Anne Aly, Australia’s first female Muslim MP, is calling for the tightening of speech laws so that religious anti-Muslim offenses become illegal. According to Aly, race discrimination laws need to be expanded to cover religion-based insults.
Restrictive speech laws Down Under banned people from saying anything that could ‘offend or insult’ others along racial lines.
The government of Australia is pushing to adjust the legislation so that words “harass or intimidate” before becoming a matter for the courts. Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act needs to be changed because it has “lost its credibility.”
However, Aly proposes doing the opposite – keeping the lower standard for the law, and adding “religion” to the current list of “race, color or national or ethnic origin”.
Speaking to The Australian, she said: “I find it a little bit strange that someone can call you a ‘dirty Arab’ and that be covered under the bill, but if they called you a dirty Muslim you’re not covered.”
Existing legislation does not criminalize those who break the law – but it can result instead in hefty fines of more than $40,000 (US).
The government changes – to remove the “offend or insult” wording – is working its way through Australia’s parliament, where it faces tough opposition.