Sharia by Stealth

18c logo IIIThe infiltration of non-Muslim countries by Islam is one of the strategies Mohammed devised when creating his ideology. His initial approach was persuasion through infiltration and, if that failed, he then adopted a military strategy through conquest and total domination. This is still Islam’s approach today. The financing of universities by Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for gaining critical leverage and massive influence has been endemic in the United States but also other Western countries, including Australia. This enables these oppressive Islamic regimes to strategically insert academics who become prominent and thus extremely influential in corrupting the minds of gullible students.

There is no Centre for Western Civilisation in Australian universities. However, there are plenty of centres dedicated to the promotion of Islamic states and societies. Take a look for instance at the Centre for Muslim States and Societies at the University of Western Australia. Its director is Samina Yasmeen (BSc Punjab, MSc Quaid-i-Azam, MA ANU, PhD Tas), a self-described expert in ‘the role of Islam in world politics’. When the media reported violent protests in Sydney by radical Muslims attacking the police, she dared to create a moral equivalence between the violence of Muslims and the so-called ‘violence’ of YouTube videos that ‘inflame emotions across the Muslim world.’[1] These videos ‘violate the special place assigned to Prophet Mohammed. Any disrespect is felt as an intrusion into this sacred space’, she said.[2]

This Muslim academic claims it is the disrespect of Islam that triggers the violent responses of radical Muslims against non-Muslims. Instead of addressing the appalling levels of intolerance and bigotry within the Muslim community, Yasmeen proposes a form of punishment of those who ‘violate’ the ‘religious feelings’ of Muslims. She argues that Australians should be forced to respect these ‘religious feelings’, which cannot be ‘invaded’ by infidels.  Any criticism of Islam is, in her opinion, a primary source of Islamic terrorism and all sorts of intolerant behaviour: ‘I would argue that intentionally violating spaces sacred to Muslims or any other people falls within the space of violence. Though not obviously targeting anyone living today, deliberating inflaming emotions needs to be acknowledged as violence’, she says.[3]  Yasmeen also talks about ‘coordinating financial sanctions’ that ‘could help the Muslims deal with such attacks on religions feelings’. In order to ‘help Muslims to deal with such attacks on religious feeling’, a form of Sharia law by stealth should be imposed:

A billion dollar lawsuit against those who target religious beliefs, and engage in intense violation of sacred spaces, would shift the whole discussion to a different place. Even if the courts throw out the suit, it would focus attention on legal pathways to oppose such violence aimed at space that is sacred for a quarter of humanity. It may even create pathways that counter violence of this kind. [4]

Professor Yasmeen seems really concerned about not allowing Australians to offend Muslim sensibilities. And yet, she has no problem in offending the Australian Christian community. Published by the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Islamophobia in Australia 2014-2016 is highly critical of the Australian people, in particular the Christian community.[5] Such a book claims, among other things, that ‘the Christian response to other faiths is mixed and nuanced’.[6] It also states that: ‘(i) it is likely the majority of Christians are liable to view Islam through an exclusivist lens; and (ii) the history of Christian exclusivism can provide soil out of which episodes of Islamophobia can arise’.[7] The book also seeks to see a greater focus on more deserving targets of official scrutiny:  ‘The potential danger of right-wing organisations is currently minimized with government, police, media and community focus on extremist Muslim violence’, argues one of the authors.[8] Yasmeen contributes an article on ‘Countering Islamophobia’ to such outrageous publication.  There she openly advocates the introduction of a form of Islamic blasphemy law. ‘Australian leaders have not always taken responsibility for countering Islamophobia,” she laments. “Politicians need to adopt a consistent policy of speaking out against acts of … negativity towards Australian Muslims when they happen’, she says.[9]

The federal Labor Party apparently seeks to follow Professor Yasmeen’s advice. It wishes to do so by extending the reach of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to cover religion. Chris Merritt, legal affairs editor of The Australian newspaper, reports that Labor is considering a plan to extend the reach of litigation based on section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to include people claiming they have been ­offended or insulted because of their religion. In other words, this party wishes to establish Sharia law by stealth in order to prevent people offending Islam. Labor’s federal Attorney General Mark Dreyfus has confirmed that Labor would support such changes to section 18C of the ­Racial Discrimination Act.[10] Because Labor’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten ­rejected changes to 18C, there appears to be a plan not only to consolidate all federal anti-discrimination laws, but also to extend the controversial section to religious grounds, among other things.

