Australian Christians’ Senate candidate for Victoria Vickie Janson has urged the ACT administration not to go down the same disastrous path as Victoria in introducing divisive religious vilification laws. Mrs Janson states

“The hypocrisy of our public representatives over legitimate concerns raised in opposition to the Gungahlin Mosque proposal is astounding.”

Attorney General Simon Corbell and ACT Human Rights Commissioner Helen Watchirs propose criminalizing speech against religion in the new vilification legislation.

Mrs Janson goes on to say:

“Ironically, the media are actively engaging in vilification of a local pastor in helping these government officials make their case for these new laws.Rather than taking legitimate community concerns into consideration, Corbel, Watchirs and the media have become judge and jury determining religious ‘racism’ as the motivation for any opposition to the mosque development. Does this mean all voices not in agreement with the development will be silenced with new legislation?

“Pastor Irwin Ross has been branded a ‘Christian fundamentalist’, not because of any extreme behaviour (unless voicing an opinion is considered extreme) but, according to the Canberra Times, because of his recognition of the ‘Hebrew roots of Christianity’ (which is simply a historical fact) and the questionable opinion of others that he is ‘stridently pro-Israel’. One can only see the irony of flying anti-Semitic colors to accuse another of racism, bigotry and intolerance!

“The Canberra Times so confused their facts that they referred to the fortnightly Sabbath meals Pastor Ross participates in as ‘Passover Dinners’ – as if this is some evidence of his terrible fundamentalism.”

It is notable that the worldwide criminalization of speech against Islam is something OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has been campaigning for in Australia. One would hope our elected officials might be more protective of our democratic freedoms and of Australian law rather than encouraging us down this path. It’s difficult to see how we will be able to assist refugees escaping from draconian blasphemy laws in Pakistan when we are hell-bent on introducing a type of our own.

This has not been a case of public burning of holy books* or defaming Islam, but simply a community voicing its democratic opposition to a project.

In the face of world events, a community concerned about the social impact of a mosque and its affiliations should not be silenced with accusations of racism and threats of prosecution. A flyer distributed to residents alerting them of the mosque development didn’t threaten or defame, it simply called for honesty and transparency and yet rather than defend the right of Concerned Citizens, Watchirs describes it as ‘undoubtedly offensive’. With severe limitations on any non-Muslim building projects in most OIC countries this demonstrated lack of real tolerance and reciprocity raises genuine concerns.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) whose integrity has proved to be questionable, is a formal affiliate of the Canberra Muslim Community Inc who is seeking approval of the mosque development. The AFIC is currently implicated in a string of judicial determinations from the High Court of Australia, including two New South Wales Court of Appeal matters and one before the NSW Land and Environment Court. Apart from these criminal concerns, they are also on record as advocating for legal pluralism in Australia seeking to have sharia law formally recognized. There is no doubt that this is a matter of public interest.

Australian Christians would like to highlight the hypocrisy of any intention on behalf of the government to further burden the people of Australia with religious vilification laws. The Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) has previously used vilification laws to prosecute Christian pastors for apparently vilifying and mocking Muslims. Yet ICV Spokesperson Nazeem Hussain and his partner in comedy presenting ‘Fear of Brown Planet’ received a VicHealth grant of $150,000 to legally vilify and mock non-Muslims because having a good laugh at others is deemed beneficial for mental health. Mr Hussain also supports the radical anti-Semitic BDS group making a complete mockery of the notion of charging others with vilification.

Australian Christians supports the repeal of all current vilification legislation in order that open, transparent dialogue may produce a truly tolerant integrated society. And we support the rights of the Concerned Citizens of Canberra to democratically oppose this mosque development.

* Ironically, at the same time as a foolish American Christian pastor was condemned for burning a Quran, Christians in Nigeria and Ivory Coast were being burnt alive. But this type of really extreme religious intolerance, where people rather than books are being destroyed, tends to be mainly unreported by the mainstream media in Australia. To voice concerns about the complete intolerance in OIC countries toward non-Muslims or point out that Christians make up 75% of the world’s victims of religiously motivated hate crimes is somehow showing intolerance by simply mentioning it.

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