example, they condemns their mates in the Anglican Church for banning the ordination of women." She emphasised that while the sheikh's comments on violence against women are plain wrong and criminalise the victim, there was nothing to be gained by trying to silence him: "If politicians were serious about supporting women's rights they would be boosting funding to women's services and encouraging a broad discussion about what leads to violence against women".
Hinman said that former Liberal PM Malcolm Fraser hit the nail on the head when he said that Howard was gearing up for a Muslim-bashing election campaign. "Manufacturing an election around the 'clash of civilisations' is a deliberate distraction from issues that the majority of Australians feel strongly about - the Iraq war, Work Choices and runaway climate change."
Hinman added: "The Socialist Alliance works closely with members of the Arab-Australian and Muslim communities in campaigns against imperialist wars on the Middle East, and we were proud to receive greetings at our recent national conference from the Islamic Girls' and Women's Group and the Federation of Australian Muslim Students and Youth. We will redouble that solidarity in the face of this latest Coalition attempt to scapegoat communities that only want to be left in peace."