Muslim privacy comes at a cost to ratepayers

Why can't the local mosque cough up?

RATEPAYERS will pay for a $21,000 blowout in the cost of special curtains to protect Muslim women's privacy during female-only exercise classes at a suburban pool. Monash Council has approved the extra cash, bringing the cost of the curtains to more than $66,000.

Last year, it won an exemption from anti-discrimination laws to run the women-only sessions at its Clayton pool, but failed to get a Victorian Multicultural Commission grant to pay for the curtains.

Monash councillor Denise McGill yesterday questioned the amount. "We could have bought 600 (Islamic) swimsuits for the price we are paying for the curtains," she said. Cr McGill said she did not oppose the sessions, but believed the money could be better spent.

Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Nazeem Hussain said: "The purchase of these curtains, and whether they are too expensive, is a decision for the councillors to make, and if the constituents aren't happy ... they are able to object."

Monash Mayor Stefanie Perri said it was wrong to say the sessions were only for Muslims or other minorities. "This ... will allow women from all backgrounds the opportunity to enjoy a girls' night out in Clayton and will include a series of dry exercise programs, including Zumba and yoga classes," Cr Perri said.

As reported in the Herald Sun last year, the push for the sessions came from a group of mainly African Muslim women. Council accepted a screen was needed for "cultural reasons". Women will pay a fee for the classes.

The extra money needed for the curtains will be drawn from Monash pool funds.


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