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Anti-Muslim Bigotry

The Australian Government and Intellectual Protectionism

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As some of you may be aware, the Australian government recently intervened to stop Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips entering the country to attend a conference.(incidently organised by Muslim Matters guest writer Sheikh Abu Yusuf Tawfique Chowdhury). The opposition party, the Australian Labor Party, then tried to outdo the government by calling for fellow conference delegate Yvonne Ridley to have her visa removed and to be forcibly deported on account of things she allegedly said in the past.

Apparently, the ALP considers Australian minds far too fragile to be exposed to Ms Ridley’s views. However, strangely, they haven’t said anything about the fact former ALP Prime Minister Bob Hawke shared a podium with Ms Ridley at a Copenhagen conference last year and even co-signed a declaration with her on the issue of ‘Islamaphobia’. Surely, if Ms Ridley can exercise such a poisonous influence over Australian minds, the ALP should also be condemning their former Prime Minister in the same language they now condemn the federal government. Of course, we won’t be holding our breath for that.

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The ostensible reasoning for the ‘ban’ on Dr Bilal Philips was that he posed some sort of ‘security risk’ and should therefore not be allowed to enter the country. However, the basis for this seems to be what the government believes Dr Philips has said as opposed to anything he has actually done. He hasn’t, after all, been charged with any terrorism-related offences. Therefore, it seems it is, at best, his ideas that the government wishes to keep out of Australia rather than simply his person.

Of course, I don’t believe Dr Philips poses any threat to Australia and his continued denunciation of extremism and terrorism, dating back many years should have stood as irrefutable testimony as to his moderation. Likewise, his frequent visits to the United Kingdom, a country which, unlike Australia, has experienced terrorism on its own soil, would suggest that perhaps he isn’t the risk that some Australian politicians think or imagine he is.

However, leaving aside the particular case of Dr Philips, it raises an interesting question: should governments prevent people from entering who hold views, ideas or opinions which the government or even the majority of the population might find offensive, hateful or otherwise disagreeable?

I’ve written in more detail about this issue in the Herald Sun, the newspaper which originally broke the ‘story’ of Dr Philips’ visa issues. In essence, I’m of the view that there is more benefit in allowing unpopular or even offensive views to be aired and discussed, rather than doing, as the government seems to be doing, and trying to control what words and ideas Australians are exposed to. This goes for ideas that non-Muslims find offensive as much as it applies to ideas that we might find offensive or disturbing.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    April 7, 2007 at 10:53 AM

    mashallah good article (the one in the herald sun)

  2. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    April 7, 2007 at 11:03 AM

    Excellent Amir!! Keep up the marvellous work.

  3. Avatar

    abu abdillah

    April 7, 2007 at 12:42 PM

    assalamu alaikum,

    was Sh. Jafar Idris also not allowed to attend the conference?

    assalamu alaikum,

    abu abdillah

  4. Avatar

    Amir

    April 8, 2007 at 12:41 AM

    Abu Abdillah: Sheikh Ja’far wasn’t issued a visa because the Australian government requested all sorts of information and justifications that he just wasn’t able to provide in time.

    It’s unfortunate but ultimately the real losers are the government themselves who, if they were serious about tacking the supposed threat of religious extremism, should have welcomed a sensible, moderate and well respected scholar like Sh Ja’far. At some point, I hope governments realise that the best people to talk to religious Muslims are not the celebrity apostates and self-styled progressives, but authentic religious scholars who speak in the language and use the same frames of reference as the people they are addressing.

  5. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    April 8, 2007 at 1:04 AM

    Subhan’Allah, this is the type of attitude that’s becoming waaaaaaay more common – and accepted- all around the Western world… which results in trouble for everyone, especially for we who need the knowledge and wisdom of these people of knowledge!

  6. Avatar

    Amir

    April 8, 2007 at 5:22 AM

    The problem is that, firstly, you have governments that are fearful of homegrown terrorism and that is largely a result of the London bombings more than September 11. At the same time, there has been a conflation of ‘extremism’ with fundamentalism or Wahabiism because, to many non-Muslim eyes, there is little physical difference between the extremist and fundamentalist: both have beards, wear strange dress, believe in the shariah and so on. This naturally flows on to immigration decisions where governments become nervous about letting in people identified by the media or other Muslims as “Wahabis” or fundamentalists because they fear that they are of the same ideological lilt as al-Qaeda et al. There just isn’t much nuance when it comes to these things.

  7. Amad

    Amad

    April 8, 2007 at 1:10 PM

    Br. Amir… exactly my feelings on your comment regarding welcoming Sh. Jafar Idris. I mean do these government really expect Muslims to change because of Manji or some other liberal secularist? Do they expect youth who may be prone to extremism to be affected by some modernist guy or woman who questions even fundamentals of the religion?

    In general, these people are intelligent, but in this issue, they have completely missed the boat. They have allowed local politics and interest-group-pandering to trump real concerns and efforts to secure the homeland. Everyone loves a whipping boy, and Muslims provide this opportunity to Western/Australian politicians day-in, day-out. If there is one issue that they can guarantee themselves wide support, it is to whip out the Muslim bogey-man. Add a “Wahhabi” flavor (see Debunking the Wahhabi Myth here), and you have something that the general ignorant masses will swallow even without chewing on it!

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