Saturday, September 22, 2012

The speech Julia Gillard forgot to give after the Sydney riots

Fellow Australians. Muslim Australians. I recently spoke to you, after the disgusting display of violence which you perpetrated on the streets of Sydney,  in response to the release of a film in the United States. On that occasion, I emphasised the repulsive character of the film before condemning your lawless aggressive and dangerous behaviour. I now realise that that I may have done both you, and your fellow non muslim Australians a grave disservice. A little while ago, I stood in front of a group of executives representing foreign owned mining companies, and told them that they did not have the right to exploit our minerals in ways which were deleterious to our nation. Their response was slack jawed disbelief. But it had to be said, because certain fundamentals in a society constituted such as ours are non negotiable. So, I say to you, muslim Australians, you do not have a right not to be insulted. You do not have a right to use violence, or the threat of violence to get your own way. You do not have a right to force your religious views on people who do not share your faith.
Have you ever wondered why so many people have an instinctive distrust of Mr Tony Abbott ? It is because, whatever his views on tax cuts for billionaires, or on labour relations may be, we recognise that his raison d'etre is simply to force his religious views on our society. In doing so he stands firmly in the tradition of his church, who for a thousand years, routinely murdered atheists, that is to say people like me, for the crime of not being catholic. The word heretic has as its root a Greek phrase which means ' free to choose' and catholics murdered a million people who wanted to be free to choose. Thankfully, that sort of thing no longer happens in western society. Why ? Did the popes and their followers suddenly turn around and say that it had all been a ghastly mistake ? Not at all. Our forefathers who were better and braver that ourselves, fought religious barbarism in the western world, and were triumphant, but only after the deaths of millions and the suffering of millions more in appalling and protracted wars. They established a western, secular, democratic, liberal tradition which has lasted from the demise of religious autocracy to the present day. When you consider the values and practises which characterise our society, that is to say, democracy, freedom of expression, the rule of law, tolerance, the rights of man etc, you will have noted that all were at one time or another opposed by religion, and religious leaders. The freedoms and rights which you enjoy here in Australia were none of them created by religion, and were generally established in the face of bitter religious attacks.
When I survey the state of human rights around the globe, I cannot help but notice that religious societies are generally those in which human rights are least respected. I also note that secular societies enjoy a level of religious freedom which religious societies never do. Like everyone else, I was thrilled by the spectacle of the Arab Spring. Here I thought, were nations and peoples fighting for their freedom against a group of the most disgusting and bizarre dictators imaginable. Alas, far from creating freedom, the uprisings have established a critical mass of religious barbarism, the legacy of which we may struggle with for many years.
The Turkish Prime Minister recently said that he believed 'islamophobia' is a crime against humanity. I need hardly remind you that he is at the forefront of a movement to destroy secularism in Turkey, and forcibly return one of the few free societies with a muslim majority to a pre Ataturk theocracy. The comments that he made are, however, deserving of a response. This is partly because so many Australians are beginning to question the very basis of our multicultural traditions as a consequence of your actions. Many of you will suggest that the violence exhibited in Sydney the other day was no worse than that practised by the CFMEU, another group with a tradition of violence and intimidation. It is not because these vicious industrial thugs are my personal sponsors that I point out that whatever the shortcomings of the CFMEU might be, they do not represent a threat to the very basis of our society, but you do. If one has the temerity to point out the obvious fact that peace in the Middle East will never be possible unless the Americans and Israelis end their brutal, illegal, immoral and racist occupation of Palestine, and return to the 1948 borders, you can expect to be showered with accusations of anti semetism. Such accusations however, do not alter the facts. If you point out that to discriminate against women is evil, immoral and wrong, you can similarly expect to be accused of 'islamaphobia' In the past we have taken the trouble to emphasise cultural diversity, and a tolerance of different traditions, when we approach problems of this sort, but I wonder if we have done you muslim Australians a grave disservice by doing so. We may have tempted you to believe that it is acceptable for your religious views to take precedence over the very foundations of our society here in Australia. When I say that it is unacceptable for you to attempt to intimidate us into giving up our freedoms, this is not 'islamophobia' it is plain common sense. How can you expect your fellow Australians to respect you when you call for a cartoonist to be beheaded for exercising his freedom of speech ? How many of you have marched to protest against the genital mutilation of girls in islamic countries ? How many of you have drawn placards condemning the muslim practise of throwing acid at the faces of supposedly disobedient women ? In your tradition, you do not visually represent your prophet mohammed, and that of course is your right. But you do not have the right to prevent others from depicting him if they want to. Your use of violence and threats to stop certain cartoons has had two consequences, firstly a truly amazing proliferation of mohammed cartoons on the Internet and across the media, and secondly, a well earned distrust from your fellow Australians. You say that you will punish anyone who insults islam, but doesn't your holy book insult non muslims ? You cannot stone women to death, hang twelve year old boys accused of homosexuality, and suicide bomb innocent civilians, and then demand our respect for your beliefs. When Enlightenment values were adopted as the basis for our society, freedom of religion was one of the most important rights that was guaranteed, although these values were established, it must be said, in the face of enthusiastic religious opposition. However, religious freedom was  granted with two significant provisos, firstly no one has the right to harm anybody in the pursuit of their religion, and secondly, no one has the right to force their religion, or their religious views on anybody else. I am afraid that you muslim Australians are in danger of deserving our enmity by your refusal to respect these fundamental rules.
Time and again I have heard from you the claim that islam is a religion of peace, but the evidence of the nightly news bulletins belie this claim.
If you saw a black man on the other side of the road and said, without meeting or knowing him, that he was a thief, you would be a racist. If he walked across the road and took your wallet, calling him a thief would be nothing less that the truth. If your fellow Australians are dismayed by your violence, they are not being 'islamophobic' they are expressing a noble concern for the values and practises which in our country have created a free society. If you doubt this simple truth, let me remind you that whilst we guarantee your right to practise your religion here, and welcome your building of mosques in Australia, precious few churches or synagogues or buddhist temples, or mormon tabernacles are ever built in Saudi Arabia, or Iraq, or Iran. If you are an islamic woman who wants to wear a burka on our streets, nobody stops you, but I wonder what the reaction would be if I put on a short skirt, and walked hand in hand with my boyfriend along a road in Tehran ? There is something deeply troubling about a philosophy which demands freedom for itself while at the same time attempting to deny those same freedoms to other people.
We have welcomed you in to our country, and invited you to participate with us in a fair and tolerant society. You have repaid us by trying to take away our freedoms. The Sydney riots represent a fundamental challenge to the values of a nation which has greeted you, in a way which islamic nations would never greet us. I invite you to prove to me and your fellow Australians that you are deserving of that welcome.  

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