The proposal comes from Labor’s Anne Aly, an Egyptian-born Muslim MP who seeks to expand the scope of anti-discrimination laws to religion, while simultaneously imposing significant restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The prospect of an Islamic blasphemy law emerged when Dr Aly said there was “scope to reassess” extending section 18C, saying the racism debate now “extends to religion”. She said there was scope to extend 18C to cover religion because, so she says, “we have definitely seen an increase in anti-Islamic rhetoric”. Dr Aly has been rightly denounced by former Human Rights commissioner Tim Wilson. Her proposal is part of a ‘mad, ideological drive of the modern Labor Party to use laws to shut people up. It will turn Australia into Saudi Arabia, where people can be hauled before courts for criticising religion’, he says. [11] Indeed, James Spigelman QC has previously stated that this sort of proposal would have the practical effect of reintroducing the crime of blasphemy into Australia’s law.[12]

Dr Aly’s proposal aims at applying to religion the same formulations which are applied to race. But people cannot choose the color of their skin, religion is, to some degree at least, a matter of choice and not an immutable genetic characteristic. In contrast to racial issues, where one finds no matters of “true” or “false,” religious beliefs involve ultimate claims to truth and error. As law professor Ivan Hare points out, ‘religions inevitably make competing and often incompatible claims about the nature of the true god, the origins of the universe, the path to enlightenment and how to live a good life and so on. These sorts of claims are not mirrored in racial discourse.’[13]  That being so, law professor Rex Tauati Ahdar reminds us that the laws of a democratic society ‘should be less ready to protect people from vilification based on the voluntary life choices of its citizens compared to an unchangeable attribute of their birth.’[14]

Indeed, laws that make it a crime to voice comments deemed “offensive” to a religious group may create undue fear and intimidation on people who wish to freely express their ideas and opinions. Such laws unreasonably compromise political communication, which is a basic freedom derived from our system of democratic government and implied in the Constitution. Otherwise, are we really willing to create in this country the crime of blasphemy that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) proposes? Not surprisingly, Dr Aly’s idea has strong support from Federation of Islamic Councils’ president Keysar Trad. ‘Of course we need religious protection. Section 18C should be strengthened and broadened … so that Australians can go about their legitimate daily business … free from persecution on the basis of their religious affiliation,’ he said. Of course, radical Muslims living in Western democracies will have to find different ways to use our legal system to punish those who “offend” their intolerant beliefs. They find in religious anti-discrimination laws a suitable mechanism to strike fear in the hearts of the “enemies of the faith.”

Indeed, one of the greatest ironies of anti-discrimination laws on religious grounds is that their chief beneficiaries are a small but vocal group of Islamic extremists, although it is not clear why such people should merit statutory protection from severe criticism: surely the contrary is required. Surely some of their beliefs are deeply disturbing. For example, a Muslim cleric from Melbourne has notoriously stated that male Muslims should hit and force sex upon their disobedient wives.[15] Although such appalling remarks deserve our strongest condemnation, even the slightest criticism of abhorrent statements may result in a person being dragged into a court and charged with religious vilification. Because legislation of this kind operates in terroren, writes Dr Ian Spry QC,

many will be unprepared to make critical comments or give warnings about Islam and about Moslems in Australia or abroad, however well-based those comments or warnings would be. In particular, in a world where Moslem terrorists are active, and where threats are made by them against Australia, and where some Moslem leaders in Australia express sympathy with terrorists, the ability of Australia to defend themselves and their interests is seriously diminished.[16]

