Religious Discrimination Bill: Time For Action

The Muslim Community has called upon the federal government to introduce a provision to prevent people from vilifying and otherwise inciting hatred against Muslims.

The exposure draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill is currently being discussed in Canberra.

The introduction of such a Bill was a promise made by the previous Coalition government in the lead-up to the federal election held in May, 2019.

The purpose of the Bill is to fill gaps in Commonwealth Law and provide enforceable protections against religious discrimination in employment, education and other areas of public life.

However, both national and state based Muslim organisations are concerned that the draft Bill doesn’t go far enough – and representatives of 150 of those bodies have signed off on a list of proposed additions and changes which Muslim leaders adamantly believe are necessary.

Ibrahim Dadoun – Public Relations Officer for the Australian National Imams Council

“We want to put pressure on the government to ensure that they make the necessary amendments before the Bill becomes Law,” Ibrahim Dadoun, Public Relations Officer for the Australian National Imams Council, told me earlier this week.

“We want to put pressure on the government to ensure that they make the necessary amendments before the Bill becomes Law,”

“While the Bill which is under consideration may provide some form of ‘protection’ against religious discrimination, it goes nowhere near far enough.

“Our submission is aimed at achieving legislative protection against acts which may arise from incitement to hatred and/or violence based on a person’s religion or religious beliefs.”

Muslim leaders are buoyed by the unprecedented unity among various groups and organisations, who have all put their names to the submission.

“We have two messages we would like to convey,” Ibrahim pointed out.

“Firstly, to make everyone aware that Islamophobia is on the rise and to spark debate in this area.

“It’s not just our own statistics which prove this, police rhetoric also confirms it and these instances of Islamophobia are obviously of grave concern.

“Secondly, we want to point out that there is unprecedented unity among Muslim groups on this issue.

“Representatives of 150 organisations from throughout Australia all signed off on the submission, using the Australian Muslim Community National Summit (AMCNS) as a platform to discuss ideas.

“The summit allowed us to confer with all Muslim-based organisations at the same time and delegates were united in their beliefs and comments that Muslim rights must be defended.”

The Australian National Imams Council has conferred separately with other religious organisations, forming the Australian Religious Alliance (ARA), which has provided broad support for the introduction of some protective provisions, that would make it illegal to vilify or otherwise incite hatred against a person or group based on their religious beliefs.

It may seem hard to believe but there are some politicians who just don’t recognise that Islamophobia exists.

But one would like to think that the latest figures will not only provide food for thought for our politicians, but will lead to them agreeing that the proposed amendments need to be included into the Bill before it becomes law.

Ibrahim indicated that the federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has been traveling around Australia discussing the issue with Muslim groups but while his own views are consistent with those of the people he spoke with, he conceded that there is no guarantee that the government will agree to the amendments.

federal Attorney General
Christian Porter – Photo: Lukas Coch –

While there is widespread support for the changes among Labor-voting Muslims in the community, the same enthusiasm is, at best, lukewarm in Canberra.

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese remains cautious, while several other prominent Labor MPs are currently ‘sitting on the fence’, stating that they haven’t made up their minds yet as it is just a draft Bill.

Support for the amendments by Labor senators has been more encouraging, Ibrahim said.

“It certainly isn’t too late for followers of your website and indeed all Muslims to make a difference.

“We are encouraging as many people as possible to contact their local MPs, requesting that they embrace the changes contained in our submission and obviously with the Bill already before the House, there is no time to lose.”

To read the submission which was agreed to by 150 Australian Muslim organisations and which is now under consideration by our politicians, click on the following link:

As previously highlighted, Islamophobia in Australia is on the rise, and a disturbing increase has been pinpointed since the tragic, fatal shooting murders of dozens of Muslim worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15.

Holland Park mosque in Brisbane is more than one hundred years old and over five generations of Queensland families have gathered in this peaceful oasis for prayer, to break fast during Ramadan, to be with their families and other families from different ethnic backgrounds – united by one abiding faith. 

Holland Park Mosque in Brisbane – (Flickr: Bertknot, file image)

After Christchurch, the Queensland mosque received an outpouring of love from the surrounding community. 

Imagine how shocked, distressed and disgusted locals were to see an online video of two election candidates outside this mosque, claiming that the “Islamification of Australia” was “a huge threat”! 

Within a few months, strangers were throwing beer bottles into the place and swearing at worshippers as they entered for Friday prayers. 

Next, a hateful leaflet drop in the suburb occurred and in the early hours of September 11,  2019, worshippers arrived to discover graffiti across the front walls, reading: “Remove Kebab”…. and: “St Tarrant” (in reference to the Christchurch mass murderer who is an Australian citizen), together with a large swastika.

Brisbane’s Holland Park mosque vandalised with swastika, accused Christchurch shooter’s name on walls – Photo Supplied – Ali Kardi

Obviously, our current laws are nowhere near strong enough.

Police will always pursue mass murderers.

However, the Holland Park mosque vandals are still at large.

As for the 12 old schoolgirl who was brought to tears on a public bus in Sydney the other day when a group of much older non-Muslim boys belittled and threatened her for wearing a hijab, who in Canberra is standing up for her?

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