A royal commission into religious extremism should not be restricted to Islam, says Peter Wicks, but should cover all organisations promoting religious intolerance.
WITH AUSTRALIA'S SENATE looking more diverse than ever, there is a lot of talk about Pauline Hanson and One Nation’s desire for a royal commission into Islam.
While most think the idea is a preposterous one, there is actually a certain amount of merit to it. Perhaps a closer look at those falsely calling themselves Muslims and preaching radical hate and extremism is warranted.
The principal feature of this kind of extremism is religious intolerance. The absolute hatred of any religion that is perceived to conflict with their own beliefs. This intolerance sometimes turns into violence, and other criminal and terrorist-style behaviour — although incidents of this kind have been very few and many would argue they are more grounded in mental health issues than religious matters.
However, given public safety may be put at risk by this kind of extremism, perhaps a royal commission is not only warranted, it is imperative.
Where I differ from Hanson, though, is that I think a royal commission should not be restricted to Islamic extremism, it should cover all organisations promoting religious intolerance. In fact, Hanson’s singling out of the Islamic faith could be perceived as religious intolerance and be therefore something a commission may investigate.
We could call it the Royal Commission Into Organisational Religious Intolerance, or RIRC for short.
If there is one thing that has become clear, lately, religious intolerance promoted through violence has become an unwelcome part of Australian culture lately. Contrary to what people like Pauline Hanson would have you believe Islam is not the aggressor in these violent clashes, but rather usually the target.
Last weekend, we saw an organised group of men storm the Gosford Anglican Church on the NSW Central Coast. The offenders wore mock Muslim attire and as one can imagine, scared some of the elderly members of the congregation there, as well as several little children, half to death. The group’s leader was even cut off in an on-air interview with Andrew Bolt when Bolt lost his patience. Bolt was seemingly furious that this group of bizarre extremists were going to make to regular bigots and racists look bad. After all, he would hate to see all bigot’s tarred with the same "extremist" brush. That brush is reserved for Muslims.
The reason for this foolish act was that the church involved had spoken out against the harsh treatment of refugee children on Nauru. The offenders clearly think that the conditions Muslim children are suffering on Nauru are not harsh enough.
The group's name is even more idiotic than its actions when you consider its cause, they ironically call themselves the Party For Freedom. This is not the first time the Party For Freedom have staged a dumb stunt, some may remember when some of its members tried to make it past Parliament House security in Canberra wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe, amongst other things.
However it is via organised hate groups such as Reclaim Australia that we have seen anti-Islamic protests turn violent on many occasions.
It is groups like Reclaim Australia that seek to provoke and push Muslims to the point where they react and fight back, just so Reclaim Australia can point the finger at them and tell us how they warned us… Thankfully, Muslims have not been that easily manipulated and have not retaliated.
There is Party For Freedom, Reclaim Australia, Q Society, United Patriots Front and political parties like Rise Up Australia, Australian Liberty Alliance and, of course, One Nation.
In a multicultural society such as ours, religious intolerance should not be acceptable, and perhaps a closer look at some of these groups and political parties is a good thing. Any links to criminal elements and instances of promoting violence or other criminal behaviour are things that could be looked into and addressed.
Recently, Victorian Police raided premises in Melbourne arresting a man in anti-terrorist raids. This was not an Islamic terrorist, this was a right-wing extremist.
It is not just fringe groups and political parties involved either — some of our larger political parties could also find members facing scrutiny of some of their own actions. People like Cory Bernardi and George Christenson could find themselves explaining their Anti-Islamic stance which borders on fanatical. In fact only today did it hit the press that Cory Bernardi is to introduce a bill to wind back the Racial Discrimination Act and allow racial vilification.
Pauline Hanson needs to understand extremism isn’t a one-way street and the public need to be aware that religious intolerance comes in many flavours and colours. Perhaps bigots from all sides should be forced into the spotlight to explain themselves.
A royal commission into religious intolerance? Bring it on.
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