Islam’s Crusade Against Free Speech

Now that a religious discrimination bill is being proposed, there is a considerable risk that the Prime Minister might be contemplating the enactment of legislation to ban so-called ‘hate speech’ on the basis of severe criticism of a religion. As reported by the media, Scott Morrison has been urged by Islamic groups to extent to religious grounds the existing sanctions against those who offend people on the basis of race, gender, age, or disability.[1]

For Australians who have been following the Prime Minister’s approach to freedom of speech, this certainly comes as a very disturbing development.[2] After all, they would know among other things that, in a in December 2017 interview with the then-Fairfax Media, Morrison expressed his unconditional support for further restrictions on religious grounds. The now-Prime Minister declared:

It all starts when you allow … mockery to be made of your faith or your religious festivals — it always starts innocently and it’s always said it is just a joke — just like most discrimination does. And I’m just gonna call that out …  I’ve just taken the decision more recently, I’m just not going to put up with that any more, I don’t think my colleagues are either. Where I think people are being offensive to religion in this country — whichever religion that might be … well, we will just call it out and we will demand the … respect that people should provide to all religions.[3]

The ongoing push for laws that protect religionists from feeling “offended” comes primarily from Islamic groups. Grand Mufti Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed has called on the Prime Minister to push for new laws to extend greater protection to Muslims against so-called “Islamophobia”.[4] He told SBS Arabic 24 that, as the country’s highest Islamic authority, he has personally asked the Prime Minister for laws that would make it illegal to strongly criticise Islam.[5]

This is confirmed by a leaked video of the Prime Minister meeting with Dr Mohamed and other Islamic leaders at Lakemba Mosque. The video shows him being warmly received by the Muslim leadership and urged by them to extend the notorious Section 18C to religious grounds. It shows the Grand Mufti sitting next to Morrison and directly instructing him to create a federal law against “discrimination” based on religion.[6]

At the same meeting Muslim Association Director Ahmad Malas went even further, calling on the government to stamp out what he evidently perceives to be Australia’s inherent “white supremacy”. As reported, Mr Malas demanded a review of all federal laws so as to address “the need for the Government to take responsibility at stamping out the ideology of white supremacy”.[7]

Curiously, people who do not read Muslim primary sources would never know Mohammed is described in sacred texts as a “very white” person.  Not only did the Prophet buy and sell dark-skinned slaves, but also took these slaves as spoils of war. The number of African slaves owned by Mohammed is estimated as high as seventy.[8] Some of these dark-skinned slaves were women captured for sexual purposes and whose husbands were killed at war. Indeed, the two primary books of Islam, the Koran and Hadith, explicitly endorse unlimited sexual relations with female slaves, including women only just captured.[9]  In other words, raped.

Because Mohammed owned a remarkable number of slaves throughout his life, as did all his successors, slavery has been widely accepted throughout the Islamic world as an acceptable practice since the earliest days of the religion. In fact, leading Muslim scholars such as the celebrated Ahmad Baba authoritatively comment that the Islamic law fully authorises the enslavement of non-Muslims.[10]

This has led to thirteen centuries of institutionalised slavery across the Islamic world.  For instance, the trade in African slave trade has been an enterprise largely dominated by Muslim Arabs since the advent of the Islamic religion. Such a religious endorsement explains why slavery was abolished in Saudi Arabia only in 1962, although the institution continues in Libya[11], Mauritania,[12] and Yemen[13], to name only a few. In today’s Libya, for example, ‘thousands of black Africans find themselves bought and sold, forced to work for nothing, and facing torture at the hands of their owners’.[14]


Offending the Australian People

One cannot hide the irony that, in their attempt to save themselves from offence, Muslim leaders have no qualms in offending the country’s majority ethnic group. Having arrived in the democratic West, many such Muslims who have escaped appallingly oppressive theocratic regimes develop a visceral hatred of the citizens of the Western democracies that have so generously received them. Some of these religious individuals aspire to take revenge against our free and tolerant society ‘for some fault so heinous that a visceral hatred for the ethnic majority is developed’.[15]

Clear evidence of this fact comes from a recent statement by the Australian Muslim Community, entitled ‘Christchurch and Islamophobia’. Announced on March 25, 2019, it promotes race-oriented accusations aimed at the majority white population in this country. It notoriously accuses white Australians of collective responsibility for the alleged “systematic massacre” of Aborigines. White people, as a general rule, concludes the statement, must be held collectively accountable for the promotion of so-called ‘white supremacist violence on this continent for over two centuries’.[16] 

