IF YOU come to our country, you must abide by our laws.
It’s as simple as that.
There must be only one law for all Australians.
There is no place in our civilised Australian society for female genital mutilation, forced marriage, honour killings and polygamy.
While these are extreme examples, we should be wary of any attempts to allow “legal pluralism”, which would allow Muslims living in Australia to follow Sharia law. And yet Islamic leaders, such as the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, continue to press for the right of Muslims to practise Sharia law in opposition to Australian law.
For instance, the AFIC thinks Sharia law, the religious law of Islam, could operate within the family law system through a new model of “Islamic arbitration”. It notes that “in general, in Muslim lands, communities with different religions had the right to live in accordance with their own laws and traditions, just as Muslims could follow any legal school they preferred”.
There are even some who go further and want polygamous relationships accepted in this country.
This week Federation of Islamic Councils assistant secretary Keysar Trad insisted that the illegality of polygamous marriage would not prevent plural relationships.
“Marriage is traditionally something under God, not a secular system,” he told The Australian newspaper. “If people want to be involved in a plural relationship, that’s their concern.”
These are not legal models we welcome in this country, but they have been put forward by some Islamic groups in submissions to a federal parliamentary inquiry into multiculturalism. The inquiry, chaired by Victorian Labor MP Maria Vamvakinu, has been deliberating for two years and has received more than 500 submissions. It is due to report to Federal Parliament later this month.
Now, I should make it clear that not all Islamic leaders hold the points of view mentioned above. As the Islamic Council of Victoria’s submission to the federal inquiry states: “The overwhelming majority of Australian Muslims want nothing more than to get on with their lives and make meaningful contributions to this wonderful country.”
Most Australians want the same thing. Most of us support multiculturalism and cultural diversity because we recognise the benefits of living in a vibrant, diverse society enriched by people from many cultures.
But we do not want people coming here and insisting their values and laws should take precedence over ours. For instance, we do not think a Muslim man who dared to drink alcohol and take drugs should be whipped 40 times by four other Muslim men, as happened in Sydney.
We do not think a self-styled Muslim imam should be allowed to send offensive, derogatory and hurtful letters to the families of dead Diggers in the name of free speech.
We do not want the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation to be acceptable in this country.
And we do not think innocent children should attend rallies holding up signs with slogans such as:
Behead all those who insult the prophet.
In its submission to the federal inquiry, the AFIC says there is a need for the wider community to have a “greater understanding of cultural and faith norms”. They say suggestions that Muslims in Australia are not integrating and are living in enclaves are just examples of “racism”.
But those issues are unlikely to be resolved while extreme Muslim leaders continue to press for their own laws to trump our own.
It just fuels the largely erroneous notion that Muslims are not the same as the rest of us, don’t want to integrate and are here to dominate rather than assimilate.
Indeed, take a look through some of the committee’s 500 submissions and many of them are nasty, racist and extreme. Submissions call Muslims “lying, deceitful and dangerous”, assert that “Islam is not welcome in Australia” and that Muslims refuse to assimilate.
In fact, some of the comments on my own Herald Sun blog show the hatred and antipathy towards Muslims. As one blogger wrote of the Muslim religion last week: “This religion of terror is a plague on Australian and world society. If i am racist because i hate it , then so be it . . . but one day our kids will suffer because of this religion” (sic).
Such views are regrettable, but they will continue to spread until Muslims leaders rein in members of their own communities.
OTHER submissions to the inquiry present some legitimate barriers facing migrants including prejudice from employers, a lack of English language tuition, housing affordability and difficulty finding jobs.
Those are concrete and practical issues that can, and should, be addressed to help new migrants become fully functioning members of our society.
There also need to be innovative ways to help women become fully involved in Australian communities, particularly those who did not have legal rights in their own countries that the rest of us take for granted.
In order for multiculturalism to work successfully, we must accept cultural difference and religious expression as long as they do not violate our own laws and do not impinge on the rights of others.
As the former attorney-general Robert McLelland pointed out in 2011, if there is any inconsistency between cultural values and Australian laws, then our laws must prevail every time.
Our stable democracy, personal freedoms and high standard of living are all reasons many people from different countries want to come here to live. But we must not allow our own standards and legal protections to be eroded by others.
Our brand of multiculturalism must be underpinned by integration, not separatism.
- Australian Government: Sharia Law Out, One Law for All (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)