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Austria bans headscarf in primary schools; US, France, Japan and Australia hold first naval drill in Asia – Current Affairs

Austria’s new law bans any ideological or religiously influenced clothing, which is associated with the covering of the head.

May 16, 2019 17:42 IST
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Austria bans headscarf in primary schools; US, France, Japan and Australia hold first naval drill in

Story 1- Austria bans headscarf in primary schools

The Members of Parliament of Austria on May 15, 2019 approved a new law, banning headscarf in primary schools. The law was proposed by the ruling right-wing government.

Under the law, any ideological or religiously influenced clothing, which is associated with the covering of the head, will be banned. Despite its wide description, the representatives of both parts of Austria’s governing coalition, the centre-right People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party, have made it clear that the law targets the Islamic headscarf.

The Government clarified that the patka head covering worn by Sikh boys and the Jewish kippa would not be affected.

What Government said?

According to Education spokesman of the Freedom Party, the law was a signal against political Islam while People’s Party MP Rudolf Taschner said that the measure was necessary to free girls from subjugation.

The government admits that the law is likely to be challenged at Austria’s constitutional court, either on grounds of religious discrimination or because similar legislation affecting schools is normally passed with a two-thirds majority of MPs.

Reactions!

The opposition members of the Parliament mostly voted against the measure. Some even accused the government of focusing on garnering positive headlines rather than child welfare.

The official Muslim organisation of Austria has previously condemned such proposals as shameless and a diversionary tactic.

Background

Austria previously had introduced a ban on full-face covering in 2017 as a part of its integration policy, which was aimed at limiting the visibility of orthodox Islam in public life.

However, the ban was criticized by the police after it emerged that the law mainly resulted in the issuing of warnings against people wearing smog masks, skiing gear and animal costumes.

Globally, Denmark had enacted a similar ban on wearing of face veils in public in 2018. Other European Union nations such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria, have all imposed a ban on the wearing of face veils in public.

Sri Lanka also announced a ban on covering of the face with burqa, veil or in any manner that prevents identification of the person in late April 2019. The order came a week after coordinated blasts hit three churches and three luxury hotels in the nation, killing over 250 people and injuring more than 500 others.

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Story 2- US, France, Japan and Australia hold first combined naval drill

The warships from the United States, France, Japan and Australia on May 16, 2019 conducted their first-ever combined naval exercise in Asia.

The new show of force by the US and its allies in the Bay of Bengal comes as the trade war picks up pace between the United States and China. The move could be aimed at undermining China’s growing power in the region.

Key Highlights

The United States was represented by its guided-missile destroyer, USS William P Lawrence, while France was represented by its aircraft carrier, FS Charles de Gaulle and its escorts.

The two naval ships were joined by four other naval vessels including a helicopter carrier from Japan and a submarine from Australia.

The naval vessels practiced formation sailing, live fire drills and search and rescue exercises.

The Japanese helicopter carrier, Izumo and the US destroyer,  had joined vessels from India and the Philippines last week for exercises in the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China.

Significance

The United States and Japan have been looking to strengthen their defence ties with other nations in the Asia-Pacific region and nations like France and Britain to counter China’s increasing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

The South China Sea is strategically extremely significant for the region, as it facilitates the flow of a third of the world’s maritime trade.

Recently, two US warships sailed near the islands in the South China Sea, prompting a protest from China that claims almost all of the South China Sea.

China’s claim to the sea is opposed by other nations in the region including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei, which have competing claims to parts of the sea.

The United States, Japan, France and Australia do not have any territorial claims in the region.

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