Several Muslim organisations, including Australian state umbrella Islamic organisations, and grassroots advocates have signed a letter to New South Wales (NSW) state Premier Dominic Perrottet in Australia, condemning the state’s Liberal Party government’s vote against a bill designed to protect Muslims from vilification on November 12, 2021, when similar protections already exist for Sikhs and Jews.
According to the Australasian Muslim Times (AMUST), a Sydney-based online and print community weekly, the Anti-Discrimination (Religious Vilification) Bill 2021 (NSW) was lost by a margin of four votes in the 93-member house due to votes against the bill by the state government. According to sources, the measure would have granted Muslims in NSW similar protection from vilification and hate campaigns.
The terrorist who killed 51 Muslim worshippers, including a Turkish citizen, and injured 40 others at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, was born in New South Wales and had only relocated to New Zealand in 2017.
“A proper response would be to prevent such harm from occurring in the future. “Muslims in New South Wales still face prejudice and vilification after more than two years,” it stated.
The terrorist attack drew widespread condemnation, with Turkey’s vice president and foreign minister visiting victims’ relatives in New Zealand three days later, Turkey vowing to combat Islamophobia on the international stage, and Turkey promising to closely monitor New Zealand until justice was served.
In the aftermath of the Christchurch atrocity, New Zealand is considering stricter hate speech, incitement, and discrimination laws, in contrast to the NSW government’s rejection of the measure.
The letter highlights that hatred leads to hate crimes, and that many Islamophobic attacks in Australia go unnoticed, such as the attack in Parramatta, NSW, on a 38-week pregnant woman wearing a hijab.
It claims that anti-Muslim animosity has fueled white nationalism in Australia for more than a decade, putting many other communities at risk, and that the dangers of doing nothing “impact us all,” and that the dangers of doing nothing “touch us all.”
The letter points out that while Jews and Sikhs have been deemed to be protected against hate campaigns by courts, Muslims are not, and there are no actual actionable protections for Muslims against hate crimes. According to sources, the measure was introduced in the state legislature by the Labour Party state shadow attorney general and the Greens. Muslims are one of the most targeted communities by right-wing extremists.
The letter goes on to say that the legislation referred to in debates by the state government, section 93Z of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which criminalises incitement to violence, has never been used, and that only police can bring a charge under it, whereas members of the Indian Sikh and Jewish communities can file a lawsuit as private citizens.
The Muslim community expressed concerns that the vote would send the message to law enforcement and society that hate directed against Muslims is different from hate directed at racial minorities, thus delivering a nod from the powerful to right-wing movements, emboldening them.
The Australian stand-up “comedian” who drew both criticism and praise after making jokes about the Christchurch massacre victims is also from NSW.