Geraldton Mayor lashes Senator Fraser Anning over Australia Day niqab social media post

Headshot of Adam Poulsen
Adam PoulsenGeraldton Guardian
VideoThe panel on Sunrise have backed Geraldton mayor Shane Van Styn's opposition to a ban on board shorts at Australia Day citizenship ceremonies.

Mayor Shane Van Styn, who defied the Prime Minister’s citizenship “boardies ban”, is at loggerheads with a Queensland Senator after a woman wore a traditional Islamic face covering at a citizenship ceremony in Geraldton.

Mr Van Styn, who supports the woman, condemned a backlash on his Facebook page after he posted a photo of her wearing a niqab at the ceremony.

The photo attracted a barrage of criticism after it was re-posted by independent Senator Fraser Anning.

Senator Fraser Anning’s social media post.
Camera IconSenator Fraser Anning’s social media post. Credit: Facebook

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Mr Van Styn was quick to hit back, taking to Facebook to denounce the messages as “horrendous”.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the negative comments were attributed to people from over east,” he said.

“The significant messages of support were all coming from Geraldton, and Geraldton people should be proud of that.”

Mr Van Styn said intolerance had “absolutely no place in Geraldton”.

“People will walk around Geraldton in their Bintang shorts and singlets and cry foul that they can’t wear what they want in Muslim countries, and I just find that breathtakingly ignorant,” he said.

“People say things like, ‘I can’t go to an Islamic country and wear a bikini’. Well, the most populous Muslim nation is Indonesia, and last time I checked you can wear whatever you want in Bali.”

Many of the critical messages focused on the woman’s clothing, with some posters claiming to be offended by traditional Islamic garments.

Mr Van Styn said such views were absurd.

“There shouldn’t be any strict formal dress codes of any persuasion inside a free Australian society,” he said.

“The reason people should be allowed to wear thongs and shorts to a civic event is the very same reason why people should be able to wear their culturally preferred dress.

“We should just get on with our own lives and focus on making ourselves better people instead of telling other people how to be.”

A spokesman for Senator Anning said he was not objecting to Islamic dress, but to a “repressive” belief system that “subjugates women”.

“If Mr Van Styn wants to virtue signal to the world his gushing enthusiasm for multiculturalism and Balkanising Australia, he has to expect that those who don’t want to see this may express some objection,” he said.

Mr Van Styn attracted national attention last week when he urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to rethink his ban on casual wear for participants at Australia Day citizenship ceremonies.

The mayor said at the time that the council would not stop people becoming Australians based on what they were wearing.

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