Good News and Bad News
Good news first might be the order of the day.
Congratulations to everyone involved in the foundation of the Islamic Museum of Australia. The museum’s Founder, Mustafa Fahour and his sturdy band of Board Members all understand that, to go forward in the modern world, one first needs to look at the past and understand the early history of Muslims in Australia. The museum’s architectural design is stunning and its many beautiful works of art can be glimpsed in this edition. Words cannot convey their
beauty—as a writer it’s not often that I’ll admit that paint, canvas or clay can surpass the written word.
Inside there is something for everyone: schoolchildren, adults, tourists and the simply curious. The doors are officially open—phase two has now begun.
Now for the bad news …
In March the Federal Government announced its intention to amend the current Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). What better way to describe this cynical move than to quote Attorney-General Mr Brandis: ‘People do have the right to be bigots.’ This faux pas shows what happens to some politicians when they slip away from their minders and why they shouldn’t be let out alone.
The proposed amendments are so broad as to be useless. They are a slap in the face to anyone who has ever been the target of racial or religious vilification. The present Act may not be ideal but symbolises Australian values and protects vulnerable citizens from being targeted by those who want a ‘fairer’ Australia—and I am referring to skin colour here. Indigenous Australian leaders and the Jewish community have both been extremely vocal in their condemnation of the draft amendments—the latter are a voting bloc with clout. One can only hope that Australian Muslims (individuals and organisations) are also protesting loudly—perhaps behind the scene, in submissions and so forth. Submissions close 30 April.
Religion may not be mentioned in the Act but we all know that in today’s world, religion often stands as a surrogate for race. If the amendments to the RDA are passed then this could also affect state religious vilification laws.
I tell myself to look on the bright side. The Senate must first pass any amendments to federal law. Given the composition of the Upper House, after the recent Western Australian Senate elections, perhaps this may not be as easy as the Government once thought.