Sunday, June 26, 2005

Double Standards, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

After hearing weeks of evidence from the Islamic Council of Victoria, Catch the Fire Ministries pastors and numerous theological experts, the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal had found that the Ministry, Pastors Daniel Nalliah and Daniel Scot had breached Section 8 of the Victorian Racial & Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

The merits of the decision and the Act itself have been well-argued elsewhere. What seems to have gone unnoticed is the gross double standards of some supporters of the three Respondents in that decision.

The 2 pastors were found to have made comments about Islam and Australian Muslims which were found to contravene the Act. Are they the first to make such remarks?

In September 1988, in a speech to some 250 Muslim students at Sydney University, Sheik Hilali accused Jewish people of trying "to control the world through sex, then sexual perversion, then the promotion of espionage, treason and economic hoarding".

As a result of those comments, leaders across political and religious spectrums rightly criticised the Sheik. His immigration status was re-visited, and he faced deportation.

Even when the Sheik joined Team Australia efforts to free Douglas Wood, tabloid columnists kept bringing up his 1988 comments. In his Herald Sun column on 11 May 2005, Bolt mentions the Sheik as calling “Jews "the underlying cause of all wars", using "sex and abominable acts of buggery, espionage, treason and economic hoarding to control the world".

Had the Sheik made the same comments today, he may well have faced the same proceedings not to mention being the targets of criticism from various circles.

The VCAT finding were summarised on pp 134-135 of the Reasons for Decision. The unlucky list of 13 offending statements included comments that: Muslims are demons, the Quran promotes looting and killing, Muslims use money and business connections to carry out their threats, Muslims plan to overrun Liberal Democracy with violence and terror, Muslims conspire to take over Australia, and Muslims have lots of babies and also dominate the DIMIA to manipulate migration rates in their favour.

Having read both the transcripts of Sheik Hilaly’s speech and the VCAT decision, it appears that the views expressed by the pastors about Muslims are even more offensive than the views expressed by Sheik Hilali about Jews. Yet whilst Sheik Hilaly was rightly condemned by leaders across all political and other spectra, the respondents in the VCAT litigation are being defended in the name of free speech.

Prominent Australian political leaders such as Peter Costello have defended the two pastors and criticised the Victorian legislation. Tabloid columnists such as Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt have defended the pastors, alleging their sole crime was (in Bolt’s words) “criticising the Koran”.

Akerman sees no problem with the comments made by the pastors. His innocent portrayal of Pastor Daniel Scot had him merely quoting “from the Koran to illustrate the points he was making about Islamic teaching on a number of matters including jihad and women's role in the faith.”

The depths of Akerman’s own understanding of Islamic beliefs was amply illustrated in these comments from his column on June 19 2005:

“Australian hostage Doug Wood bellowed "God bless America" when he was released from captivity in Baghdad after 47 days spent bound and handcuffed. He did not cry "Alu Akbar" as some in the Australian media may have expected given their feting of the Lakemba-based mufti, Sheik Taj Eldene Alhilaly.”

The correct wording of the devotional phrase is “Allahu Akbar”, meaning “God is always greater”. Mr Akerman’s version of this common devotional phrase has used “alu” which is Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and other Indian dialects for “potato”. Not even a C-grade Bollywood movie would ascribe such beliefs to Muslims.

Sadly, the double standards and ignorance of this tabloid tag-team suggest the existence of a deeper malice which exists even at the highest levels. The grossly offensive nature of Sheik Hilali’s 1988 remarks was obvious. Yet it seems that when even more grossly offensive remarks are made about Muslim Australians, they are viewed as the exercise of free speech. It seems that the 11th Commandment of Political Correctness in some circles is: “Thou shalt not offend any faith-community, but thou shalt definitely be allowed to offend Muslims”.

It seems rather strange that the critics of Sheik Hilali are silent on the comments of Pastors Scot and Nalliah. Why must anti-Semitism be unacceptable but Islamophobia defensible? And would current attacks on the Victorian legislation have been made if NSW had identical legislation in 1988 which was used to prosecute Sheik Hilali?

Sheik Hilali made his remarks when holding the position of imam (resident scholar) at 1 of over 40 Sydney mosques. He went on to be controversially appointed as Australia's first Mufti. He is still criticised by many even in his own community.

Daniel Nalliah very nearly became a Victorian Senator. The Prime Minister personally negotiated a preference deal with Mr Nalliah’s party which would have helped Mr Nalliah over the line. The same Mr Howard called for Sheik Hilali’s deportation after his 1988 remarks.

(The author is a Sydney lawyer and was endorsed Liberal candidate for the seat of Reid in the 2001 federal election.)


Rowen said...

