Bigotry in Australia

Peter Kurti at CIS writes:

Federal Labor MP Ed Husic is to be commended for his cool reaction to the swirl of anti-Islamic posts on Twitter and Facebook this week.

When he was sworn in on Monday as a Parliamentary Secretary, the member for Chifley became Australia’s first Muslim frontbencher.

Mr Husic, the son of Bosnian migrants, took the oath of office on a copy of the Qu’ran. ‘I couldn’t obviously take my oath on a bible,’ he said. ‘I am who I am.’

But that decision provoked unpleasant and anonymous attacks on social media which accused Mr Husic of treacherous and unconstitutional behaviour.

As well as being offensive, these rants were both absurd and inconsistent.

Far from being an unconstitutional act, Mr Husic’s decision to take the oath of office on the Qu’ran falls entirely within the provision of section 116 of the Australian Constitution.

Not only does the Constitution protect the free exercise of religion, section 116 prohibits religion being made a qualification for public office under the Commonwealth.

In other words, the Constitution protects the rights of Muslims to hold public office. When a Muslim is appointed to such an office, it is entirely appropriate that he or she take the oath on the Qu’ran if they wish to do so.

The Qu’ran has long been made available to Australian Muslims taking the oath in Australian courts of law.

A person taking an oath on a sacred book is not promising explicitly to uphold the contents of that book. The book simply serves as a symbol of invocation as the oath taker calls upon God to be the guarantor of his or her integrity.

NZ is rather more tolerant on these things. Ashraf Choudhary in 2002 was elected an MP and chose to swear his parliamentary path on the Qu’ran.  Off memory, there was no fuss or protest or backlash at all (except from Winston Peters, but he doesn’t count) – as there should be. We either allow no-one to swear an oath on a religious book, or we allow all religious books to be used. A country should not tell its citizens which religions are acceptable.

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