By Julia Baird
With few exceptions, including a statement from the National Imams Council, almost all of the talk of religious freedom and opposition to the bill on the grounds of faith has come from Christian leaders, particularly from the Anglican and Catholic Churches.
But now one Muslim leader has offered an explanation.
Last night on ABC’s The Drum, Ali Kadri, spokesman for the Islamic Council of Queensland and the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, said his community was stuck with the choice of offending allies or siding with critics, and the result had been silence.
“Unfortunately, in the current climate, the right and conservative side has attacked Muslims as terrorists and extremists, and naturally the left side has been allies in defending us for a long period of time,” he said.
“We are afraid if we come out with our opinion then the left may abandon us for going against their view and we can’t be friendly with the conservatives because they have been bashing us for 15, 20 years every chance they get … and that includes some Christian sects as well.”
Even though it was the Australian Christian Lobby that led the charge against the Safe Schools program, Mr Kadri said Muslims were also deeply concerned about the possible impact of any legislative changes on education.
“A lot of Muslim community are concerned that religious rights will be trampled in Islamic schools [and that they] will have to follow a national curriculum that will teach things that go against the fundamentals of their religion, so they are concerned about it,” he said.
“There are people in the Muslim community who want to know the facts.
“Will it have an impact on Safe Schools or not?
“Will it trample on our religious freedom because we are already afraid to build mosques, because we get right wing groups complaining about mosques, so will this have further impact on our rights and freedoms?
“The Muslim community is not speaking because the climate which is created in this country, we are not allowed to speak. We speak up and are called a terrorist, unpatriotic and all those slurs.
“So we are missing out on having our say in this debate and that’s the wrong thing.”
Not all Muslim leaders have shown a reluctance to speak though.
Recently Council of Imams Queensland president Yusuf Peer said gay marriage was unacceptable to Islam, and that Muslims should respect LGBTQI people but “condemn only their actions”.
And the statement from the National Imams Council was unambiguous: “Islam places the family unit at the heart of a healthy society, and in this context, the right of children to be cared for and raised by both a mother and father is one that must be protected.
“Islam also explicitly and unambiguously states that marital relationship is only permissible between a man and woman; any other marital relationships are Islamicly impermissible.”
But the Muslim community’s view is not unanimous.
In recent weeks, strong opposition to the conservative leadership view has begun to emerge.
National Advocacy group Muslims for Progressive Values has expressed support for same-sex marriage and in August, Muslims for Marriage Equality was formed to build support for the Yes vote.
In a press release, Muslims for Marriage Equality spokesman Fahad Ali, former peer educator with the AIDS council of NSW, stated: “There is a diversity in belief and opinion on equal marriage within the Muslim community … there is a strong thread of egalitarianism and social justice within the Koran and we think that it is very applicable to the question of same-sex marriage.”
In recognition that many LGBT Muslims — or supporters — may be living with family members who do not support their views, Muslims for Marriage Equality is offering to provide temporary postal addresses for those who cannot have their ballot paper sent to their home addresses.