This blatantly racist statement against Australia’s white population has been signed by approximately 450 Muslim leaders and organisations, including presidents past and present of the Islamic Council of Victoria. Contained in such an outrageous assertion is the constitutionally invalid demand that Section 18C should now be extended to religious grounds. The Muslim Community’s statement is in line with the long-held position adopted by the Grand Mufti, who notoriously states that Section 18C should be amended so as to see Muslims receive the same legal protection from offence afforded to ethnic groups.[17]

In the exercise of his role as the country’s Grand Mufti, Dr Mohammed has met several times with our Prime Minister. Dr Mohammed recently visited him in order to request ‘the introduction of new laws which would make it an offence to discriminate against Muslims’.[18] Dr Mohammed took the opportunity to issue the following warning to Mr Morrison:

We are waiting for the response of the two big parties, the prime minister and the opposition leader … and we know that hate and racism are incidental viruses to [Australia’s] society. Everyone, Muslim or non-Muslims, no matter what colour they are, we are all guests on Aboriginal land.[19] 

If the same rationale were applied to the countries of Northern Africa, even most of the countries in the Middle East, then all the Muslims living in these parts of the world should considered themselves to be guests on Christian land. The Egyptian Church, for example, was founded in the first century AD by St. Mark, the gospel writer. By the third century as much as 50 per cent of Egypt’s population was already Christian.[20]  This was a time when ‘churches and their clergy appear with increasing frequency in public documents, and Christian letters become numerically far superior to those that witness polytheistic or pagan beliefs’.[21] In 639, however, Caliph Umar initiated the Islamic invasion of Egypt. When Muslim forces finally succeeded in conquering Alexandria (then the second-largest city in Christendom), they engaged in widespread ‘massacre, plunder, and arson … until half the city was destroyed’.[22]  By the end of the fourteenth century, only tiny remnants of native Christianity survived, the once flowering faith having been almost entirely wiped out by Muslim persecution.[23]  

In The Price of Freedom Denied, Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke examine the face of resurgent religious fundamentalism and debate the place of religion in the world. Perhaps their most controversial finding is that in countries where Muslims constitute the majority of the population, then ‘religious persecution is reported in 100 per cent of cases’.[24] As the authors point out

…religious persecution is not only more prevalent in Muslim-majority countries, but it also generally occurs at a more severe level’.[25] For example, a Christian woman caught practicing her faith in Saudi Arabia is most likely to be beheaded; a half-million Christians have fled Iraq; and Islamists regularly attack and kill Copts in Egypt and destroy their churches.[26]


The Islamic Grievance Industry  

The Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) introduced a couple of years ago at the United Nations a notorious motion imposing strict limits on free speech in the domain of religion, urging the UN Secretary General to convene a special session of the General Assembly to declare “Islamophobia” a form of discrimination akin to the crime of racism, with the additional demand that a special rapporteur for the monitoring and combating of “Islamophobia” be appointed.

Due to this ongoing pressure by the OIC and economically powerful Islamic regimes, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently proposed a vast range of substantive changes to combat the alleged problem of “Islamophobia” [27]. This would include beefing up Section 18C of the Discrimination Act, as well as censoring certain aspects of public commentary.[28] The international resolution goes on to claim that racist incidents in Australia are common occurrence and often “treated with impunity”. Translated, Section 18C must therefore be better policed by “law enforcement officials”.[29]

Naturally, this allegation is completely false and deeply insulting to the tolerant people of Australian. First of all, to speak of “Islamophobia” is to censor discussion and suppress rational debate about causes for concern in regard to Islam. Second, Section 18C is certainly not a law that is rarely used. Between 2010 and 2016 alone, there were about 840 complaints lodged under 18C before the Australian Human Rights Commission.[30]

Turkey’s autocratic president, Recept Erdogan, has a special interest in bringing more confusion to the debate. He is a notorious Islamist who claims that the integration of Muslims in our Western democracies would amount to a ‘crime against humanity’. At the same time, Mr Erdogan has been systematically engaged in the dismantling his own country’s secular system. A key element in his ongoing ‘plan of conquest’ is to coerce Western governments into accepting a ‘right’ of Muslims to resist any form of social integration, and to regard Sharia as superseding every Western law and custom when the two are in conflict.[31]  This matches the perspective of the OIC, which has explicitly commanded that ‘Muslims should not be … attempted to be assimilated, but should be accommodated’. [32]

The accommodation by Western governments of such Islamic pressure is the opposite of promoting real tolerance and healthy social integration. A conquering ideology takes well-meaning accommodation as nothing but another sign of weakness and it always commands more.[33]  Of course, Islam is not a race and the problems related to such a religion are not the product of fear-mongering and fiction, but the result of ideology and empirical fact. Religion as a justification for violence is a theme heard frequently after acts of Islamist terror and mayhem. True, mainstream Muslim leaders shrink from such public commentary, but the firebrands who do are drawing their inspiration from the same holy books and the traditions of their religion. [34] That those texts are capable of being interpreted at will and whim according to the individual’s priorities and perspective is a further illustration of why any law to limit examination and criticism of Islam would be the most egregious violation of free speech.


