Why the ABC has nothing to be sorry about

The Muslim community has gone berserk after Jacqui Lambie’s appearance on Q&A last Monday night that yielded a screaming match between the senator and Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

Islamic leaders across Australia have called for the ABC to make a full apology for airing Lambie’s comments after the Tasmanian senator reiterated her desire for a nationwide Muslim-ban, saying she believed “anybody who supports Sharia law should be deported”.

An emotional Yassmin Abdel-Magied responded by saying, “My frustration is people talk about Islam without knowing anything about it and they’re willing to negate my rights … simply because they have an idea about what my faith is about.”


Senator Jacqui Lambie on Q&A (Sydney Morning Herald)

As the conversation became heated, presenter Tony Jones interjected and asked Ms Lambie whether she was aware that many of her views were seen as ‘hateful’, to which she responded, “To a minority, well if that’s a minority, but this is for the majority, this is what the majority want”.

In a petition published on change.org, the senator’s comments were likened to bullying, as they were “undignifying, demeaning slurs that were personal attacks against Abdel-Magied and her integrity as a Muslim woman”.

“We wish to remind Q&A that Yassmin’s appearance in itself is brave as it puts her in danger of being a target to online fascists who are relentless in attacking public Muslim Australian figures, and particularly Muslim females.

“Lambie has the Parliament House, news outlets and press conferences as platforms to express her irresponsible and harmful views, whereas Muslim youth are largely underrepresented and their voice often absent from conversations about Muslims in this country.”

Whilst it may be true that Lambie’s comments were extreme and, to certain people, offensive, the idea that the ABC has a responsibility to apologise for an opinion expressed by a panelist on their program is simply absurd.

Australians do not have the same constitutional right to freedom of speech that many other people around the world experience but the High Court has held that an implied freedom of political communication exists to allow people to express their opinions and that includes opinions that we don’t particularly like.

Although Jacqui Lambie’s expression was certainly crude and at times undesirable, she had every right to express her opinion as a member of the panel and an elected senator.

The petition deemed many of Lambie’s comments ‘racist’ and I’ve touched on this before, but I really can’t think of a less effective way of debating a view that is different to our own.

The only way to change a mindset is to understand why it exists and to use facts, logic and reason to explain why it is wrong – if, of course, you believe it to be so.

In Lambie’s case, her issue with Muslim immigration stems from a belief that the Islamic ideology is incompatible with western law and customs.

While her proposed solution – a ban on Muslims entering Australia – is impractical and perhaps unfair, to describe it as being ‘racially driven’ is simply untrue based on her expressed viewpoint.

To continue with that line of argument would be counterproductive to proving that Islamic adherents can live peacefully in countries like Australia.

As far as thoughtful political communication is concerned, Australia has a long way to go, but discourse starts when we open our mouths and ears; not when we back people into a corner and ask them to apologise because they hurt our feelings.


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