Australians must be entitled to openly manifest their opinion as to why they might regard any aspect of a religious belief as ultimately mendacious, retrograde and mindless. Indeed, there is no apparent reason as to why speech concerning religious matters should not simultaneously be characterized as political communication for the purposes of the freedom of political communication implied in the Australian Constitution. Religion is rarely a private matter alone, and the very nature of religious speech is often intertwined with ‘political opinions, perspectives, philosophies and practices.’[17] As law professor Nicholas Aroney points out, ‘law which prohibits religious vilification will infringe the implied right to freedom of political communication.’[18]

We should never allow our fundamental rights and freedoms to be undermined by the inflated sensitivities of a few radical Muslims. The sort of law proposed by the likes of Dr Aly and Professor Yasmeen would create a new and more disguised form of Islamic blasphemy law by stealth in Australia. Dr Aly and Professor Yasmeen are not part of “a fringe group”, but ‘they represent the mainstream of contemporary Islam.’[19] As noted by Ayaan Hirsi Alia, Muslims often tend to think that blasphemers deserve some form of severe punishment. Of course, in countries ruled by Islamic law any comment deemed “offensive” the official religion is a crime of apostasy and thus severely punished, often by death.

Throughout the Muslim world, ‘accusations of blasphemy or insulting Islam are used systematically in much of that world to send individuals to jail or to bring about intimidation through threats, beatings and killings.’[20] It is applied against Muslims who are judged to be apostates and against non-Muslims when they have lost the “protection” afforded under the dhimma pact, or covenant protection.[21] If performed by a Muslim these ‘offences’ are an evidence of apostasy, which is a capital offense.[22] Conversely, if the transgression is attributed to a non-Muslim living under the Islamic rule, the death penalty is also applied.[23] The offending dhimmi shall be treated as “an object of war,” which in Sharia Law results in ‘confiscation of property, enslavement (of wife and children), and death.’[24] As Dr Michael Nazir-Ali explains ‘there is unanimity among the lawyers that anyone who blasphemes against Muhammad is to be put to death, although how the execution is to be carried out varies from one person to another.’[25]

The execution of apostates is sanctioned by all five dominant streams of Islamic law, namely the Hanafi (Sunni), Shafi’i (Sunni), Maliki (Sunni), Hanbali (Sunni) and Ja’fari (Shi’a) legal codes, under which the State may impose the death penalty as a mandatory punishment (hudud) against adult male converts from Islam (irtidad).[26] For adult women, capital punishment is prescribed by three of the five Islamic schools. The exceptions are Hanafi Islam, which allows for permanent imprisonment (until the woman recants), and Ja’fari Islam, which allows imprisonment and beating with rods (until death or recantation).[27] With the exception of Ja’fari Islam, the death penalty is also applied to child apostates under Sharia law, with such a penalty typically delayed until attainment of maturity. Even more unsettling is the fact that under three of the five Islamic legal codes, apostasy need not be articulated verbally to incur mandatory punishment; even inward apostasy is punishable.[28]

In non-Islamic countries other strategies must be applied against those who offend Muslim ‘sensibilities’. Indeed, one of the primary mechanisms to silence the criticism of Islam is the enactment of religious anti-discrimination laws. And yet, it is not entirely clear why radical religionists should actually merit any statutory protection from so-called “hate speech.”  Above all there is no good reason as to why the “religious tenets” of radical Muslims should be accorded any respect or legal protection from spoken hostility, particularly as the same protection does not seem to be afforded to others.

And yet, laws such as that proposed by Dr Aly aim at making such Muslims a protected class of citizens beyond any criticism, precisely at the moment when the Western republics need to examine the implications of having admitted into their countries people with greater allegiance to Islamic law than to the pluralist societies in which they have settled.[29]  Because of the intrinsic nature of the Islamic religion, however, subjugation of the democratic process by an extreme form of political Islam is more likely to be detrimental to the basic rights of all Australians, and women in particular, which are rights held very dear by all Australians. Of course, such a development would pose a great threat to the country’s democratic process itself.