I tend to agree with you irf, up to a point. I don't have any direct evidence of what was said at the CTF seminar, but generally speaking I don't think any religious community has a right to defame another. As a Christian I have been to seminars where Islam has been examined and rebutted, but done with respect and compassion. I can certainly see scope for Christians (or anyone - Bolt and Ackers included) to go overboard. This shouldn't be excused by a "freedom of speech" argument.

The problem with these laws in my mind is that there is a continuum of defamation and some things that will offend one person won't offend another. And I believe that freedom of speech is a fundamental right. Yet that right is balanced by our responsibilities as a member of a civilised society. There is a line there somewhere, and exactly where it is I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

The fact is that Muslims will not accept any criticism of their faith. They deny to others the rights they want for themselves. Everywhere Islam dominates, human rights and other religions, as well as women and other groups, suffer.

And don't think that this law is to protect all religions or groups. It is a politically correct tool designed to pander to certain groups. I see there were reports of hate literature in mosques in Australia. It can't be any wosr than that which is in the Quoran or preached by the Imans. So what is new?

If Muslims have the right to be offended by criticism of Islam, I have the right to be offended by a religion that pretends to be "peaceful" but preaches hate and promotes intolerance. I have a right to be offended by a man that was a slaver and killed hundreds of POWS, and yet is considered a shining 'example' by Muslims (4 wives for thee, 11 wives plus slaves for me). I also have a right to wonder what goes on in the head of a people that endlessly proclaim that their religion is peaceful and tolerant, yet somehow seems not to be able to connect "beat your wife", "kill all the infidels" and the sorry state of human and women's rights in ALL Islamic coutries to their religion. Duhhhhhh!

When I look at Islam, I see nothing but hypocrisy and lies. I am even glad those two preachers were convicted - it is a real eye-opener for all of us in the West.

I have to go out later today, so maybe I'll stop by the local mosque and ask some Muslim how it feels to follow a slaver - a man who brought pain, sorrow and death to so many. (Don't worry, I will take proof from Muslim websites). I wonder if that will offend him. I hope so. Well, get use to it. Facts are facts, and not everybody is as stupid and cowardly as Australian politicians.

I am sorry I have to be so harsh here about this subject - IRF seems like a decent guy. However, I cannot accept lies and double standards.

Kactuz said...

Isn't it kind of ironic that many of the things that the two Christians were condemned for are exactly the things that were found in literature in a mosque in Australia....

What a bunch of hypocrites these people are. It would be funny if it weren't so tragic. I really don't know how Muslims can look their children in the face and say that "Islam is a religion of peace and love". I doubt if the the men and women and children Mohummud took as slaves in his wars and raids would agree.

Irfan said...

kactuz, can you please provide me with the reference for your claim that the prophet took women and children captive. please provide the name of the author, the translator (if relevant), the year of publication and the name of the publisher.

baybers said...

onya irf (sydklaw). I liked your intervention on the religion show the other night, the point you made really rescued waleed who was using sophistry up till then. I was almost convinced of the wisdom of bringing that particular case. Almost but not quite.

as for cactus,mate you'l lhave to do better than that on game day when you come up against muslims like us.

unlike you we are not outer suburban, mediocre or frustrated. When you want to take on muslims in a historical, theological or political debate you had better bring more than callow insults.

Cactues, your playing A grade son.

baybers said...

As for Anon,

Our prophet spoke eloquently and often about a muslim's duty to end slavery,to spend money in the freeing of slaves.He never kept one slave in his house and I defy you to give me an example.

Now contrast this to Americas founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson who was a plantation owner who owned dozens of black human beings like cattle. He was the force behind the american repbulic and wrote the constituion which spoke about universal liberty. A loft sentiment that he himself did not practice. We know have genetic evidenc that he raped a black servant girl. What about the level of hipocracy there? Where are your crocodile tears for black people being kept as slaves for white people. Wellinto the late twentieth century Australia forbade Aborigines from voting and being treated as fully human,.In fact a major supporter of that policy is our current PM.

English common law did not regard women as independent juridical (look it up in a Dic-tion-ary) entities once they were married.That law was changed in the 1940s. Muslim women have had that right for 1400 years.

As for the execution of the men of bani qanuka,If you enter into a mutual defence pact and then in the middle of a battle change side, that is trechary punishbal by death under Sharia but also under American law 2005.

I do not believe that you have the guts to walk into a masjid and enquire truly about Islam. Easier the route of a coward to spew hate over the internet.

If you are searching for a true unvarnished account of Islam, we can help you. If your intention is to antagonise muslims then know this, we are not cowed,nor shaken in our faith and we refuse to hate you, As much as you would like us to.