Monday, July 8, 2013

The Intolerant Underbelly of Australian Society

A few days ago, some new ministers were sworn into the cabinet of the Australian Government. Among them was Mr Ed Husic, the son of Bosnian immigrants. He is a Muslim, and he chose to take the oath of office on the Koran. I reproduce here an article from the web page of the newspaper, The West Australian (

Australia's first Muslim Federal frontbencher has shrugged off a backlash on social media against him for being sworn in on the Koran, saying though some of the reaction was extreme, people were entitled to ask questions.

Dozens of abusive and racist messages were posted on the Facebook page of Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Broadband Ed Husic, accusing him of undermining the Constitution and being un-Australian.

One user said they were: "Totally disgusted!! Sharia law next on your agenda is it?"
Another posted: "Swore to serve Australia using the same book terrorists do to serve al-Qaida . . . Disgusting."

Another said: "You swore an oath on a book that tells people to kill non-Muslims. Does that mean you condone me being killed?"

Mr Husic, the son of Bosnian migrants, said the criticism was a part of democracy. He said his decision had been straightforward. "I couldn't obviously take my oath on a Bible," he said. "I am who I am." Governor-General Quentin Bryce said at Monday's ceremony it was "a wonderful day for multiculturalism".

Mr Husic doesn’t ‘look like’ a Muslim. Imagine the reaction if he did! I don’t know who those people were, who adopted such a despicable and intolerant attitude. I hope that there are many more, like the Governor-General, who welcome this as a wonderful day. There are narrow and intolerant people on all sides of politics and within all religious traditions. I am perversely rather glad that this event stirred up some of the detritus that lurks at the bottom of the pond. It can help to remind us that, despite the illusion that we perpetuate about Australia as a tolerant and open society, there remains this grimy underbelly of intolerance, xenophobia and even hatred. It does not take much to stir up this hatred, be it directed against Muslims, the Gay community or the desperate people who try to reach our shores on unseaworthy vessels.

Personally I would like to thank Mr Husic for demonstrating that Muslims can happily participate in our democratic form of society. I would like to wish him and all Muslims in Australia well for this month of Ramadan.

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