By contrast, the future in Australia of religious harmony depends on the cultivation of a more acculturated form of Islamic expression. To speak of Islamophobia (as does Professor Yasmeen and Dr Aly) is to avoid rational debate and to maintain the crudest confusion between a specific system of belief and the person who fanatically adheres to it. As the citizens of a democratic society, we have the right to strongly criticise any religion, to consider any such a religion completely mendacious, retrograde and even mindless. Or should we then establish the crime of blasphemy that the Organization of the Islamic Conference has demanded in 2006, when it introduced at the United Nations a notorious motion which prohibits defaming religion and imposing strict limits on freedom of expression in the domain of religion?

We are seeing the fabrication of a new crime of opinion that is analogous to the crime used against the “enemies of the people” in the former Soviet Union.  This is why religious “tolerance” laws are so dangerous. They allow religious fanatics to demarcate the things others are allowed to say. But true religious freedom, however, is about subjecting religion to competing perspectives as well as critical analysis and scrutiny. This is done in the hope that the adherents of every religion understand that the practice of any faith within Australia boarders imply a willingness to withstand public scrutiny of the kind long endured by the Christian community.

Because of the political nature of Islam, however, such a comprehension seems all the more important. The protection of religious freedom as a fundamental right within our society necessarily involves the continued existence of our society as a democratic one. Otherwise the protection of such a freedom would be meaningless and ineffective. As stated above, subjugation of the political process by an extreme form of Islamic ideology would be profoundly detrimental to the preservation of our fundamental rights and freedoms. In an environment where radicalised Australian Muslims have expressed sympathy with Islamic terrorists, anti-discrimination laws such as proposed by Dr Aly would have a deleterious effect in that of making Australian citizens unprepared to criticise or give warnings about the nature of religious extremism and possible terrorist activity, however well-based these concerns might be.

Dr Augusto Zimmermann LLB (Hon.), LLM cum laude, PhD (Mon.) is Professor of Law at Sheridan College in Perth, Western Australia, and Professor of Law (Adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney campus. He is also President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA), and a former Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2012-2017). Dr Zimmermann is also the recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research, Murdoch University (2012)

[1] Samina Yasmeen, ‘Sydney Riots: Muslims Responses to Provocation Must Be More Considered’, The Conversation, September 17, 2012, at https://theconversation.com/sydney-riots-muslim-responses-to-provocation-must-be-more-considered-9607

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Derya Iner (ed.), Islamophobia in Australia 2014-2016, Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation (Charles Stuart University) et al., 2016, at https://arts-ed.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/2811960/csu-islamophobia-in-australia-report14-16.pdf

[6] Clive Pearson, ‘Islamophobia and Religion’, in Derya Iner (ed.), Islamophobia in Australia 2014-2016, Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation (Charles Stuart University) et al., 2016, p 12.

[7] Ibid, p 14.

[8] Linda Briskman and Susie Latham, ‘Political Islamophobia’, in Derya Iner (ed.), Islamophobia in Australia 2014-2016 , Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation (Charles Stuart University) et al., 2016, p 20.

[9] Samina Yasmeen, ‘Countering Islamophobia’, in Derya Iner (ed.), Islamophobia in Australia 2014-2016, Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation (Charles Stuart University) et al., 2016, p 97.

