How Â complicit ABC/SBS journaillie “protects us” from Islam and Mohammedan hate speech:
SBS journalists Â filmed Hilali praising the September 11 terrorism but destroyed their tape to avoid giving the “wrong idea”.
THE question from a shocked ABC presenter summed up what really divides the people yelling at each other about racism and free speech.
“Is it going to be possible to shout ‘ape’ at Adam Goodes at a football match?” fretted PM’s Mark Colvin.
In Colvin’s question we had the real divide with the Abbott Government’s proposal this week to reform the Racial Discrimination Act and allow freer debate, especially about racial politics.
No, this is not what much of the media claims â€” an argument between people who want more free speech and those who want less racism.
I actually want both, as does every member of the Abbott Government.
The real debate is about trust. The divide is between those who trust the Australian people and those who fear them. Between those who think Australians are basically decent and those convinced we’re riddled with racists chewing at the bit.
Colvin’s anxious question to two human rights commissioners on Tuesday shows he’s on the fear side. But the very question he put â€” “Is it going to be possible to shout ‘ape’ at Adam Goodes at a football match?” â€” suggests the truth he does not see.
For a start, it always has been possible to shout “ape” at Goodes, the Sydney Swans Aboriginal champion, and last year someone did. What happened next should have reassured Colvin completely.
Let’s leave aside the fact the person doing the shouting was just a 13-year-old girl and she insisted she did not mean “ape” as a racial slur of the bearded footballer.
Let’s see the incident just in the way the ABC reported it â€” of Goodes being racially vilified.
Note what happened. The girl was publicly shamed, with football bosses holding a press conference denouncing her as the “face” of racism in Australia. Journalists and sports hosts around the country agreed they were horrified by such abuse and Goodes was a hero for calling it out.
Months later Goodes was even made Australian of the Year for, in part, being “a great role model and advocate for the fight against racism”. The girl apologised.
There could not be a clearer example of how free speech was used to cry down racism, even if it this was only suspected racism. At no stage did Goodes threaten to use the law.
This is why Labor’s shadow attorney-general, Mark Dreyfus, cannot be taken seriously when this week he protested: “Is it the intention of the government to allow a person to be racially insulted and offended at a community event and have no recourse?”
Dreyfus, like the many Jewish community leaders driving much of the opposition to the government’s changes, fears Jews will now be unable to use the Racial Discrimination Act to gag Holocaust deniers for giving offence or humiliation. I understand that fear. I also find Holocaust denialism grossly offensive and for Jewish friends who lost relatives in the Holocaust, it cuts far deeper still.
But is a law against free speech really our only and safest recourse?
Six years agoÂ The Sydney Morning HeraldÂ allowed Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, then Mufti of Australia, to peddle a bit of denialism himself: “I, like many researchers in the world, shy off the number of innocent victims that had been estimated at six million.”
Hilali already had a disgraceful record of hate speech. He’d called women who wore no hijab “uncovered meat’’ for rapists.
HE’D accused Jews of using “sex and abominable acts of buggery, espionage, treason and economic hoarding to control the world’’. He’d praised suicide bombers as “heroes’’ and the September 11 terror attacks as “God’s work against oppressors”.
How did Hilali get away with that when we’ve had the RDA for two decades? Answer: because we had failed to use our free speech.
SBS journalists actually filmed Hilali praising the September 11 terrorism but destroyed their tape to avoid giving the “wrong idea”. Other journalists, likewise cowed by social and threatened legal sanctions against criticising Muslims, looked the other way until the radical threat became too obvious. Even today, news reports often delete ethnic descriptors such as “Middle Eastern appearance” from police appeals to help identify wanted men.
Even so, what muzzled Hilali since has been not the law but public opinion.
Media and talkback criticism finally became so much that the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils dropped him as Mufti.
Yet again, the best antidote to bad speech was free speech and the worst has been the law.
The proof is in. Australians can be trusted to maintain the moral code. Say no to racism, yes to free speech.