Judge Michael Higgins famously asserted in his finding (pdf file 324KB) against the Christian Pentecostal group, Catch the Fire Ministries, and Pastors Nalliah and Scot, under Victoria’s racial and religious vilification legislation, that the “interpretation of the Koran by Pastor Scot represented the views of a small group of fundamentalists, namely, Wahabbists, who are located in the Gulf states and who are a minority group, and their views bear no relationship to mainstream Muslim beliefs and, in particular, Australian Muslims”.
Judge Higgins, demonstrating further his theological acumen, went on to declare that the one billion adherents of Islam “regard the Koran as equivalent to the Bible: that it agrees substantially with Christian beliefs save for particular events”. This would be news to most Muslims and Christians, if not downright offensive to both.
Furthermore, the judge remarkably assessed the shocking material cited from the Koran by Pastor Scot as no longer relevant to the 21st century. Such a judgment is clearly contrary to the views of those many Muslims, including Australian Muslims, who regard the Koran as the literal unalterable word of Allah.
Not that we particularly need it, but the events of the past couple of months, even weeks, have certainly undermined the judge’s decision in Victoria’s first religious vilification trial.
Contra Judge Higgins, consider the following:
- a former Qantas baggage handler, Bilal Khazal faces a terrorism charge in the NSW Supreme Court;
- Keysar Trad, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association in Sydney, is sacked and replaced by supporters of the radical cleric, Sheik Faiz Mohammad, whom he had criticised for claiming women incited rape;
- four Muslims caught up in the recent anti-terrorism raids in Melbourne, tell The Age reporter Ian Munro, "In our religion, they don't have democracy. When we say democracy, it means we are making a partner with Allah in making laws. Allah does not need a partner. That's why we don't believe in democracy.” According to Munro’s report, they affirm for themselves that religion embraces fighting for beliefs and fighting the enemies of Allah;
- this week a Melbourne Imam, Sheikh Mohammed Omran, excuses Osama bin Laden of any wrong doing over the New York and London bombings and says he doesn’t believe anyone following the Islamic faith was involved in the latter bombings while at the same time, the London police report a lead on four Britons, of Pakistani origin, heading up their list of suspects; and
- while all of this is going on, at the Amsterdam District Court, a middle class Dutch Moroccan Muslim takes full responsibility for his action in murdering the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh, assuring the court, “one day, should I be free, I would do exactly the same, exactly the same … I take complete responsibility for my actions. I acted purely in the name of my religion.”
The standard response from the Islamic Council of Victoria is that these people are not typical of Australian Muslims. While we must believe - or at least hope - that this assertion is true, the evidence is building up that there are sufficient Muslims in Australia who do believe as Pastor Scot depicted them and this has got to be a worry to the rest of us.
Rather than the token, ritual protestations from peak Islamic bodies, what ordinary Australians need to see are very public demonstrations by ordinary Muslims in large numbers out on the streets protesting the actions of Islamic terrorists. Some day we will have our own version of September 11 and July 7 in either Sydney or Melbourne. The more these outrages occur around the world, the more the revulsion and enmity will build up against Muslims in general, however unjustified that may be.
Which brings us back to Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot.
At no stage did these men incite their audience to rise up and attack Muslims, rather they exhorted their hearers to love Muslims.
As matters stand with the Victorian legislation, introduced to promote religious harmony in the State of Victoria, we can say without fear of contradiction that the government has managed to set Muslim against Christian, Christian against Muslim, and even Christian against Christian.
At the present time, petitions for the repeal of the religious aspects of the Act are widely circulating around churches of every description: Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Uniting, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Baptist, and so on, garnering tens of thousands of signatures. Meetings are being held to protest the legislation, members of Parliament are being spoken to.
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