[10] Chris Merritt, ‘Labor Eyes Extending 18C Complaints’, The Australian, March 23, 2017, at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/labor-eyes-extending-18c-complaints-to-gender-disability-and-age/news-story/366d04d0d5efb5fc6ef575e4e3550afc?login=1

[11] Chris Merritt and Joe Kelly, ‘Move for Blasphemy Law Could Turn Us Into Saudi Arabia’, The Australian, March 29, 2017, at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/move-for-blasphemy-law-could-turn-us-into-saudi-arabia/news-story/2e24bb72c93bca28c25b0ea305f9420c

[12] James Spiegelman QC said: “The inclusion of “religion” as a “protected attribute” in the workplace, appears to me, in effect, to make blasphemy unlawful at work, but not elsewhere. The controversial Danish cartoons could be published, but not taken to work. Similar anomalies could arise with other workplace protected attributes, e.g., “political opinion,” “social origin,” “nationality.” – James Spigelman, ‘Free Speech Tripped Up by Offensive Line’, The Australian, December 11, 2012, at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/free-speech-tripped-up-by-offensive-line/news-story/288163b1d375540054144a39e3bb8cfd?sv=19df4cc331bafcc3fc267c9f6275c5b2

[13]. Ivan Hare, ‘Crosses, Crescents and Sacred Cows: Criminalising Incitement to Religious Hatred’ (2006) Public Law 521, at 531.

[14]. Rex Tauati Ahdar, ‘Religious Vilification: Confused Policy, Unsound Principle and Unfortunate Law’ (2007) 26 University of Queensland Law Journal 293, at 301

[15]‘It’s OK to Beat Wife, Demand Sex: Cleric’, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 22, 2009, at https://www.smh.com.au/national/its-ok-to-beat-wife-demand-sex-cleric-20090122-7n80.html

[16]. Ian Spry QC, ‘The Totalitarian Effects of Anti-Free Speech Legislation’ (2008) National Observer 64, at 65.

[17] Adrianne Stone, ‘Rights, Personal Rights and Freedoms: The Nature of the Freedom of Political Communication’ (2001) 25 Melbourne University Law Review 374, at 386-387.

[18] Nicholas Aroney, ‘The Constitutional (In)validity of Religious Vilification Laws: Implications for their Interpretation’ (2006) 34 Federal Law Review 288, 313. See also: Neil Foster, ‘Anti-Vilification Laws and Freedom of Religion in Australia – Is Defamation Enough?’ Paper presented at the conference ‘Justice, Mercy and Conviction: Perspectives on Law, Religion and Ethics’, University of Adelaide School of Law, 7-9 June, 2013, 14.


[20] Paul Marshall, ‘Blasphemy and Free Speech’ (2012) 41(2) Imprimis 2 (2012). In these Islamic countries even Muslims themselves may be persecuted if they do not endorse the official interpretation of Islam: “Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims may be persecuted for differing from the version of Islam promulgated by locally hegemonic religious authorities. … Iran represses Sunnis and Suffis. In Egypt, Shia leaders have been imprisoned and tortured.”

[21] Mark Durie, ‘Sleeping into Sharia: Hate Speech and Islamic Blasphemy Strictures’ (2012) 15 International Trade & Business Law Review 394, at 396.

[22]  Ibid.

[23]. Ibid.

[24]. Ibid.

[25]. Michael Nazir-Ali, ‘Islamic Law, Fundamental Freedoms, and Social Cohesion: Retrospect and Prospect’, in Rex Ahdar & Nicholas Aroney (eds.), Shari’a in the West (Oxford/UK: Oxford University Press, 2010) p 79.

[26]. Patrick Sookhdeo, Faith, Power and Territory: A Handbook of British Islam (London/UK: Isaac Publishing, 2008), p 24.

[27] Ibid.

