Misinformed agenda harmful to multiculturalism

The Multicultural Council of Tasmania is disheartened that Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie continues to pursue her harmful, divisive, and misinformed agenda regarding Islam and Sharia. Senator Lambie’s recent media release, which attempts to draw links between Islam, a simplistic perception of Sharia, and terrorist threats to Australia is the latest example of this extremely disappointing and damaging public campaign.

Culturally, religiously and linguistically diverse Australians are not seeking to set up a parallel legal system. Senator Lambie should not politicise and misinterpret the sanctity of religion to gain media space.

Sharia is the moral, legal and religious code followed by all Muslims, however it is not standardised across the Islamic world as Senator Lambie implies.  In practice different nations and groups interpret Sharia in different ways for a variety of reasons.  The overwhelming majority of these interpretations are what could be considered progressive.  Suggesting Sharia – an intrinsic component of Islam – is somehow intertwined with terrorism is an insult to Muslims and demonstrably incorrect.

Moreover, Senator Lambie’s claim that, “Sharia Law support self-evidently shows you are anti-democratic, anti-women’s rights, homophobic, dangerously intolerant and brutal”, is simply not accurate.  There are Christian majority nations in the world where governments have made homosexuality illegal and it is subject to harsh punishments, and there are many Muslim-majority nations where governments provide legal protection for same sex relations (e.g. Indonesia, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Mali).

There are also many non-Muslim nations that have never democratically elected a female head-of-state (e.g. the USA, Spain, Italy, and Japan) whilst there are many Muslim-majority countries that have (e.g. Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Mali).

The reality is, is that local and cultural attitudes towards religion, law, gender and social issues vary across the Islamic world just as they do across the West – and are much more complex than Senator Lambie would have us believe.

Senator Lambie also claims, “…every terrorist who has attacked the West has supported the imposition of Sharia Law.”  This is an overly simplistic statement that does not stand up to scrutiny. Any serious investigation of terrorist incidents in the West reveals an extensive list of attacks perpetrated by groups ranging from right and left wing extremists to nationalist and separatist groups.  Equating terrorism and Islam is extremely damaging to Muslim communities and potentially hurtful to families of victims of other types of terrorism.

Additionally, enacting Senator Lambie’s proposition Australia should only accept people who ‘reject Sharia Law’ would inevitably lead to racial profiling and vilification.  How would such a process work in practice?  It is difficult to believe Anglo-Australians would be asked about their views on Sharia when entering/exiting the country.  What about a third generation Lebanese-Australian?  Furthermore, legally forcing the Islamic community to reject Sharia would amount to ‘prohibiting free exercise of religion’ and be unconstitutional according to section 116 of The Australian Constitution.

This discourse from Senator Lambie is designed to create a moral panic and can only serve to divide, alienate, and perhaps even endanger Australian communities.  We firmly oppose Senator Lambie’s rhetoric and see Australia – and Tasmania – as robust multicultural societies where everyone deserves a fair go and has the right to adhere to any religion they choose.  Implying otherwise is damaging and risks eroding many of the social and political rights that make Australia great.

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