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Is Islamophobia tantamount to racism?


By Babette Francis 4 August 2012

Female-only swimming sessions at public pools, introduced in response to pressure from Australia’s Muslim community, have been mandated by a number of councils in Victoria, including Casey, Monash and Greater Dandenong.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has upheld this practice, even though it means discrimination against men. VCAT member Anne Dea justified this exemption of councils from Victoria’s anti-discrimination laws by saying the “for religious, cultural and personal reasons” women should have opportunities to access public pools “without men present” (Herald Sun, July 23). I believe, however, that Muslims are promoting the subjugating women by demanding separate swimming sessions in this way.

On the subject of multiculturalism and integration, early in June, Margaret Butts, Victorian co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum, and I were invited to appear at a public hearing of the federal government’s joint standing committee on migration. Our evidence focused on the problems inherent in Muslim immigration, both legal and as refugees. I won’t detail our submission because it will be available on the committee’s website.

However, a report in The Australian (June 27) of the committee’s findings was revealing. It said: “Australians are comfortable with multiculturalism and racial diversity, but an overwhelming number of people have expressed concerns that Muslims are not integrating and are coming to Australia to impose their values on the nation.”

Besides Endeavour Forum, others to give evidence to the committee included the Q Society, Salt Shakers and Mrs Vickie Janson for the Family Council of Victoria. Clearly, the committee noted our concerns, which is more than can besaid for Race Discrimination Commissioner Helen Szoke, who was reported in The Australian (June 28) saying that the anti-racism campaign to be launched in August will not focus on Islamaphobia despite a parliamentary committee finding it is the biggest racism issue in Australia.

Labelling concerns about Islam a “phobia” that functions under the aegis of “racism” belittles those Australians who took the trouble to give evidence to the migration committee. I was the first person at the morning of the hearing in Melbourne to make a submission, so it would have laid to rest any idea the committee might have that our concerns are based on “racism” as I belong to the same race as most Pakistanis.

Pakistan is one of the countries sliding into Islamic fundamentalism and away from the democratic hopes of its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and my submission dealt with Islamist ideology being imposed on the hapless citizens of Pakistan.

Phobias are irrational fears, e.g., fear of open spaces (agoraphobia), fear of closed spaces (claustrophobia); but fears about Islamic ideology are not irrational but based on sound concerns. I won’t mention terrorism because this is not supported by the majority of Muslims, but I will mention two tenets which are supported by the Quran, the holy book of Islam, which have not been publicly rejected by Australian Muslims.

The Quran supports the killing of apostates, that is those who want to leave Islam for some other faith or none. I have yet to hear Islamic preachers announce that this teaching is no longer valid, that religious freedom is a human right and forcing a religion on someone is of no moral value.

The Quran also supports several misogynist tenets, the most significant being that a man can have four wives. I have yet to hear Muslim scholars say this is no longer valid, not merely because it is against the law in non-Muslim societies but because it is against the human rights of women. Fatwas against women’s rights are being issued regularly in Pakistan. Maulana Abdul Haleem, a former Islamist legislator, recently issued a fatwa against formal education for women. He stressed that, according to Islamic tradition, it is forbidden for girls to receive degrees and certificates in a “secular education system”, as formal education paves the way for girls to enter into the job market. “When they permit their women to work,” he said, “they give them a free hand to mix with na-mehrum [men they are not related to by blood] – by doing so, the girl’s father, brother or husband become dayoos [someone who accepts female family members’ wrongdoings] and hence liable to be condemned to hell in shariah law.”

The Pakistan newspaper, Express Tribune, reports the cleric claimed that 97 per cent of girls’ schools in the Kohistan district, in north-west Pakistan, were closed, and the few girls that were enrolled only visited their schools to collect cooking oil, which the Education Department was distributing with the support of foreign donors.

Haleem issued another fatwa calling for the abduction of non-married female NGO workers. describing all NGOs working in the region as “hubs of immodesty”. He said: “Some women from these NGOs visit our houses frequently, mobilising naïve Kohistani women to follow their agenda in the name of health and hygiene education. This is unacceptable to Kohistani culture. Married female NGO workers should go back to their husbands, whereas the unmarried ones will be forcibly wedded to Kohistani men to make them stay at home.” In May, Haleem also justified to the media killing women in the name of “honour” as a “local custom and a religious practice”.

Pakistani feminist writer Faouzia Saeed reported that in Noshki, a town in the region of Baluchistan, a fatwa was announced in a mosque on May 11, stating that any woman using a cell phone will have acid thrown in her face. Dear Helen Szoke, I am developing a phobia about your failure to understand my fears about Islam. Will issuing a fatwa about you fix my problem?

Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons) is co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.



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