The great Australian bikini march

Scantily clad Aussies will storm the streets to protest a cleric's controversial remarks.

Published November 28, 2006 4:11PM (EST)

I'll admit, I laughed when I heard about the Great Australian Bikini March, an upcoming event intended to get bikini-clad Aussies out en masse in protest of Australian Sheik Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly's suggestion that unveiled women are akin to "uncovered meat" and to blame for rape. It's no secret that Hilaly is on Broadsheet's blacklist, and I'm generally a fan of subversive, outrageous behavior. On second look, though, the big bikini protest seems more frightening than funny.

The protest is scheduled for Dec. 9 in the city of Melbourne, just two days before the anniversary of the Cronulla race riots in Sydney last year. As it happens, so-called white nationalists have taken an interest in the bikini march, which will end at Melbourne's Islamic Support and Youth Centre.

The demonstration is being organized by Christine Hawkins, who refused to describe her "background" in an interview with Australian publication the World Today, saying only that she is a grandmother of two and "veteran bikini wearer." Hawkins hasn't exactly extended a personal invitation to these groups, but she also hasn't made much of an effort to exclude them. Meanwhile, online white nationalist community Stormfront and like-minded blogs like Patriot Downunder are enthusiastically advertising the event. Australian police warn that the event could be co-opted by white supremacists and, understandably, there's buzz of a repeat of last year's violent riots.

Hawkins insists that her aim is simply to deliver a message to Hilaly and his supporters: "We're not changing, we're Aussies." Taking a page from Europeans anxious over Muslims' assimilation throughout Europe, Hawkins also said, "We're actually going to be calling on the government to bring in new citizenship legislation, so that extremists can be weeded out either coming into the country, or if they're here, get rid of them."

There's an interesting and understandable cultural tug of war going on here. But when veils are pitted against bikinis in a cultural and political showdown, I'm not sure there can be any clear winners.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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