One Nation requests a Royal Commission into Islam to determine if it is a religion or political ideology and proposes a referendum to change Section 116 of the Australian Constitution which allows the free exercise of religion.
Section 116 of the Australian Constitution stipulates that, “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion…”
Attacks on the Constitutional Rights of Australian-Muslims
One Nation imposes its own politicised definition of Islam. By virtue of defining it as a political discourse and not a faith, One Nation fundamentally deprives Australian-Muslims of protection under s.116 of the Constitution.
One Nation makes obscure claims that because Islam is defined as a religion, it is somehow protected from questioning. This is far from the truth. S. 116 does not in any way declare Islam or any other religion to be protected from criticism or questioning. We have seen the media, ring-wing political groups, and individuals publically criticise (at times, unfairly) the religious and cultural practices of Muslims.
In fact, Muslims have routinely been subjected to discrimination and misrepresentation in the media and public space.
Reported violence, threats and abuse against Australian-Muslims
One Nation completely ignores the increasing vandalism of mosques, physical abuse of Muslim women on public transport and far right propaganda and racism used to marginalise and treat Muslims as second-class citizens.
An independent report released by the Human Rights Equal Opportunity Commission into the prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians, found that a staggering 93% of Muslims surveyed believed that there had been an increase in racism, abuse and violence against their ethnic or religious community since September 11; with 64% reporting a significant increase in racism towards their communities.
If Islam were to be unclassified as a religion, it would lose its protected status as a religion. If this were the case, discrimination and attacks would only intensify and create an environment of impunity against Muslims.
Australia’s Civic and Democratic culture would be under threat
Australia is a partner to international conventions such as Article 18 in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which proclaims the right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
Though One Nation does not specifically state what changes it would make to S.116 – its policy towards Islam has the potential to eliminate the rights guaranteed under s. 116 for many Muslim refugees fleeing war and persecution.
One Nation’s claims that Muslims are unable to integrate or follow Australia’s secular laws are misleading and baseless. A 2009 report funded by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship found that, “Muslim Australians highly value the freedom they experience in society to practice their religion and go about living their lives”.
Professor Kevin Dunn’s findings from the University of Western Sydney also echoed the ability of Muslim to feel comfortable with their dual identities: “Muslims feel a strong sense of belonging to Australia: Those Muslims with stronger levels of religiosity have a stronger level of self-belonging in the country.”