[28]. In countries that are subject to Islamic law, writes Charles Moore, “Believers who reject or insult Islam have no rights. Apostasy is punishable by death. In Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, death is the penalty for those who convert from Islam to Christianity. In Pakistan, the blasphemy law prescribes death for anyone who, even accidentally, defiles the name of Mohammed. In a religion which, unlike Christianity, has no idea of a god who himself suffers humiliation, all insult must be avenged if the honour of god is to be upheld. Under Islam, Christians and Jews, born into their religion, have slightly more rights than apostates. They are ‘dhimmis’, second-class citizens who must pay the ‘jiyza’, a sort of poll tax, because of their beliefs. Their life is hard. In Saudi Arabia, they cannot worship in public at all, or be ministered to by clergy even in private. In Egypt, no Christian university is permitted. In Iran, Christians cannot say their liturgy in the national language. In almost all Muslim countries, they are there on sufferance and, increasingly, because of radical Islamism, not even on that.” – Charles Moore, ‘Is It only Mr. Bean who Resists this New Religious Intolerance?’, Daily Telegraph, December 11, 2004,  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/3613495/Is-it-only-Mr-Bean-who-resists-this-new-religious-intolerance.html.

[29]. Robert Spencer, ‘Religious Vilification’, Human Events, January 24, 2005, at  http://www.humanevents.com/2004/12/22/pastors-found-guilty-of-religious-vilification-of-muslims/. Steve Edwards comments: “This legal hypocrisy is compounded by that of the moral kind when one considers that religions and religious ‘holy texts’ themselves partake in some of the vilest hate speech towards nonbelievers, without providing a single morally defensible reason for their incitement. For instance, Sura 22:19-22 of the Koran claims, without providing any evidence, that non-Muslims will have ‘boiling water’ poured  over their heads, melting their skin and innards, while being ‘punished’ and terrorised with ‘hooked rods of iron’. This horrific fate is not intended to be temporary: ‘Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said to them): Taste the doom of burning’. Sura 4:56 warns that ‘those who disbelieve our revelations’ shall suffer being ‘roasted’ alive. The punishment does not end there, for ‘as often as their skins are consumed, we shall exchange them for fresh skins that they may taste the torment’. The passage concludes: ‘Allah is ever Mighty, Wise’.” – Steve Edwards, ‘Do We Really Need Religious Vilification Laws? (2005) Policy 30, p 33.

7 thoughts on “Sharia by Stealth

  • shirley nott says:

    Send this to Prof Schmidt at ANU

  • Mohsen says:

    The statement by the Muslim cleric from Melbourne seems to be misread: To be fair to the cleric he didn’t state that “male Muslims should hit and force sex upon their disobedient wives.”
    According to SMH he has “told his male followers they can demand sex from their wives and hit them.” Also “Mr. Hamza is also quoted as saying that it is permissible in some circumstances for a husband to beat his wife.”

    (Not that it makes at all any dent in the valid and vital concern expressed in the essay!)

  • innocuous says:

    How often do we hear the lament from the Muslim community that we should not criticise Islam lest it provoke a violent response from Muslims. This has got to be the most asinine self defeating assertion I have ever heard. If Islam was so benign it would be beyond reproach.

  • exuberan says:

    Saudi Arabia reportedly responded to the growing number of people fleeing the Middle East for western Europe by offering to build 200 new mosques in Germany.

  • en passant says:

    I lived in several M.E. countries, but every six weeks or so I needed to take a break somewhere, anywhere to retain my sanity. Curiously, several of the most religious adherents of islam asked me for help in immigrating to Oz – and were offended when I refused. I gave my reasons that we were a pluralist society with our public schools mixing all races and religions. I gave the example that their son might have to share a desk with a Jewish boy and an Indian Hindu girl. They were (without exception) appalled at the prospect.

    So, where are they now?
    Amr (Egyptian Sunni) is in Londonistan, Mustafa (Egyptian Sunni)is in Egypt, Farshad (Iranian Shia)is in Perth, Australia, Maya (Algerian Sunni)is in Canada, Hussein (Iranian Shia) is in Brisbane, Tehsheena (Pakistani Sunni)is in Londonistan, (Wan Malaysian ??)is in Norway & Zaki (Iraqi Sunni)is in Kuwait. Spot the pattern of the highly religious as they blend in …

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    We might be able to use such a law to protect Christian sensibilities as well. I imagine the so called artist who presented Piss Christ could be in big trouble although I suspect Dreyfus would not include Christianity as a religion.

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