Surprise surprise Australian Muslims voted No for marriage equality in line with their Islamic faith.  

Not surprisingly the first few articles in mainstream media following the Yes Vote win took the opportunity to fester greater hostility and prejudice towards Australian Muslims by pointing out that the largest ratio of No Votes came from high Muslim demographic regions in NSW.  These, of course, included Punchbowl, Greenacre and Lakemba.

These attempts to alienate the Muslim community doesn’t change the fact that even if every single Muslim in Australia voted NO, that still accounts for only around 2% of the entire population.  That’s a tiny fraction of the 5 million Australians who are largely non-Muslim, who voted No.

Thankfully there is a significant percentage of Australians who uphold the conservative Christian values upon which Australia was founded.

The Australian Christian Lobby, lead by Lyle Shelton, represents over 800,000 Australians and is a grassroots movement advocating for Christian values and ethics to be reflected in the political life of the nation.   Mr Shelton has been very vocal in advocating for freedom of speech.

This week he writes “the freedom of speech of 5 million Australians is about to be wiped out before Christmas” in response to the recent appointment of former Liberal minister Phillip Ruddock to examine if Australian Law protects religious freedom.

Many Australians are rightfully concerned that freedom of religion in Australia is now under threat with the impending legalisation of marriage equality and the push to make the Safe Schools program compulsory in Australian schools.

Freedom of speech is at the heart of freedom of religion.  People of faith must be free to live with a religious worldview and have the freedom to express that worldview without the threat of legal restriction.

We are very fortunate to live in a country where we currently have the freedom to express our  Islamic values and ethics, many of which are in line with Christian values, without fear of prosecution and persecution.

We are very fortunate that right now freedom of religion protects us from being bullied into expressing an opinion contrary to our peaceful religious way of life.

To continue enjoying these freedoms in being able to openly and peacefully express our faith, Australians of all faiths must collaboratively voice their concerns now.

There are many religious organisations in Australia that have served their communities for decades.

Australia is in desperate need of faith-based strategies to tackle our highly costly national social epidemics of family violence, suicide and alcohol-induced violence.

At a time when we should be focused on building resilient communities and reconnecting our communities with their faith as a moral deterrent against these epidemics, it’s counterproductive and costly for our government to not support freedom of religion.

There are Interfaith networks and platforms for dialogue where strong partnerships exist between members of all faiths.

United Religions Initiative, for instance, are a group committed to solving local and global challenges through creating a community of people from different beliefs who work towards mutually beneficial goals.

Freedom of religion cannot be made negotiable and religious groups can no longer afford to take a back seat on this topic.

“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians–whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve” (Quran 2:62, 5:69)