Final Considerations

Instead of expanding the federal discrimination laws to cover criticism of religion and mandate an artificial uniformity, the Australian government should restore free speech to everyone who wishes to engage in the marketplace of ideas and robust political debate.[35]  If such an Islamic demand for a law preventing the severe criticism of religion were to be attended, then the final outcome will be to outlaw freedom of speech if such speech displeases the inflated sensitivities of some [36]. As Nine journalist David Crowe pointed out in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘The obvious danger is a blasphemy law – if not in name, then in effect. At what point does speaking out against a religion turn into a form of discrimination that should be stopped?’[37]

Religion is rarely a private matter and the nature of religious speech is often intertwined with ‘political opinions, perspectives, philosophies and practices.’[38] That being so, Australians should be perfectly entitled by means of the implied constitutional freedom of political communication to manifest their opinions about any matter concerning religion — any and all religions. As a specialist in constitutional law, I can comfortably affirm that there is no apparent reason why speech about religious matters should not be characterized as political communication to be protected by the implied (constitutional) freedom of political communication.

Above all, we must never allow our fundamental rights and freedoms to be undermined by the inflated sensitivities of any religious group, whatever this group might be.

 Dr Augusto Zimmermann LL.B. (Hon.), LL.M. cum laude, Ph.D. (Monash) is Professor and Head of Law at Sheridan College (Perth), and Adjunct Professor of Law, The University of Notre Dame Australia (Sydney campus). He is also President of Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA) and a former Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2012-2017). This paper is an extract from a longer paper due to appear in the next volume of The Western Australian Jurist law journal. 


[1] David Crowe, ‘Morrison Risks Free Speech Clash Over Religious Protection’, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 9, 2019, at https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison-risks-free-speech-clash-over-religious-protection-20190709-p525mt.html

[2] Augusto Zimmermann, ‘Where’s the Prime Minister on the Free Speech Crisis?’, The Spectator Australia, June 26, 2019, at https://www.spectator.com.au/2019/06/wheres-the-prime-minister-on-the-free-speech-crisis/

[3] ‘Scott Morrison is as Mad as Hell and He’s Not Going to Take Your Free Speech Any More’, The Australian, December 22, 2017, at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/cutandpaste/scott-morrison-is-as-mad-as-hell-and-hes-not-going-to-take-your-free-speech-any-more/news-story/74677d60fe958f9979b352ca44be103c

[4] Abdallah Kamal, ‘Grand Mufti Calls for Laws to Protect Muslims Against the Virus of Islamophobia’, SBS Arabic, 18 March 2019, at https://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/arabic/en/article/2019/03/18/grand-mufti-calls-new-laws-protect-muslims-against-virus-racism

[5] Ibid.

[6] Avani Dias, ‘Leaked Video Shows Islamic Leaders Calling on Scott Morrison for Protection Against Hate Speech’, ABC Triple J, March 21, 2019, at  https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/islamic-leaders-scott-morrison-hate-speech-christchurch/10925660

[7] Ibid.

[8] Daniel Pipes, Slave Soldiers and Islam: The Genesis of a Military System (Yale University Press, 1981), p 140.

[9] Sahih al-Bukhari book 8, hadith 367. URL: https://muflihun.com/bukhari/8/367; Sahih Bukhari, book 62, hadith 137. URL: https://muflihun.com/bukhari/62/137; Sunan Abu Dawud, book 12, hadith 2167. URL: https://muflihun.com/abudawood/12/2167; Sahih Muslim, book 8, hadith 3373. URL: https://muflihun.com/muslim/8/3373; Sahih Muslim, book 8, hadith 3371. URL: https://muflihun.com/muslim/8/3371

[10] Paul E. Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (3rd Ed., Cambridge University Press, 2012), p 15.

