Here’s a scenario. The Prime Minister decides to organise an iftar dinner at Kirribilli House in Sydney. A bunch of imams turn up, along with professionals, business leaders and celebrities.
Over the next few days and weeks, The Australian newspaper runs a series of stories exposing homophobic remarks made by some of the attendees going back years, perhaps decades. The implication is that Muslims are all anti-homosexual, unenlightened and unable to fit into Australian values.
Years later, a devout Christian rugby player has his contract terminated for making comments on social media stating that a host of groups (including atheists and gay people) need to repent or else they will go to hell. The same newspaper goes on a jihad defending the player, claiming his freedom of speech and religion is being compromised.
Is this a case of what’s good for the Christian gander not being good enough for the Islamic goose? Who knows? And quite frankly, who cares? We’ve come to expect such double standards from cultural warriors.
My interest in this whole saga is whether it is ok for religious people to express their views in a clumsy or even hurtful manner. Pseudo-religious pundits are expected to be offensive. Some newspapers make a habit of going after minority figures whether Muslim or indigenous or South Sudanese or whatever. But what about the rest of us who must live in the real world?
From memory, the rugby player stated that gay people would go to hell. The obvious question from a Muslim perspective is this – how the hell does he know? Is he God? Fair enough, he can say that certain forms of sexual conduct are in fact misconduct. But does all misconduct necessarily lead one to spend eternity with Pharaoh and Mr & Mrs Abu Lahab?
I thought I would send a tweet to Israel Folau. I told him I identified as Muslim even if I wasn’t a very good one. I then asked him if he believed I was on the Highway to Hell.
No, my query had nothing to do with AC/DC.
Mr Folau didn’t answer my tweet. However, a host of his supporters did. They all agreed that I was headed straight for hell unless I admitted that Jesus died for my sins.
Should they have said this? Well, it was nice of them to share their formula for salvation. I respect them for their evangelical zeal. If you believed you had access to the truth, you’d only refuse to share that truth if you were selfish.
Muslims also shouldn’t be ashamed of sharing their truths. In Australia, this isn’t so hard to do as most of our sacred teachings and personalities are also found in the Bible.
But I don’t think our preaching should be built around speculating who is headed for hell. Nor should it involve condemning how other people live their lives, including who they choose to sleep with.
The last thing Islam in Australia needs is our very own Israel Folau.