Retail lobby groups at war over anti-Muslim comments

Comments by a Brisbane radio announcer that full face hijabs could be used as a potential form of disguise have been backed up by the head of the Queensland Retail Traders and Shopkeepers Association, sparking outcry from community groups and even rival l

Comments by a Brisbane radio announcer that full face hijabs could be used as a potential form of disguise have been backed up by the head of the Queensland Retail Traders and Shopkeepers Association, sparking outcry from community groups and even rival lobby group the Australian Retailers Association.

Scott Driscoll, executive director of the industry body QRTSA, said “all hijabs, helmets and hoodies should be banned in shops and banks for security purposes”, due to the inability to readily identify those wearing them if they commit a crime.

The comments, made on Brisbane radio on Wednesday, understandably drew criticism from some Muslim commentators. But Driscoll is unrepentant, claiming that a female member of the Muslim Community Reference Group told former prime minister John Howard that she supported the call to remove the full face hijab prior entry to a bank or the like. The woman was not named.

Driscoll said it has been a long accepted practice to require customers to remove helmets and other identity obscuring headwear such as balaclavas “and the like” when entering a shop or bank.

“To take the simple requirement of a patron removing a hijab, helmet or hoodie, prior to entering a retail shop or a bank and turning that into a religious debate is political correctness gone mad, and not in the interests of security for retail and banking staff or those customers within these outlets,” said Driscoll.

“Retailers should not have to fear any form retribution or backlash for requiring the removal of any obscuring headwear, including hijabs, as a condition of entry.

“This is about ensuring a more safe and secure retail environment for all and being able to readily identify any and all perpetrators of armed hold ups or shop theft,” he said.

But the Australian Retailers Association has quickly distanced itself swiftly from the rival retail lobby group.

“The ARA is in no way affiliated with Scott Driscoll’s Queensland Retail Traders and Shopkeepers Association (QRTSA) and firmly believes any suggestion by that organisation to banning the hijab or any cultural clothing to allow entry into retail environments is misguided, uneducated fear mongering and disturbing in its nature,” executive director Richard Evans said in a statement.

He said the ARA takes retail security very seriously.

“We understand banks and many other retail environments such as petrol stations display signs to ask customers to remove full faced motorcycle helmets and hoodies, but Mr Driscoll’s comments are extreme and harking back to a day when xenophobia was rife and serves to create a culture of angst, anger and mistrust.

“No one who takes the rich culture of modern Australia seriously would diminish themselves by suggesting cultural or custom clothing is a security risk. This is subliminal xenophobic behaviour and it saddens to have someone from a respected Queensland retail organisation not realise the consequences of such lazy speech,” Evans said.

Inside Retailing

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