On Friday, Australia lost a warrior for free speech and someone who used his artist’s eye to look into our nation’s soul and show us what was there: the best in us, of course, but also the uncomfortable truth. He was brave and now that he is gone, people are learning just how courageous Bill Leak was.
Cartooning ‘giant’ Bill Leak remembered
There’s that old saying that the pen is mightier than the sword. As is now public, living under the threat of retaliation from Islamic extremists, this wasn’t just a saying for Bill; for him, and his family, the sword was very real.
With a sad regularity, I continue to raise the issue of radical Islam on this page and on Sky News. It draws the usual venom from critics quick to accuse me of beating things up or overstating an issue that isn’t a problem in Australia.
If it isn’t a problem in Australia, why did a cartoonist like Bill Leak need to leave his home and live in a safe house?
Other than criticism, what does anyone, or any religion, have to fear from someone whose weapon of choice is a pen and a razor-sharp wit?
Sadly, he isn’t the first Australian to face credible death threats from extremists, and unless we wake up to ourselves, he won’t be the last. Radical Islam is a serious threat to the fabric of our community. I don’t say this as an outsider looking through the window trying to read the code of our intelligence agencies and government.
I say it as someone who has sat in the room. I say it as someone who was regularly told by political counterparts overseas, in countries where they’ve lost the fight to protect their values and their culture, “at least you’ve still got time in Australia to stop this happening to you”.
We do, but time is running out. Unless gutless politicians get some guts, and leaders show leadership, bit by bit, what makes this country “young and free” will ebb away until we live in a place we don’t recognise anymore.
Take the example of the NSW state school, taxpayer-funded and secular, that allowed young Muslim boys to refuse to shake the hand of female teachers handing out prizes. If that wasn’t bad enough, this madness at the Hurstville Boys campus of the Georges River College was sanctioned by the NSW Education Department as official practice.
When revealed a few weeks ago, to my shame as a Liberal, the NSW Premier and Education Minister hid under their desks and avoided the whole issue.
Or what about the comments from Muslim leader Keysar Trad, who said that when it comes to the teachings of his religion and beating women, “violence is a last resort”.
That’s right — not wrong, not unacceptable — a legitimate “last resort” (if flowers don’t get your desired result), according to Trad.
Before the apologists give me the hackneyed excuse that he’s a fringe-dweller, I remind them that he’s the founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia and president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
I must have missed the headscarf warriors on the ABC demanding he resign as their representative. He’s still there yet Muslim activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied has the gall to claim Islam is the “most feminist religion”.
Remind me again why Julie Bishop’s department flew Abdel-Magied around the Middle East to turn a blind eye to the treatment of women there, when she does such a good job of it at home? We could have saved ourselves the airfare.
What about young Australian-born girls subjected to genital mutilation in the name of Islam? What about the new classes in some schools so that teachers and students can spot the signs of forced child marriage?
Or the backyard ceremonies, where morally bankrupt parents let shonky imams sanction the rape of their child via sham “marriages”?
Forgive me, ladies of the left, but International Women’s Day would be worth a whole lot more if these were the sort of issues you were honest enough to raise rather than changing the trousers to a skirt on Melbourne’s traffic signs.
But it doesn’t stop there. Remember the rorting of federal government childcare subsidies?
At the time, it was revealed that more than $27 million had been falsely claimed by dodgy family daycare providers and allegedly sent overseas to fund Islamic State’s war effort. How many state government officials, with responsibility for inspecting childcare services, were sacked for failing to pick this up?
Want another one? Late last year I wrote about Centrelink tacitly endorsing polygamy by paying taxpayer family support to households where there are one husband and two “wives”.
Some in the Federal Government said it couldn’t possibly be true, one said he would stamp it out and another said it would cost more if the spouses were paid individually.
Where’s that up to, you ask? Filed in the bottom drawer marked, “Let’s hope this goes away”, that’s where.
Here’s a newsflash to the politicians on my side who wonder why they’ve got a 34-point primary vote and are haemorrhaging support, this is why.
Today’s revelation that boys from some of Sydney’s most “at-risk” high schools have posted messages of radicalised hate online should send a shudder down the collective spine of this country. It’s happening in Melbourne, Brisbane and other cities too. I’m a middle-of-the-road conservative but when it comes to the creeping threat of radical Islam, I am uncompromising.
Just because some fringe elements have taken this debate too far is not an excuse for mainstream political leaders to bury their heads in the sand. By hoping the issue will go away, they create a vacuum and, in politics, every vacuum gets filled.
It is right and legitimate that our leaders discuss the issue of radical Islam. It is not racist and it is not “Islamophobic”; it is democratic, and it is in our national interest.
As Australians, we should thank God for Bill Leak. With mere pen-strokes he demonstrated more courage on a daily basis than many policymakers display their entire careers.