Friday, February 25, 2011

What we preach

When One Nation's Ian Nelson told ABC-Television's Q&A program on Monday night "Muslims have their own religion, they have their own mosques, they have their own Sharia law, they have their own bible, the Qur’an. Which is, uh, really different than what we do", the studio audience laughed.

They weren't laughing with him, they were laughing at him. When Nelson repeated somewhat indignantly that "Muslims have their own bible", the audience laughed louder. Perhaps they remembered we are a secular society, where common law and parliamentary legislation has explicitly overruled religious law for the past five centuries.

Around sixty percent of Australians, including myself, identify themselves as Christians. According to around 2% of the Australian population identify with the Muslim faith, roughly only six times more than Australians who who identify themselves as Jedi Knights (0.37%).

Before Vatican II Catholic women wore head scarfs, commonly called veils, to church in a tradition as old as Catholicism itself.

"...any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonours her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil" (King James Bible, Corinthians 11:4-16)

Recently there was an outpouring of national pride as a veiled, robed, childless, female Australian historical figure, Mary McKillop, was elevated to sainthood. Many described McKillop as a role model for modern women. Perhaps that's why the studio audience laughed at Ian Nelson's funny ideas about Muslims. I know it is why I did.

Serial misogynist and English King Henry (VIII) Tudor saw off Christianity's version of Sharia, the Canon Law, in what we call the English Reformation. But it was an Ecclesiastical court, applying Canon Law, that made Mary McKillop a Saint. The reality is that Catholic Christians have had their own version of Sharia for two thousand years, and clearly that has failed to affect the status of women in modern times.

But perhaps websites like should go on the firewall blacklist, just to make sure.

Whatever the uncertainties, differences or perceptions of threat, we ought not to attack a small minority of Australians who want to practice what we have preached for the past two millennia.

1 comment:

  1. Steve, I laughed out loud when I read that 0.37% of Australian’s identify as Jedi Knights, actually I’m still chuckling. But I think it’s endearing rather than silly and at times in my life I might have identified as such, since I believe in some small way in the force. The force was always interpreted as an influence that fell outside the realm of the rational, and it was defined as an aura of dense midichlorins that surrounded the young Skywalker (Darth Vader) providing a scientific rationale for the force which ascribed Jedi Knights as superior beings. Midiclorians or adenosine triphosphate is a molecule that is found in everything and carries an unseen energy or force.
    I laughed again when you mentioned Catholic women wearing veils, for I remembered that when I was a child in the fifties most women wore hats to mass and occasionally, very occasionally we would be asked to put a handkerchief over our heads when we entered the church. In my case it was the Immaculate Conception church in Hawthorn and it was no easy feat extracting a mostly used handkerchief from one’s pocket and trying to spread it out so it would fit neatly on ones noggin.
    In 2002 I undertook a consultancy for the Melbourne Institute for Asian Languages and Society at the University of Melbourne. The position involved undertaking a feasibility study and options paper for a colloquium on Christian/Muslim interface. My research revealed the affinities between Christianity and Islam and I’m wondering why someone (other than yourself, who so beautifully articulates at least some of those affinities) doesn’t put themselves out there and start discussing the similarities, so that we can break down this horrible division?