Freedom of speech · Islam in Australia

The Grand Mufti wants to expand section 18C

One of the great functions of free speech, is to allow for the easy dismantling of bad ideas.

As the Grand Mufti is the defending the very, very bad idea of Islam, should we be surprised he wants to restrict free speech?

“Grand Mufti warns against watering down hate speech laws”, news.com, January 19, 2017:

AUSTRALIA’S Grand Mufti has called for race hate speech laws to be updated to include protections for Muslims and other religions, warning the Federal Government “watering down” the law would expose minorities to vilification.

One conservative MP has slammed the idea, saying it would be like introducing a “national blasphemy law”.

Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, the Grand Mufti since 2011, has called for section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to be updated to include protections against religious vilification, The Australian reports.

In a submission to a Parliamentary inquiry, which was established by the Prime Minister late last year, Dr Mohammed warned the Government against watering down the law, which would “expose” minority groups to discrimination, vilification and hate speech.

Dr Mohammed said claims that the Act was obstacle to freedom of speech were “meritless”

“The Grand Mufti is of the view that if the Act is amended as a means of strengthening” freedom of speech, that such a freedom will not be afforded to all equally and fairly, but rather, such freedoms will be exercised by those with power and influence (and not within minority communities),” Dr Mohammed said in his submission.

“This will create a disharmonious environment for minority groups in Australia and have a negative impact on multiculturalism.”

Liberal senator James Paterson, a member of the parliamentary joint committee on human rights inquiring into 18C, told The Australian the Grand Mufti’s proposal was “dangerous”.

“Effectively that would mean Australia has a nation­al blasphemy law because criticising someone’s religious belief­s in a way that offended them could breach the law,” the Victorian senator said.

“That would mean legitimate criticism of religion or religious beliefs could become unlawful in Australia,” he said.

“Religion shouldn’t be off limits­ for public criticism and debate­, and widening this law would mean atheists, who often ridicule religious beliefs … would effect­ively be stopped from critic­ising ­religion.”

Section 18C of the Act makes it illegal to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person on the basis of race, colour, or national or ethni­c origin­.

The protection only covers Muslims if they can demonstrate the act of racial ­hatred is connected to their race, colour, or national or ethnic ­origin.

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