Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Muslims must be protected by the Act

As we are seeing more and more cases of international incidents involving Muslims, the backlash is real and hard on the ground. In the past six years, there has been a sharp increase in physical attacks against Muslim women wearing the scarf, Muslim schools and places of worship as well as direct cases of discrimination in the work place, at universities, hospitals and doctor's surgeries, shopping centres and in public spaces.

Although most cases of vilification against Muslims is based on their cultural and racial traits, I still believe that the Racial Discrimination Act must cover Islam as a specific cultural group which receives a lot of discrimination based on their religious obligations, duties and practices.
It is true that Muslims in Australia belong to more than 65 different ethnic groups. But the same can be said of Jewish people who have ethnic origins in Europe, Africa, Mid East and Asia. Yet they are referred to as a racial group because they act and see themselves as one. In this way of thinking I believe that Muslims are bound together by their uniform beliefs and practices which clearly identify them as a distinct homogenous group based on their religious identity. For Muslims, religion is actually a way of life and so their religious practices and their cultural traits defines them as Muslims.

When one becomes a Muslim or is born a Muslim that person will grow up with clearly identifiable cultural practices which is uniform across Islam. Therefore they will often be discriminated along these grounds regardless if they are a Turk, an Arab or an Indian. The second point of importance is that many people, through ignorance, treat Muslims as a racial group. Therefore the treatment and belief that they are a racial group and vilified as such is another reason that Muslims should be included in the Act.

Muslims have suffered for many years but today that suffering has been magnified 1000 times because of the downfall of Communism and portrayed as the world’s number one public enemy. Islam has been presented as backward and oppressive and many average citizens see Islam with suspicion and fear. Muslims are discriminated regularly on the basis of dress, customs and beliefs. Therefore it only makes sense that they be protected by the law, regardless of definitions or perceptions.

I would also like to clarify a couple of gross misconceptions about Islam. Firstly, Islam regardless of what hearsay evidence there is, has never in its 1400 year history ever converted a person at the point of a sword or by force. It is absolutely incongruous to suggest so. In Islam it is unequivocal and the Quran states that their is "no compulsion in religion": no compulsion to wear a headscarf, no compulsion to have a beard, no compulsion to marry another you do not love and no compulsion to take into your heart the love of God and to act piously and charitably. No one can force this upon another, not without resentment or negative repercussions, this would be counter-productive.

If any Muslim were to impose their beliefs and ideals on another person then he would be acting outside of the ethics of Islam and would in effect be committing a sin. This is something that is undesirable. All Muslims in the past and present have invited people to Islam, usually by their deeds and actions and by their example.

People often then cite the example of all the wars that were fought by early Muslims that resulted in the spread of Islam throughout Africa and Europe and also the Far East. Let me point out as a writer and researcher that the first wars after the Arab tribes had united were either defensive or pre-emptory and the victories were usually as a result of the weakness of the threatening power. For example the Byzantine, the Persian and Egyptian powers while openly against the new Muslim state were in decline themselves and when they lost the battle their whole empire collapsed and the Muslims automatically inherited the remnants of the empire.

The conquering armies of the Muslims were always magnanimous in victory and offered their captives freedom if they accepted Islam or taught them to read and write. The first comprehensive protocol for treating prisoners of war was made by the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) and is a precursor for the Geneva Convention which followed almost 14 centuries later. Muslims treated their prisoners with civility which astonished the enemies and many embraced Islam almost immediately.

Secondly, another misconception is that Muslims are trying to turn Australia into a Sharia state.
This is a ludicrous notion. Firstly, sharia law cannot work in a country less than 1.5% of the population are actually Muslim. Even if there was a mass conversion of Australians to Islam, it is highly unlikely that this would affect the political nature of this country. Even in countries where the majority are Muslims they still operate under secular law or governments: the best examples I can give are Indonesia and Turkey. Sharia law cannot be administered unless the whole society is Islamic and the leaders are Islamic and even then it has to be based on consensus.

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