The Bolt Report recently featured Kirralie Smith, NSW Senate candidate for Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA). The party acronym ‘ALA’ when pronounced ‘Allah’ reveals a clever play on words reflecting both their audience and party platform which in Smith’s own words is ‘anti-Islam’ not ‘anti-Muslim’. That distinction is lost on many Muslims and difficult to reconcile with their party policy. After all, the first question put to Smith by Andrew Bolt was ‘who let them in?’ and ALA policy is to address Islamist ideology by not letting Muslims from any OIC country in at all making Australia a closed country to the majority of Muslims. Its hard to imagine that wont be understood as ‘anti-Muslim’ by many Australians.

Some might call this playing the ‘Trump’ card which is resonating with the multitudes. No one can deny how popular Trump is whether due to, or despite of, his call for a ban on all Muslims.

As a fellow political candidate concerned about the underpinning values and beliefs we propagate in society that enable us to enjoy, or deprive us of enjoying, the benefits of citizenship in the free world, I’ve given this a great deal of thought.

While freedom of belief and speech have acted as pillars of the free world, blasphemy and apostasy laws, real or de facto, are increasingly used by governments, pseudo governments and individuals to keep other citizens legally bound; to keep them excluded from the privileges and benefits of free society and exposed to human rights abuses. We talk a lot about shared values, some call them universal values although its obvious they don’t exist universally. What is worrying is that if we remove freedom of belief and speech from this suite of values we will move from an open society of real tolerance to a closed one without it. Regardless of whether people like the way Trump speaks, it appears there is a growing Trump phenomena because more people are seeing that we must do all we can to ensure these foundational pillars are reinforced, upheld and celebrated. The cost of having freedom of belief and speech being undermined is too great.

So that leaves us with a great dilemma. Those like ALA who in the name of preserving freedom and democracy want to have a blanket ban on Muslim immigration have a difficult case to make. On the one hand they uphold core freedoms that benefit all in society, particularly freedom of belief and speech, and on the other are willing to deny entry to all Muslims based on their identity as a Muslim – an identity that represents a belief. Rather than treat immigrants as individuals – a hallmark of western democracy – the suggestion is that Muslims be treated corporately as followers of Islam who will undervalue or reject the pillars of the free world. Ironically, it is suggested that the means of addressing growing totalitarianism in the Muslim world is to move closer to it ourselves.

This is not about open/closed borders but about open/closed minds. We are not discussing refugee flows but an immigration policy that pre-determines all Muslims as being closed minded and is close-minded itself to another possibility.

As a political candidate with the same concerns about growing radicalisation as others, this is not a position I find tenable.

If we want to cultivate a culture of freedom and human decency I believe now is the time to stand with all other freedom lovers irrespective of belief. We need to stand together on a freedom platform.

There are a growing number of brave individuals and organisations such as Dr Zudhi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) who while identifying as a ‘devout Muslim’ has openly referred to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as ‘thugs’ for pushing hate laws, or de facto blasphemy laws, internationally.  Like myself, Jasser calls for discernment in immigration not a blanket approach. As an American of Syrian heritage Jasser naturally desires to see his own family permitted entry into the safety of America, yet he understands that not all Syrians will be of good will toward America and she must be discerning.

Jasser publicly calls for a separation of mosque and state and a renunciation of caliphate ideology. That’s separating Islamist ideology from Islam, which is a more nuanced approach than ALA and others. Banning Muslims from OIC countries entry to Australia or banning all Muslims entry to America will not make Jasser’s work of separating Islamism from Islam any easier. It would be more helpful to have an immigration policy which likewise made a distinction.

Neither will it assist other Muslim Reformers such as Raheel Raza of the Clarion Project who is a voice for the multitudes of persecuted minorities and who exposes human atrocities at the hands of Islamists.  The sale of Yazidi women in the Turkish province of Gaziantep is one such example. Raheel Raza is known as a Muslim human rights activist and if she was seeking to immigrate from an OIC country would we still deem her unfit? I am reminded of a friend I have in Kuala Lumpur , a local Malay Muslim woman and human rights activist who is a voice for the marginalised and persecuted regardless of their belief. Yet she would not qualify if a blanket ban on immigration from OIC nations were applied. I think Australia can be a little more discerning and judge people as human beings on an individual basis.

This is not the time to demand no Muslim immigration.  Nor is this the time to go to the lowest common denominator and have our Muslim citizens just ‘renounce terrorism’. We shouldn’t assume they support terrorism. What must be renounced are the supporting attitudes and arguments for blasphemy and apostasy laws that are terrorising people all over the world, restricting the development of free societies and sending the entirely wrong message to all.

This is the time to stand with all people of good will, regardless of belief, not to validate their religious belief but to validate the freedoms and human rights we all benefit from. Freedom of belief and speech are critical. For those claiming to fight totalitarianism, lets not move closer to our own totalitarian approach to immigration as a remedy.

Vickie Janson
Victorian Senate Candidate

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