Wednesday, March 01, 2006

OPINION: Costello's views of sharia code don't coincide with the reality


IN A SPEECH to the Sydney Institute last week, Peter Costello says that people coming to Australia should evidence commitment to Australia and certain undefined but apparently understood Australian values. Mr Howard agrees. So do I.

Costello also says anyone who believes that sharia can co-exist with Australian law should leave Australia. Howard says Costello's comments are fundamentally accurate.

In fact, both Costello's comments and Howard's endorsement illustrate their fundamental ignorance on Muslim religious cultures. That ignorance is echoed in the broader community. However, migrant Muslim leaders have responded immaturely. They have relied more on media spin than on a careful consideration of the speech itself.

I myself was initially almost swept away by the tsunami of spin. Then I thought I should at least make an effort to read the speech. On the Saturday afternoon following the speech, I had to address a forum on the topic of Unity in Diversity organised by a Canberra group called Forum Australia. Joining with me were a number of community leaders, including Liberal MLA Steve Pratt.

Pratt is no dummy when it comes to sharia. He has spent years working in Muslim-majority countries as an aid worker. Pratt and I agreed that when it came to sharia, Costello was shooting from the hip. Costello probably has little knowledge of what sharia is or how Muslims understand and implement it.

Aussie Muslims view sharia as another word for liturgy, the outward manifestation of worship and ritual. Banning sharia effectively means banning Islam. Muslims also view sharia as the broad corpus of Muslim legal tradition evolved over 1400 years, a legal tradition in the same sense that we have the common law and European civil law traditions.

For Costello, sharia seems little more than a synonym for disloyalty, violence, amputation or stoning. Therefore Muslims compromise their Australianness by subscribing to a religion which has its own sacred legal tradition.

Both Howard and Costello have legal training. Both should understand there is more to any legal tradition than merely criminal punishment. Both are showing a surprising degree of ignorance about what sharia actually is.

Sharia has rules limiting its jurisdiction, with the ultimate sanction being conscience. Sharia itself says that its criminal sanctions and public law have no jurisdiction in Australia or any other western country. The most important principle of sharia affecting Australian Muslims is that they obey the law of the land.

Fundamental to Australian practise of sharia are certain broad ethical principles which most people practise without necessarily knowing these form part of sharia. The principles in no way conflict with the current state of Australia's evolving law and culture. What are these principles?

In December 2002, Professor Muhammad Fajrul Falaakh, VICE Dean of the prestigious Gadjah Mada University and one of Indonesia's top legal academics, gave lectures as a guest of the Centre for Independent Studies. His talks focused on the place of sharia in emerging pluralist liberal societies such as Indonesia. He described sharia ethics as guaranteeing five basic protections: protection of freedom of religious practice, of life, of freedom of thought and conscience, of property rights and of matrimonial and reproductive rights.

Perhaps Mr Costello could point out where any of these sharia principles conflict with Australian law, Australian values or Australian citizenship. Surely these principles would form the basis of any civilised society, Islamic or otherwise.

Professor Abdullah Saeed's 2004 study entitled "Muslims in Australia - Their Beliefs, Practices and Institutions", funded by the Howard Government and based on the 2001 Census, showed that Muslims represent less than 2 per cent of the population.

However, for reasons perhaps best known to Liberal Party pollsters, the PM and his Treasurer have spent much of the last week misrepresenting the fundamental religious teachings of this tiny portion of the Australian community. Mr Costello recently called for Muslims to pledge their allegiance to Australia and Australian values before criticising his comments. Will Mr Costello be asking the same of the Federal Opposition before each Question Time?

The challenge for Muslims now is to inform ordinary Australians on exactly why Howard and Costello's expressed views on basic Islamic teachings are wrong. The vast majority of Muslims aren't interested in imposing sharia law as more than just a set of personal religious values which in no way conflict with mainstream Australian values. People who dispute this simply have no idea of what sharia means to Aussie Muslims. The time has come for Muslims to educate them.

Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and endorsed Liberal candidate for the seat of Reid in the 2001 Federal Elections. This article was first published in the Canberra Times on 1 March 2006.


Words © 2006 Irfan Yusuf

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22 comments:

Anonymous said...

You wrote: Sunday, February 26, 2006
On Sharia, Costello Is Essentially Right

Now you have reversed your postion.
Are you crazy?

'Jihad' Jack is going to jail. 'Idiot' Irf should go jail also.

Graham Bell said...

for the 12:17pm Anonymous:

Hate to deprive the various prisons corporations of a steady source of income ...... but shouldn't we be doing something a bit more productive, like figuring out why some people believe what they believe and do what they do, even if it is evil, abhorrant, etc. I've never had much faith in the measures favoured by the noose-and-lash brigade: they don't work, they end up costing us a lot of money and they usually get a lot of our own people killed.

Thomas said...

He described sharia ethics as guaranteeing five basic protections: protection of freedom of religious practice, of life, of freedom of thought and conscience, of property rights and of matrimonial and reproductive rights.

If this is the case, could you please provide an example of a country that has initiated sharia law and which also has each of the freedoms that you outline? According to a study by Freedom House, there are only two majority Muslim countries on Earth that are classified as “free”, neither of which (to my knowledge) adopt sharia law. Their definition of “free” is extremely similar to the shopping list of rights that you outline sharia law epitomises.

Thomas said...

He described sharia ethics as guaranteeing five basic protections: protection of freedom of religious practice, of life, of freedom of thought and conscience, of property rights and of matrimonial and reproductive rights.

If this is the case, could you please provide an example of a country that has initiated sharia law and which also has each of the freedoms that you outline? According to a study by Freedom House, there are only two majority Muslim countries on Earth that are classified as “free”, neither of which (to my knowledge) adopt sharia law. Their definition of “free” is extremely similar to the shopping list of rights that you outline sharia law epitomises.

Thomas said...

Interestingly, I note that you also moderate all of the comments on your blog and nothing can get published without your explicit approval. I guess you seem to be standing up for those great sharia values of “freedom of speech”.

Irfan said...

Graham, ignore anonymous. he is just an unemployable member of the pseudo-conservative neo-Con faction of the NSW Young Liberals. He spends much of his time sending abusive stuff. Much of it is rejected, whilst others is allowed through.

Thomas, the reason I moderate these forums is that some Young Liberals from NSW have been known to leave defamatory and grossly offensive remarks here. When they make personal attacks on me, I tend to let them through. But when they make defamatory comments about others (as opposed to commenting on their argument), I am forced to moderate.

All legal traditions recognise that freedom of speech has its limits.

Anonymous said...

Why did you allow comments about Alex Hawke being a closet homosexual?

Graham Bell said...

No worries, Irfan.

A vibrant democracy must have room for organizations that cater to young people with a passionate interest in promoting free enterprise, capitalism (they're not the same), minimal government interference in private lives, etc.

But what the hell do you do with the extremists and fanatics who seem to be attracted to the so-called Young Liberals? Can't they be channelled into something less destructive to themselves and the community? And the funny thing is, I wonder if Anonymous would be happier living under an enlightened form of Sharia himself?

Thomas:

Were those two countries Malaysia and Tunisia?

Anonymous said...

Costello, Howard, and Hanson are all using the famous dog whistle.

Muslims Out!

While they may not be saying these exact comments, but this is what we are hearing: Muslims do not fit into Australia, and are so great a threat and danger to social cohesion and public order that they must be stopped from entering our country, and the ones already here must be deported.

Make a few more trips to NZ Irf, because that is the country that may be stupid enough to accept you as a refugee.

Islam is a wicked religion and causes chaos in all Western countries. The only way to save Western civilization is to forcibly fight and remove it.

Nothing has changed over the centuries since The Crusades.

Muslims Out!

Thank heavens these fine politicians are talking sense.

Strong Leadership.
Mainstream Values.

Another Anonymous Australian.

Anonymous said...

