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Anti-mosque flyer did not breach laws

Date

Lisa Cox, Hamish Boland-Rudder

An artist's impression of the mosque proposed for Gungahlin.

An artist's impression of the mosque proposed for Gungahlin. Photo: Supplied

A controversial anti-mosque flyer distributed in Gungahlin has probably not breached the ACT’s Discrimination Act, but has prompted the Human Rights Commissioner to again call for stronger anti-discrimination laws in the territory in a report on the matter released yesterday.

The flyer, distributed in Gungahlin by a group calling themselves the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, urged residents to oppose the construction of a mosque on The Valley Avenue because of its ‘‘social impact’’ on the ‘‘Australian neighbours’’ in the northern Canberra region.

The flyer also raised concerns about traffic and noise, ‘‘public interest’’ and the proposed size of the development.

ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner Helen Watchirs, who was asked to investigate concerns the flyer constituted racist material, released her advice on the matter yesterday.

Dr Watchirs said although the flyer was ''undoubtedly offensive'', the ACT's current discrimination laws had too high a test for racial vilification for the flyer to be considered in breach of the Act.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said laws prohibiting religious vilification should be considered by a review of the act that is being conducted by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council.

The flyer, distributed in Gungahlin by a group calling itself the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, urged residents to oppose the construction of a mosque on The Valley Avenue because of its ''social impact'' on the ''Australian neighbours'' in the north Canberra suburb. The flyer also raised concerns about traffic and noise, ''public interest'' and the proposed size of the development.

Dr Watchirs, who was asked by the government to investigate the pamphlet, said it was unlikely the flyer breached the act because it was ''concerned with religious issues, rather than race''.

''It is also unclear if the flyer would satisfy the high test for vilification in the Discrimination Act, which has an 'incitement' requirement','' her report states.

But Dr Watchirs said complainants would probably have more success under federal discrimination laws, which required a lower threshold to establish racial hatred and included an explanatory statement that ''envisages that Muslim people represent a racial group''.

Dr Watchirs recommended the act be reformed to include better provisions for discrimination against religious groups.

''I would recommend that the ground of religious conviction be added to the current vilification protection in the Discrimination Act as a matter of priority … ''

Mr Corbell said the law reform council was about to publish a discussion paper for public comment.

''It's going to identify options and issues it's seeking comment on and I think issues around religious vilification should be considered and this is the place for that consideration to happen,'' he said.

Mr Corbell said the government had received several submissions in response to Canberra Muslim Community Inc's development application that objected to the material in the flyers.

61 comments

  • Wonder what the "concerned citizens" will say if it's a Synagogue, Hindu Temple or heaven forbid a Christian Church!

    Commenter
    Goz
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    August 02, 2012, 2:57PM
    • Moral relativity does not cut it, sooner or later you will understand Islam is much more than just another religion.

      Commenter
      Raoul Machal
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 12:09AM
    • Sorry mate, but it is just another religion. No more or less special than Christianity or Scientology. Take your pick, they're all much the same.

      Commenter
      Weary
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 11:13AM
    • Weary 11.13am
      Your comment displays a complete ignorance of Islam
      Raoul Machal is right IT IS FAR MORE than a religion read a book called Islamic Jihad by M A Khan himself an Islamic Scholar then you may have some idea of the issue upon which you comment and you will see the folly of you comment
      I'm not being racist simply putting forward a point of view based on information from having widely read available historical information on Islam from it's inception in 632AD.

      Commenter
      19Binda
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 2:21PM
  • "Explanatory Statement which explicitly envisages that Muslim people represent a racial group"

    What a ridiculous statement that is. Are Pakistanis, Indonesians and Jordanians the same race? Of course not.

    Commenter
    farnarkler
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    August 02, 2012, 3:07PM
    • Just like not all Pakistani's etc. are muslim.
      Nor are all Australian's Christian

      Commenter
      didi
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 12:16PM
    • You highlight the problem with the poll on this page - "Do you think the anti-mosque flyer distributed in Gungahlin is racist?" It can NEVER be racist, because Islam is a religion; not a race or culture. The roughly 27% who so far polled "Yes" need to wake-up and understand the difference between a race and a religion, especially given that Islam is widespread across many culture and races. It is not and never should be "racist" to criticise a religion.

      Commenter
      Peter T.
      Location
      NSW
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 2:19PM
  • a win for the majority in this country from the courts!

    finally some sense

    Commenter
    yes
    Date and time
    August 02, 2012, 3:34PM
    • by 'majority' i assume you mean 'non-muslims' or even 'christians'.

      it is fundamentally unjust that a majority group is able to oppress a minority, simply as they are in the majority. that is not 'sense', or at least not good sense.

      Commenter
      husband of the year
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      August 02, 2012, 4:44PM
    • oh really, so where does your argument stand if I as the minority wanted to open a church in a muslim country?

      give me a break

      Commenter
      yes
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 9:20AM

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