[11] ‘People for Sale, Where Lives are Auctioned for $400’, CNN, November 14, 2017, at https://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/14/africa/libya-migrant-auctions/index.html

[12] ‘The Unspeakable Truth about Slavery in Mauritania’, The Guardian, June 8, 2018, at https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jun/08/the-unspeakable-truth-about-slavery-in-mauritania

[13] ‘The Ongoing Fight to Free Thousands of African Slaves in Yemen’, Al-Jazeera, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVuQTiQNJOE

[14] ‘The Good Muslim Arabs of Libya Are Enslaving Blacks And Selling Them For $500’,  African Globe, March 28, 2019, at https://www.africanglobe.net/africa/good-muslim-arabs-libya-enslaving-blacks-selling-500/

[15] Roger Scruton, The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat (London/UK: Continuum, 2002), p. ix.

[16] ‘Christchurch and Islamophobia’, Statement From The Australian Muslim Community, March 25, 2019, at https://www.communitystatement.com.au

[17] Rose Lewis, ‘Grand Mufti Seeks Racial Discrimination Act Cover for Muslims’, The Australian, Janaury 19, 2017.

[18] Kamal, above n.4.   

[19] Ibid. 

[20] Malcolm Choat, Jitse Dijkstra, Christopher Haas, and William Tabbernee, ‘The World of the Nile’, in William Tabbernee, Early Christianity in Contexts: An Exploration Across Cultures and Continents (Grand Rapids/MI: Baker Academic, 2014), p 201. 

[21] Ibid.

[22]  Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (New York/NY: HarperOne, 2011), p 203. 

[23] Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (New York/NY: HarperOne, 2011), p 211. 

[24] Brian J. Grim & Roger Finke, The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenthy-First Century (2011), p 21.

[25] Ibid.

[26] David Pryce-Jones, ‘Islam Faces its Demons’, The Weekend Australian, September 22–23, 2012, at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/inquirer/islam-faces-its-demons/news-story/f27b5e43750099ec4d5fce7abd747297

[27] ‘OIC Urges UN to Tackle Islamophobia, Declare it a Form of Racism’, Express Tribune, March 23, 2019, at https://tribune.com.pk/story/1935888/3-oic-urges-un-tackle-islamophobia-declare-form-racism/

[28] Michael Koziol, ‘UN Warms Racism on Rise in Australia, Calls for Section 18C to be Strengthened’, The Sydney Morning Herald, December 9, 2017, at https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/un-warns-racism-on-rise-in-australia-calls-for-section-18c-to-be-strengthened-20171209-h01qi0.html

[29] Ibid.

[30] Joshua Forrester, Lorraine Finlay and Augusto Zimmermann, ‘Indeed, Mr Abbott, Section 18C is ‘clearly a bad law’’, On Line Opinion, 6 May 2016, at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18212 See also: Simon Breheny, Racial Discrimination Act: Turnbull Should Revisit 18C Repeal Case, The Australian, April 29, 2016, at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/racial-discrimination-act-turnbull-should-revisit-18c-repeal-case/news-story/03037ee74deee25572fe2fd41bccf721

[33] Andrew C McCarthy, Islam and Free Speech (New York: Encounter Books, 2015), p 21.

[35] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Robert Spencer, The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Free Speech (and Its Enemies) (Washington/DC: Regnery Publishing, 2017), 7.

[36] Robert Forsyth, ‘A Test of Maturity: The Liberal Case for Action on Religious Freedom’, The Centre for Independent Studies – Policy Paper No.8, August 2018, p 1.

[37] David Crowe, ‘Religious Discrimination Law Are a New Culture War in the Making’, July 4, 2019, at https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/religious-discrimination-laws-are-a-new-culture-war-in-the-making-20190704-p5243k.html

[38] 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.

  • padraic

    Some months back I watched the ABC news source, Al-Jazeera, put on a series about slavery. Naturally, it only dealt with slavery conducted by European countries and ignored slavery conducted by Islamist countries, probably because, as you point out, African slavery still exists in places like Yemen and Libya. Zanzibar in the not so distant past used to be the port of departure for African slaves captured by well armed African slavers in Central Africa, including the Congo and parts of Zambia. The BBC, to its credit, once did an expose of slavery in “modern” Yemen, in recent times.

  • padraic

    Oops! Clarification! “well armed African slavers” should be “well armed Arab slavers”. African slavers were mostly active in West Africa.

