'We're creating a Muslim apartheid'

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged parliament's presiding officers to reconsider restrictions on women wearing the burqa in the house.

Mr Abbott has written to Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Senate president Stephen Parry after they announced women wearing the naqib or burqa would be forced to sit in a glass-enclosed area of the public gallery, due to safety concerns.

The new rule followed a review of security in Parliament House, however senior officials said the restriction on those wearing the headdress will only be an "interim measure".

The glass-enclosed viewing galleries are normally reserved for visiting school children.

Greens Senator Richard Di Natale yesterday said the move will create the feeling that Muslims are second-class citizens.

"You've just got to ask yourself, how would you feel if you were a young Muslim women in Australia right now? Just ask yourself that question," he said.

"The messages that are coming out from this place, the signals, are very distressing. We're at risk of creating some sort of Muslim apartheid right now."

Tasneem Chopra, chairperson of the Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights, told Tom Elliott the new measures are stoking racial tensions.

"This is almost a deliberately divisive topic of conversation, which has got nothing to do with security and everything to do with racism," she told 3AW Drive.

"Right now, by inflaming a debate where there is none, by creating a situation and a division where there shouldn't be one - and there is no threat - we're actually feeding the flames of racism and ostracism.

"We know in the past several weeks, just by watching the news, there's been a direct correlation [between] Islamophobia and racist attacks against women particularly across Australia."

RELATED: The niqab is not a symbol of evil - Neil Mitchell

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