In a recent submission to the Morrison government’s religious discrimination bill, a coalition of around 150 Muslim groups have regarded safety as of the uttermost concern; with anti-vilification provisions as a necessity.
The collective called for the government to further strengthen the bill with a provision to make it unlawful to “harass, vilify, or incite hatred or violence” against a person’s religious belief or activity.
Concern for bigotry has been building ever since former Attorney-General George Brandis defended the “right to be a bigot” during the Government’s failed plan to amend the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act (RDA).
The group, which included the Australian National Imams Council, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and the Lebanese Muslim Association, went further to elucidate that the current socio-political climate has made it increasingly “mainstream” and “normal” to incite violence against everyday Australian Muslim. Noting anti-Muslim rhetoric has been on the rise.
Certainly, Australian Muslims feel vulnerable especially as they appear highly visible and “readily identifiable” by names, appearance, dress and safety concerns for places of worship.
Preceding the Christchurch massacre, recent vandalisation of Brisbane’s Holland Park Mosque and alongside a suspicious arson attack at Canberra mosque, the Muslim community is perturbed about further violent Islamophobic attacks.
At the heart of this plea, they recognised that the incitement to hatred and violence is a”fundamental threat” to all Australian Muslim communities groups.
Furthermore, they recognised that the RDA fails to provide a safety net for Muslims under the 18C clause which recognises circumstances which “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person or group.
The assembled group pointed out the fact that those that practise Islam make up countless ethnic communities.
Whilst, Jewish people and Sikhs are afforded extra defence under the RDA, as they are regarded as an ethnoreligious community, Muslims who belong to countless ethnic communities are not covered for religious discrimination under RDA.
The assembled group went further to explain that indeed, it is our responsibility to ensure that all people in our society are protected from vilification and demonisation and no one has the right to menace or discriminate.
As a liberal democratic system, Australia is founded on the rule of law and does not have an official American-style Bill of Rights. Nevertheless, strengthening human rights on all fronts is imperative.
Just as racism is no longer tolerated, all devout God-fearing communities deserve the same protection. As it currently stands, the bill makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their faith.
All Australian communities including Muslims, deserve to express their religious identity and feel safe. If enacted with these vital provisions, it would be a spiriting safeguard helping to encompass everyone within our society.