Three times, in three separate London pubs last night, I got hit with the same laugh-choked observation – “are you saying Australia wants to deport someone for being s-xist?” The nation may see itself, in matters s-xual politic, as the Sweden of the South Pacific, but the rest of the world begs to differ.

They’re right of course. Let’s face it, the notion that scantily-clad women are “asking for it” has only been unacceptable for about fifteen years – around the time Justice Derek Bollen said that a husband had a right to bully his wife physically into having s-x, and another Justice remarked that the rape of a prostitute was more like theft of goods unpaid for than an act of violence.

For about fifteen years before that, “asking for it” would have been seen as a little backward, but by no means unarguable. And before that it was mostly seen as plain common sense.

Perhaps I traduce their memory, but I suspect that Henry Parkes, Dame Enid Lyons and Robert Menzies would have seen Sheikh al-Hilali’s comments as a somewhat gauche statement of an obvious truth, and the widespread objections to it as naïve and unworldly. So who is more in touch with the values that shaped us a nation?

The notion that no woman is “asking for it” has only become widely accepted in Australia following one of the most expensive and sustained campaigns of social engineering in our history – a decade or more of TV ads, retraining of judges, workplace courses, and so on. So, that’s made us a better place (though personally I’m not crazy on values being a function of state initiatives). But to suggest that it has anything to do with intrinsic Australianness is ludicrous.

This is the place, after all, with country towns known for “the train” – the collective, sustained and ongoing gang rape of young women, covered up by adults and police, and the victims demonised as sluts. Bizarrely we have in Pru Goward a sex discrimination commissioner who, in years prior to calling for the mufti’s deportation, had argued that men travelling overseas should go to prostitutes rather than have affairs.

So you’re not allowed to call white women “meat,” but it’s fine to purchase Asian ones by the kilo. And if you want to see the “women as meat” image taken to its logical conclusion, check out the captions and photos in Picture or FHM – which have far more readers in Australia than there are Muslims.

And that’s to say nothing of the prevailing attitudes revealed in the world of football by the antics of the Canterbury Bulldogs. Maybe they’re all Muslims. Muftis in mufti, as it were.

Still, at least we’re know we’re right. God may be great, but how good are we?

Peter Fray

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