  • IainC

    The problem with logical arguments is that they are pointless if the other side refuses to follow similar axioms, deductions and proofs. The fundamental roadblock is that, no matter how many times the error is pointed out, our authoritarian opponents’ first axiom (that is, a law which need only be stated and not proven) is that “Islam is a race”. Most, if not all, justifications for grievance follow from this iron law. Criticism of Islam is, ipso facto, criticism of race, and therefore “racist”. This wouldn’t matter so much in Australia except for the fact that this “concept” has embedded itself into local non-Islamic elite power structures. Thus, criticism of the tenets of Islam by a non-Muslim to another non-Muslim is subject to the same strictures, proscriptions and punishments as though you had addressed and maliciously vilified and demeaned a Muslim person. Offence and error are assumed, and the state-mandated retaliations ensue. It has even reached the current level of idiocy where brown and black ex-Muslims can be accused of Islamophobia, and refused entry visas, for publicly denouncing their former beliefs. No other ideology is this protected.
    Unlike all other ideologies, including Christianity and Judaism, where the tenets can be thoroughly mocked and debunked, Islam is allowed no such scrutiny. In many cases, both the tenets AND the followers can be vilified with impunity (Nazism and Nazis, communism and Communists, socialism and socialists, Scientology and Scientologists). Even China the entity and Chinese communism (clearly not a “white” structure) can be mostly robustly criticized, although supporters will trot out the race card when able.
    What is to be done? The problem is that Islam is at once both personal and political. Domestic or personal Islam is the same as all other religions. Most Muslims practice their belief peacefully in the home and occasionally at the local mosque, celebrate the feasts and the fasts, and worship quietly. However, political Islam is an international superpower. It controls and directs the daily actions and long term strategies of dozens of countries and cultures, plots and fights wars, and seeks dominance – in the name of Islam, the very same ideology. It’s much more difficult to prevent criticism of a country’s political policies than it is of individuals. Political Islamic propagandists seek to link criticism of their policies to the “Islam is a race” safe harbour, but potentially this is a chink in the armour that may be used to move forward. If critics seek to (constructively!) critique Islam, perhaps it may be useful to firstly launch an effusive praise of domestic/personal Islam and recognise its many benefits to the individual believer, and confirm that such beliefs are welcome here, AND THEN launch into a deconstruction of Islam but ONLY as it applies to the particular states involved. For example, it seems that you can link misogyny and Saudi Arabia, or harsh treatment of gays and Iran, without too much trouble, so then you next define your grievance with political Islam, because clearly you have said wonderful things about Muslims in general (I’m not fabricating here, this is what I actually believe), and you then dig into the Koran and explore this issue in more detail, with scriptural and historical reference to the reasons for this cultural anomaly in the modern world. Provided you stick to pretty narrow guidelines, you can then use the defence of “so you support misogyny and homophobia?” when the inevitable “racist! Islamophobe!” barbs are fired.
    One day, Islam may be able to be dissected like Christianity. Small steps.

  • ianl

    > ” … we will demand the … respect that people should provide to all religions” [Morrison December 2017]

    Doubtless that includes pointing out that religions are variations of superstition. People are completely free to believe what they wish, but not free to laden open dissent with odious “hate speech” prosecution.

    The Disenlightenment is now complete. Prosecution of heresy is fashionable again.

  • Alistair

    Lets see you publish this once Morrison has banned “hate speech”!
    We’ll have none of your facts then, my boy!

  • Biggles

    ” … we will demand the … respect that people should provide to all religions” [Morrison December 2017]
    All religions are just a huge raft of superstitious nonsense.
    I will pay as much respect to your religion as it pays to me; i.e. nothing!

  • Bill Martin

    A couple of brief comments on this great article. (1) In the monstrous event of legal prohibition of “offending” any and all religions, almost all Islamic scriptures would instantly become glaringly illegal. (2) Small wonder that Muslim and Aboriginal activists are singing from the same himm book: both lot are driven by the same, self-justifying sense of being exceptional, which entitles them the special rights and privileges. Insisting on being “accommodated” by society while refusing to “integrate” with it is the overarching feature of all their activities.


    Unfortunately the Jewish Lobby blocked Abbott from abolishing 18C.
    They did this in the mistaken belief that Jews are a race rather than a religion.
    A race is defined by its genes. A religion is defined by its beliefs.
    If we look at the distribution of genes in Hungarian Jews, we find it is similar to the genes in Hungarians.
    If we look at the distribution of genes in French Jews, we find it is similar to Frenchmen and different from Hungarian Jews. 2,000 years of adultery has produced this result. Contrariwise French and Hungarian Jews share the same beliefs.
    Law should be a bit more like Mendelian Genetics, rather than disasterous Lysenko/Stalinist Genetics.

  • whitelaughter

    *if* the Jewish lobby was foolish enough to support 18C, they could be brought to their senses in a few minutes by getting a Messianic Jew to file a complaint against them for not considering him ‘a real Jew’.

Post a comment