An Australian senator has urged other parliamentarians to support a ban on Islamic full-face coverings in public places.
Pauline Hanson, who provoked a backlash last month after wearing a burqa in the Australian Parliament, asked her colleagues in the Senate to legislate against Islamic face covers by calling for fines and potential jail sentences.
“Are we that pathetic as a nation that we're giving up our values and who we truly are because we're worried about hurting someone's feelings?" Hanson, leader of the anti-immigrant One Nation party, told the Parliament, News.com.au reported.
She suggested a fine of 4,200 Australian dollars ($3,400) for anyone wearing an Islamic full-face cover. Convincing someone to wear a burqa would be a punishable offense too, carrying a 42,000 Australian dollar ($34,000) penalty and a prison sentence up to six months.
The senator added that the full-face coverings were already banned in some majority-Muslim countries and Australia should follow the suit.
“If you're quite happy to have a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, then I suggest having a plebiscite and let the people have a say at the next election on whether they want full-face coverings in this country, if you haven't got the guts to do it here,” she said, News.com.au reported.
“We have fought for women's rights in this country … yet you're not prepared to stand up and fight for the rights of these women who are probably made to wear these garments.”
Hanson also suggested several exemptions where the proposed law would not apply, such as sport and entertainment.
Other parliamentarians joined Hanson, saying the burqa was a “flag of fundamentalism” and that government should target those wearing the cover.
“If you want to identify where the radical threats are in your society, look for the individual wearing the burqa,” said Conservative Member of Parliament Cory Bernardi, News.co.au reported. “No moderate Muslim wears the burqa. They are fundamentalists.”
He added: “This is a cultural export from the woman-hating regime in Saudi Arabia.
“It sends a message to every Australian: `I do not want to be part of you.' ”
However, the parliamentary debate on the burqa ban proposal was ultimately postponed by a majority of senators until a later date.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull has previously ruled out his government ever banning the Islamic face covering, although his predecessor Tony Abbott once floated the idea of restricting the burqa in some public places.
Multiple non-Islamic countries have recently thought about banning Islamic face coverings. Austria, France, Belgium and the Netherlands have already banned the burqa, while lawmakers in Germany and Norway are working on bills, NPR reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.