Tim Blair


New Criterion



Friday, February 14, 2003
Acting Commissioner for Racial Discrimination
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

I am taking up your invitation to comment on your proposal that “Islamophobia” should be made an offense punishable by your star chamber.
First, does your apostrophising of “Islamophobia” mean that you don’t know what the term means? You certainly haven’t defined it. I suppose that when you decide that it should be illegal you’ll tell us what it is.

In the meantime, and before you can force Uncle to sanitise his Website as you did the lamentable anti-Semite Frederick Toben, let me record some of my misgivings about political Islam.

I’m sure the worthy Professor Amin Saikal of the ANU, an expert on middle-eastern affairs, is right when he says that the great majority of Muslims are reasonable people who just want to live in peace and prosperity. Just like Uncle, except I want the occasional glass of claret as well.

But there are these other homicidal maniacs who call me an infidel and want to shred me if I get in the way of their plans for world domination. They hate most of the things I love, including claret, and there are times my feelings about them might be described quite fairly as phobic.

I know it’s hard to believe this could be a problem for us lucky Australians living south of Bali, and no-one to the left of John Howard seems to believe that it is.

But occasionally some journalist or other is indiscreet enough to report that Australia’s most senior Islamic cleric is a supporter of that pin-up of Islamic fanaticism, Osama bin Laden, and of his spiritual mentors. This Aussie leader of our Muslim fellow-citizens also believes that the culture of the society that hosts him is a load of crap. We tolerate non-believers. Our women provoke good young Muslim men to gang-rape. Our Jewish citizens are sexual perverts bent on world domination through US imperialism. According to his followers, the Indians and Chinese are just as evil. And these people run mosques, schools, kindergartens and host Bashir the bomber of Bali.

I am still waiting for all those good moderate Muslims to rise up and depose these friends of fanaticism.

Bill, it is all making me nervous. Point is, is it going to be illegal for me to say so?

Ridiculous idea. Looking for comfort I checked the list of determinations you made under the Racial Dscrimination Act before the judging business was taken away from you in 2001 and placed in the slightly less-flaky judicial hands of the Federal Court.

It seems racial vilification is a hard-to-prove offence. Almost the only person to succeed is a Mr Robert Brophy who has been, and still is, accused by people in his clan of being a multiple child-rapist. Someone on a Perth radio station made reference to this and you charged him $10 000 for it. That certainly makes me Freespeechaphobic.

If Mr Brophy did not have access to your services, I presume he would have been obliged to seek satisfaction through the laws relating to defamation. The accused could have tried a defence of public interest, I suppose. Do your laws require you to listen to arguments like that, Bill? Still, I guess that you, unlike those crass defamation lawyers, don’t charge for your services, provided one is a legally-defined victim.

Not hard to see why someone would want you to define him as a victim. Of Islamophobia, or, indeed, of anything at all.

You told Auntie’s Stephen Crittenden, when he indiscreetly (Islamophobically?) referred to the proliferation of anti-Semitic Islamic Websites, that you had done something or other about them. What was that, Bill? A quiet word to the Mufti? And he has foresworn the convictions on which his life to date has been based? I stand ready to be mightily impressed.

Oh dear! Having used my quota of free speech already, I now see from your press release that your enquiry is not really about “Islamophobia” at all. What you’re excited about is the idea of inventing the offence of religious vilification.

You seem to be worried that someone might call you a fool if, in the interests of making them all vilifiable as Muslims, you ascribed a single ethnicity, as a Muslim, to a Pakistani, a Kosovar, an Indonesian and a Uighur herdsman. I would, Bill, I would.

Now “religious vilification” is a very interesting idea and not without merit. If someone had been smart enough to think of it in the sixteenth century, Europeans might have been spared centuries of very beastly behaviour in the name of the Protestant revolution.

But would we have “human rights” today? And would you have such a cushy job?

Sorry to rave on so, but your questions are really too big for me to handle in a tidy way. And I don’t think you’re up to it either, Bill.