For the record:
Yassmin Abdel-Maggot was PAID by DFAT to travel to the Middle East and promote her book
“…to promote Australia as an open, innovative, democratic and diverse nation.”
WHY do we want to “promote” an “open” Australia to Muslims?
Are we desperate for more?
New World Order, anyone?
The ABC’s long-running weekly comedy show Q&A (slogan: “a Newtown sharehouse’s idea of what a balanced panel discussion show looks like”) certainly delivered the laughs this week.
But it was an exchange between Tasmanian independent senator Jacqui Lambie and brightly-hijab’ed author/activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied that really brought down the house.
Riffing on the old standard “How do you solve a problem like sharia?”, Lambie suggested that Australia’s primary obligations welfare-wise ought to be those who already live here, adding for good measure that those who would rather live by the lights of a theocratic legal code would probably be better off living somewhere else.
“Excuse me, Islam, to me, is one of the most… is THE most feminist religion, right?”, Abdel-Magied jumped in.
“We got equal rights well before the Europeans. We don’t take our husband’s last names because we ain’t their property, right?”
You could almost hear the viewing audience choking with laughter, even in the darkest heart of our cities’ latte belts.
Because while Islam might be many things, in suggesting that of all the faiths practised around the world it is “the most feminist religion”, Abdel-Magied delivered a comic line destined straight for the pool room.
She might see European culture as ten kinds of backwards because women can choose to take their husband’s name (or not) or indict it for the historical sins of empire.
But it is pretty tough to think of a Muslim-majority country where Abdel-Magied might enjoy all the freedoms she does in a secular Western nation like Australia — whether that means to pursue an education (Abdel-Magied is a trained engineer), date, travel, or even be invited on the national broadcaster to criticise the government.
It’s a bit like looking at the constitution of the old Soviet Union, which guaranteed a swag of personal liberties including freedom of conscience and the press, and concluding that under Stalin your average Russian farmer or factory worker never had it so good.
Amazingly, Abdel-Magied was able to make her statement on Q&A with a straight face even after having taken a taxpayer-funded tour of some of the world’s most anti-feminist Islamic regimes including Saudi Arabia (where women can’t even drive), the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan.
No word as to whether, while on her trip, Abdel-Magied told the local religious authorities that they have got their theology all wrong and that lashings and stonings for the crime of adultery is not actually true sharia.
But perhaps that sort of debate is more safely held in the confines of the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters.
In any case her performance on Q&A delivered for Abdel-Magied, who has made something of a career of playing the articulate and virtuous embodiment of multiculturalism who is beset on all sides by racism and backwardness.
Last year she kicked off weeks of debate when she walked out on a talk by American novelist Lionel Shriver who suggested that — heaven forfend — writers should be allowed to write characters of any colour, creed or culture without being accused of the crime of “cultural appropriation”.
Meanwhile this latest controversy has been further kicked along by a petition launched Wednesday calling on the ABC to apologise to Abdel-Magied for failing to provide a “safe environment” by inviting her to sit on the same panel as an elected Australian senator.
As they say, you can’t make this up. But still, it might be time for some new material.
James Morrow is Opinion Editor of the Daily Telegraph.