Babette Francis - ONLINE Opinion, 1 March 2013
I am guessing that most of the writers contributing to this series will be writing about legislation, especially following former Attorney-General Nicola Roxon's foray into "enhancing" our freedoms with her draft exposure Bill consolidating five anti-discrimination laws into one mammoth Bill. This Bill, which makes it illegal to offend or insult anyone, would, if enacted, effectively corral all Australians into one thought-control stockyard like cattle up for auction. Even the RSPCA might protest on our behalf.
The Institute of Public Affairs struck a major blow for freedom when it recommended abolishing the Australian Human Rights Commission, although they backtracked somewhat when they suggested, as an alternative, appointing five Commissioners to deal with freedom issues to balance the Commissioners dealing with "rights" issues. My view is that more bureaucrats, no matter how well-intentioned, almost invariably diminish freedom if only because they require money to maintain their empires, and thus taxpayers have less opportunity for discretionary spending, or even essential spending. If the tax-payer funded AHRC were abolished, it would leave us free to spend a little more of our own earnings instead of having them taken away to finance Roxon's ambitious proposal denying Australians the fun of offending and insulting. Think of all the fun at Aussie Rules matches as insults are hurled at Collingwood players - "Drongo" comes to mind.
However, the battle for freedom is not quite won yet, because a majority of Labor and Green Senators on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee has recommended that religious organisations providing schools and health and aged care services should lose exemptions from anti-discrimination laws which allow them to discriminate against individuals who did not share the moral and ethical principles of their employer. (Coalition Senators on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee presented a dissenting minority report.)
Australian Association of Christian Schools executive officer, Robert Johnstone, strongly opposed the removal of the exemptions, and demanded a "robust provision for the protection of the freedom of religion". Australian Catholic Bishops Conference general secretary, Father Brian Lucas, said the Senate recommendations would undermine religious freedom and have an impact on services in aged care, health and schools. Current Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, is Jewish. His comment on the majority Senate report was that "This is a complex project and I want to ensure the final consolidation carefully balances the two objectives of defending free speech while protecting Australians from discrimination." I look forward to a stoush between him and Jewish school providers when young Ali or Ahmed, newly arrived jihadists from Pakistan, apply for gardening jobs at Jewish schools.
And that brings me to the "dhimmitude" and loss of freedom displayed in Australia during the recent visit of Dutch parliamentarian, Geert Wilders. Let me clarify that I do not share Wilders' libertarian views on same-sex marriage and abortion rights, but I do agree with his analysis that Islam is not only a religion but a political ideology, totalitarian in nature. I also do not agree with Wilders that the Koran should be banned. On the contrary I think it should be compulsory reading especially for our politicians, it is only then that they might comprehend its profound incompatibility with a secular democracy. Islam allows for no separation between church and state. Its holy scripture, the Koran, cannot be reinterpreted in the light of modernism and the Enlightenment - it is the unalterable word of Allah.
Dhimmitude is the mindset of the dhimmi, i.e. someone who lives in fear of Islam but agrees that they will not resist political Islam, they will even support it. In return dhimmis can live safely. Today we see our politicians, journalists and intellectuals play the role of dhimmis. A dhimmi is a kafir (unbeliever) who lives in an Islamic country. The dhimmi was a unique invention by Mohammed. He created a new type of creature, a semi-slave. It started with what Mohammed did to the Jews. He took their land and then let them work the land and the dhimmis paid a tax, the jhizya, that was half of their income. The first dhimmis were the Jews, but Christians and others were added later.
Jews and Christians could still practice their religion but that had to be done in a private way. The laws were Islamic; the dress was dictated by Islamic law. A dhimmi was not really free. For instance a church couldn't ring its bells because bells are a sign of Satan, according to Mohammed. A dhimmi couldn't hold any job that made him a supervisor over Muslims. This limited rank in the military. If Christians wanted to repair their church, or Jews their synagogue, they had to get permission from the government. All of these laws established a second-class citizenship; the dhimmi did not have civil rights. A dhimmi couldn't sue a Muslim or prosecute a crime by a Muslim. Dhimmis had no power and had to pay the Jhizya, according to the Koran.
The cancellation by venues that had contracted to host the Geert Wilders' meetings in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney can be viewed as an example of dhimmitude. No doubt these venues paid the cancellation fees pertaining to the contracts for the hire of the halls, an equivalent to the Jhizya tax. No doubt also the venue owners were afraid of demonstrators and physical damage to their buildings, but the state governments should have stepped in and guaranteed a strong police presence to protect the sites. Although the Dutch government is probably unenthusiastic about Wilders' message, it does guarantee his safety by providing round-the-clock police protection just as the British government did for Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses which so offended Islamic sensibilities.
Our governments, state and federal, should guarantee the safety of speakers who are controversial (but do not advocate violence) and should condemn the "fatwas" issued against them and the bounties offered for their assassinations. Conversely, Speakers who advocate violence should not be given entry to Australia. But failure to guarantee the safety of controversial speakers is in breach of governments' responsibilities and diminishes our freedom. Furthermore, some Islamists seem to act in an unduly sensitive manner. I recall the theory that the flutter of a butterfly's wings in the Amazon can eventually cause a tornado in Texas. I don't know how valid this theory is, but it appears to apply to some Muslims. Ethiopian Muslims murdered a nun in their country because Pope Benedict made a speech in Regensburg, Germany, asking Muslims to combine faith with reason and avoid violence. An amateur video about Islam made in the USA resulted in the murder of the US Ambassador to Libya in Benghazi - or so President Obama and Hillary Clinton said. So the path of least resistance is to live in the mental state of dhimmitude and do nothing to provoke Islamist ire, but the consequence is a loss of freedom.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr's decision, against the wishes of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, that Australia abstain rather than voting "No" on the resolution about giving Palestinians "Observer Status" at the UN was another example of dhimmitude. Some of the electorates in NSW have substantial Muslim populations and Australia's abstention rather than opposing the resolution was an effort to placate them.
At the United Nations, the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) is lobbying for a universal law against blasphemy - similar to the legislation which plagues Pakistan and has resulted in spurious charges of blasphemy against Christians, other minorities and even against Muslims themselves. Such a UN law, if passed, will diminish freedom around the world.