Parts of comments by Mr Jihad Dib, member for Lakemba and Shadow Minister of Education at the NSW Parliament on 15 September 2016 during a debate on the Opposition Crime and Anti-Discrimination Legislation Amendment (Vilification) Bill 2016.
“Most people of faith in this country, who have passed through their lives practising their faith unhindered, hopefully will never be in a position where they feel vilified or discriminated against and therefore would have no need to look to the State for protection. But until you have been on the receiving end of vilification, of discrimination, because of your religious beliefs then you cannot really appreciate how that feels or how damaging that is, particularly over time and particularly when it feels like pattern of behaviour that is either actively or passively accepted by the State.
We only need to look to a inaugural speech made in the Federal Senate last night in which there was an emphatic and unambiguous attack on Australians who belong to the Muslim faith—people like me and my family—in this, one of the most significant weeks of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha. Speeches like that, with the spotlight and the privilege offered by the national Parliament and aimed at breakfast television audiences, are unencumbered by fact and rely largely on opinion. Those speeches fuel the flames of resentment, disharmony, and ultimately, in my view, racism. If the past is a good predictor of the future, over the coming days and weeks we may see some people harbouring a range of grievances about their lot in life convert those feelings into action. They will feel emboldened by that speech.
I wish it were not so. I certainly hope we do not see what I have seen and heard in the past: women who wear the hijab being spat on or having their scarves pulled off, or kids being mocked at school. A few weeks ago I was walking down the street in Brisbane with a friend. As we walked past, a total stranger mockingly started to call out “Allahu Akbar” and all sorts of other offensive things. My friend proved his dignity and walked straight past. But I could not accept this. It was a purely random act performed by somebody based on things he had heard rather than on knowledge. He took opinion and made it into fact.
But let us also bring this perspective: for all the divisive and unhelpful talk of “us and them” and the tension it causes, a modern, inclusive, diverse Australia is actually one of the great stories of the world and of history. I refuse to accept the alternative picture being promoted in some quarters. With just a few tragic exceptions, we are an affluent, pluralistic, harmonious, peaceful community. Ethnic and religious diversity in my electorate is a living testament to that.”