Alex Hawke is hardly in the closet.

Like many associates of Opus Dei, it hardly bothers him.

It doesn't even bother the armed forces in Australia, or their reserve forces.

Alex is here, Alex is queer, get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Just because you fantasise about Alex Hawke rogering you doesn't mean he is a closet homosexual. Muslims go home. Don't come back. Take the abos with you

Anonymous said...

For the love of God
Please stop posting your photo.
Everytime I see it I am challenged by the thought that God must be cruel and vindictive to give you a face as ugly as yours.

Anonymous said...

Check out the MSN polls:

Saturday, 25 February 2006: Are Australia's Muslims being treated fairly by the community?
Yes: 68151 (76%)
No: 22041 (24%)

Friday, 24 February 2006: Should migrants who don't observe Aussie values be kicked out?
Yes: 91815 (86%)
No: 14873 (14%

WHere is your gratitude for being allowed to live in Australia? Is your lack of gratitude and disrespect to the leaders of Australia typical of the muslim community? Or is it just you - one ungrateful unrepresentative commentator?

Graham Bell said...

Anonymous ((at 10:21am)):

Jeez! Fair go, mate ! You're damned lucky I didn't put my own ugly face up here as well - or you really would believe in the Devil!

Anonymous ((at 5:29am)):

Disagree.

(1) A hell of lot has changed since the Crusades - and not all of it for the better.

(2) They are NOT fine politicians at all. They are nothing but ignorant and incompetent boofheads who will fall to pieces WHEN another real crisis hits - and get a lot of good Australians killed in the process.

They are NOT talking sense, they are merely masturbating in a public place. If they were talking sense they wouldn't be inadvertently helping the terrorists' cause whenever they open their cake-holes.

We do indeed need strong and effective leadership - but you won't get any of that from this bunch of pompous dills, overgrown school bullies and show ponies; they're just like the Barber's cat .........

Anonymous said...

The low intelligence of the abo species would make them perfect Muslims.

Anonymous said...

Another crisis?

A London bombing?

Another Bali bombing?

We were very lucky we foiled the ozzi mozzie attempt to make a dirty bomb out of the Lucas Heights nuclear facility.

We must not rely on luck, we must get rid of every last one of these evil wicked Muslims.

Every last one.

Only then will Australia escape another terrorist crisis.

This is a battle for the survival of our Nation.

Howard and Costello must back up their words with decisive actions.

If I was from a Muslim family, I would evacuate them immediately to a Muslim country.

Another Anonymous Australian

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 7:30, you are so right. And when we'e finished with those moslem buggers, we can start with the Jews and the Abbos. Then we can have a nation of inbred Centrelink mums like you!

Anonymous said...

Muslims Out!

Anonymous said...

The worst thing about Muslims is that they are so bloody educated and enterprising. They show up us white trash. I wish Muslims coul be as stupid as us inbred westies.

Anonymous said...

Both the East and West are facing Moral Declination. Islam is not. Muslims who dont follow Islams teachings arent necessarily Muslim. Islam and Muslims are totally different. Today Australia has 350 000+ buddhists and 300 000+ muslims. Are white folk going to annihilate them like they did to the Aborigines of Tasmania?

Anonymous said...

You are pathetic Irfan.

Anyone who demonstrates your uselessness is called a welfare mum.

The truth obviously hurts.

We will get rid of your vile wicked hatefull religion from our country.

Anonymous said...

In all fairness to Peter Costello, by sharia law, he was referring to this:

http://answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/top_ten_sharia.htm

It is quite apparent that Costello was referring to these reported floggings and stonings and acid throwings in Islamic law countries. It is also quite apparent that the ten listed reasons against the implementation or acceptance of sharia law is also an affront to every Australia value.

Given the current changes in Indoensia and the agenda to push Islamic morality onto all - muslims and non-muslims, and how a woman was arrested and charged for being out late at night with a roll of lipstick and accused of being a prostitute because of such, if banning sharia means bannning Islam, I don't see why not.