The Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), Australia’s peak body for Islamic preachers has called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to outlaw “Islamophobia”.

Samantha Maiden from the union super fund backed news website the New Daily quoted ANIC spokesman Bilal Rauf who said “Islamophobia should not be acceptable.”

Rauf was one of the attendees at Scott Morrison’s meeting with religious leaders on August 5 to discuss his government’s proposal for a Religious Discrimination Act.

The ANIC elects the Grand Mufti of Australia. The current President of the ANIC is Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman. Shady was a guest at Malcolm Turnbull’s 2016 Iftar dinner at Kirribilli House. It was later revealed in a 2013 video he blamed homosexuality for “sending diseases” like HIV AIDS.

The proposal for such an act grew out of the Ruddock Review into Religious Freedom in Australia which was set up by then Turnbull Government to appease conservative concerns about religious freedom and free speech in the wake of same sex marriage becoming legal.

The recent sacking of Israel Folau by Ruby Australia over his sinners Instagram post, which saw the Australian Christian Lobby raise $2 million for Folau’s unfair dismissal case renewed pressure on Scott Morrison to deliver his pre-election promise to introduce such an Act.

But many have had concerns, even those who support freedom of religion that such an Act could limit free speech and legitimate political discourse in Australia. Christian legal academic Dr Augusto Zimmerman wrote in the Spectator earlier this month that such an Act could be a “Trojan horse” which will outlaw “hate speech” based on criticism of religion.

Therefore it should not come as a surprise that Australia’s Imams are using the consultation process to have included in the Act the outlawing of Islamophobia.

Rauf has claimed that “There is an increasing trend of Islamophobia and lamented that “There is no law currently in NSW that protects against that. It’s different in Victoria”. He was referring to Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act whose religious component has been used overwhelming to prosecute critics of Islam.

Rauf’s justification for outlawing Islamphobia was because it was not found to be unlawful for Sonia Kruger to say on the Today Show in 2016 that she supported banning Muslim immigration to Australia due to frequent terror attacks in the West and elsewhere in the name of Islam.

Although the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Kruger’s comments incited contempt and hatred against Muslims, they did not find her guilty of the charge of racial vilification because Islam is not a race.

The content of Kruger’s comments everyone should remember was when the Today panel was discussing an Andrew Bolt column on the correlation between Islamic immigration to a nation and terrorist incidents.

It is also worth nothing that Kruger’s view is that shared by United States President Donald Trump who banned travel from seven majority Muslim nations when he first came to office due to radical Islamic terror concerns.

So Australia’s Imams don’t simply want to outlaw words that could incite violence against Muslims, which is the only legitimate argument for curtailing free speech. But anyone who advocates a more prudent immigration policy such as Sonia Kruger should be silenced.

The Australian National Imams Council was part of the Keep New South Wales Safe Alliance, a coalition of 31 community organisations which successfully lobbied the NSW Parliament to pass strengthened hate speech laws.

It is now a criminal offence in NSW to “publicly threaten or incite violence” on the grounds of race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex or HIV/AIDS status with penalties of up to three years imprisonment or an $11,000 fine.

Islamophobia is such a vague term that it can include any criticism of Islam and its religious practices. Outlawing it is equivalent to passing a blasphemy law. But of course we are living in the age where the definition of “hate speech” and “vilification” is expanding, so the definition of “free speech” is being narrowed.

We should value freedom of religion, but while legislating one freedom let’s not take away another. This demand from Australian National Imams Council should make Australians consider the wider implications and unintended consequences of passing a Religious Discrimination Act.

Author Details
Tim Wilms is the Founder and Editor in Chief of the Host of Tim’s News Explosion, the WilmsFront interview program and The Theorists with Andy Nolch. He based in Melbourne, Australia where he also conducts field reports.
Tim Wilms is the Founder and Editor in Chief of the Host of Tim’s News Explosion, the WilmsFront interview program and The Theorists with Andy Nolch. He based in Melbourne, Australia where he also conducts field reports.