Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Well said, Mr Costello!

Peter Costello was interviewed by The Australian newspaper. In an article entitled Costello tells firebrand clerics to get out of Australia, Mr Costello is reported to have said in an interview …

"If you don't like those values, then don't come here. Australia is not for you," Mr Costello said yesterday. "This is the way I look at it: Australia is a secular society, with parliamentary law, part of the Western tradition of individual rights."

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Costello said migrants needed to understand and respect the "core values" of democracy, a secular society and the equality of women.

And he warned that Australia needed to be clear that the nation's core values would not change.

"If you are looking for a country that practises theocracy, sharia law -- which is anti-Western -- there are those countries in the world ... you will be happy there. But you won't be happy in Australia."

But he stopped short of supporting the deportation of radical Muslim leaders, in the wake of similar debates in Britain and France.

Mr Costello also threw his support behind Australia maintaining a strong skilled migration policy. "Immigration overall helps our country in a security sense and an economic sense. I think there is an acceptance of immigration, more so than 10 years ago. I would like to see a strong immigration policy. I am not putting numbers on it."


Earlier this month, the Treasurer said the notion that terrorists secured a reward in the afterlife for waging jihad against Westerners was "repulsive".

Yesterday he said: "I have seen people that say they believe in sharia law and theocracy. If that's their view, don't come to this country. This one is not for you. I don't think we can afford to be ambivalent about this point to young people or anyone else."

Yes, Peter. Australia is a secular country. We are a tolerant country. We accept freedom of religion, democracy and equality for women.

So why is the Prime Minister inviting of a peak religious body that has only had no female executive members for over 2 decades?

Why is the PM rubbing shoulders with someone who represents the interests of Saudi religious institutions in Australia? Why does the PM visit the school of someone who organised for Sheik Feiz Mohamed and other radical imams to study in Saudi Arabia?

Mr Costello speaks of a secular society and respect for core values. Why, then, does he openly defend 2 fringe Victorian pastors from a radical extreme Christian group that have allegedly called for the Qur’an to be banned? Would you continue to support these pastors had they made the same comments about Jewish Australians and Judaism?

If core values includes respect for women, why do you and your colleagues visit the Hillsong Church which openly tells women to lose weight to look good for their husbands? What message does this send to Australian women?

You speak of theocracy and how dangerous it is. Why does your government continue to have dealings with Jewish Australians opposed to Ariel Sharon’s dismantlement of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories which wish to turn Israel into a theocracy?

You talk about opposing terrorism. Ariel Sharon described people violently opposed to his disengagement plan as Jewish terrorists. He called in the international media so that the world could witness Jewish terrorism working against peace. Yet your government continues to engage with Jewish terrorists and their financial supporters. Your party continues to receive political donations from these terrorists.

Mr Costello, what are Australia’s core values? Would you say that family values is one of them? So why won’t the government apologise to indigenous Australians for stealing indigenous children from their families? Is there something about saying sorry and compensating such people which goes against our secular values?

You speak of democracy. So why does your government choose to invite unelected so-called leaders to speak to the PM? Why does the PM sit with middle-aged men (most of whom were born outside Australia) and a few token women to speak about national security?

Mr Costello, you claim sharia law is anti-western. When was the last time you read a textbook on sharia? Have you studied sharia? Do you know what sharia is? Have you read a textbook published by the Federation Press and authored by Jameela Hussain on Islam Its Law & Society? Have you read Muhammadan Jurisprudence or other standard texts on sharia?

And if sharia law was so anti-Western, why does the husband of Senator Coonan’s husband write in the Australian Law Journal that sharia-based systems of alternate dispute resolution and mediation provide an ideal model for managing commercial disputes?

If sharia is so anti-Western, why did the Centre for Independent Studies invite a guest speaker from the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim religious organisation, to address on the topic of the role of sharia? Why did this speaker say that sharia in Indonesia is associated with banking and finance? Is interest-free banking against our values? Will your government therefore refuse entry of financial institutions which promote and manage interest-free financial products?

And what about jihad? Do you know what the word jihad means? Have you bothered to ask anyone or to consult a standard Arabic dictionary such as al-Mawrid? Have you consulted a paper published by Afroz Ali of the Sydney-based Muslim thinktank Alghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences & Human Development? Or do you only believe what you read in Hizbut Tehrir brochures?

Mr Costello, you have said many things which are worthy of noting. But words are cheap. The government needs to match words with actions. The government needs to be consistent, to apply its principles across the board.

It seems that Australian values are imposed on certain marginalised groups – Muslim Australians and indigenous Australians. But other groups such as fringe Christian cults are excluded. Supporters of Jewish chauvinism who wish to see Israel free of Christians and Muslims are excluded.

So if I am Muslim and/or Aboriginal, I am expected to confirm my loyalty to Australia. I will be lectured on Australian values even if I lived my entire life here and attended an Anglican Cathedral school. I will be told that I must declare my opposition to violence against innocent civilians even though your government continues to send young Australians to kill innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But if I become a Christian or Jewish extremist, I am invited to join the NSW or Victorian Young Liberal Movement. I can expect my form of extremism to be the subject of glowing speeches from Liberal MLC’s in the NSW Parliament. I can expect to be seated on a pre-selection panel to determine who will represent conservative voters at the next election.

But apart from all of the above, well said, Peter!

iyusuf@sydneylawyers.com.au

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

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