The Australian government faces public outrage over its decision to sponsor an exhibition of Islamic clothing held overseas. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, or DFAT, justified the move by calling it ‘fashion-diplomacy’ aimed at enhance country’s image in the Muslim world and to promote ‘Australian diversity.’
“The rise of the 'hijabista' [Islamic fashion] presents valuable opportunities for Australia. Apart from the obvious economic benefits, the emerging modest fashion market can help advance Australia's public diplomacy objectives,” the government agency declared. Furthermore, the agency described the invention of burqini, the Sharia-complaint swimsuit, as 'ground-breaking.'
The country’s former Prime Minister Tony Abbott slammed DFAT for sponsoring the Islamic clothing exhibition that took place in the Muslim-majority country of Malaysia. The event featured Australian-made hijabs and burqas, the British newspaper Daily Mail confirmed.
“I am just quite frankly flabbergasted that an official Australian government agency should be pandering to what is, to put it at its kindest, an incredibly old-fashioned view of modesty,” Abbott said. “Now I think this shows a very unfortunate readiness to sell out mainstream Australian values.”
The country’s leading newspaper The Australian reported the controversy over taxpayers’ funding for promoting ‘Islamic fashion’ on Tuesday:
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been criticised for its foray into “fashion diplomacy” after sponsoring an Australian-made Islamic clothing exhibition targeting the burgeoning Southeast Asian “modest fashion” market.
Tony Abbott yesterday launched an attack on DFAT for backing the initiative, accusing bureaucrats of having a “very unfortunate readiness” to ignore mainstream Australian values.
The former prime minister said he was “flabbergasted” that DFAT had sponsored an exhibition of Australian-made “modest fashion” for women in Malaysia, a majority-Muslim country.
The exhibition, which has featured burkini swimsuit inventor Aheda Zanetti and academic Susan Carland, was taken to Malaysia by DFAT to capture the “booming” fashion market while promoting Australian diversity. The move comes as the federal government is increasingly working with governments in Southeast Asia to reduce radicalisation in the region.
Australia’s Muslim population has soared in recent years. According to census figures released last year, the Muslim population has risen to over 600,000, a nearly 80 percent spike in the past decade. Islam is now the second largest religion in the country.
The demographic shift has been accompanied by the rise of Islamic terrorism. In 2017, two ISIS-inspired terror attacks took place in the country.
Last month, an Afghan immigrant deliberately ploughed into rush hour crowds in the city of Melbourne, injuring 19 people. Australian authorities refused to acknowledge the incident as a terror attack, claiming that the 32-year-old Muslim immigrant had a “history of mental health issues and drug use.”
Like much of the Western world, the Australian government apparently wants to appease and placate its growing Muslim population, rather than stand up for its civilizational values and cultural heritage.