Jan 10, 2017

Guess who’s coming to $150-a-head anti-Islam dinner?

Who on Earth would turn up to Kirralie Smith's "Defending Freedom of Speech Halal Choices" fundraiser? Spoiler: it's Bernardi. And Christensen. And attention-starved Ross Cameron.

Irfan Yusuf — Lawyer, author and commentator

Irfan Yusuf

Lawyer, author and commentator

The other day my mate and I went to Nissin World Delicatessen, a popular supermarket for expats in central Tokyo. In the meat section, I saw imported meats from Australia, the United States and New Zealand. The Kiwis do roaring business here in Japan, and the huge, loud halal signs don’t seem to worry anyone. In this majority Buddhist nation, and even among its expatriate community (many of whom would be nominally Christian), the idea of eating the flesh of a cow or lamb slaughtered in the name of Allah isn’t going to lead to a House of Councillors inquiry. The same is largely true in Australia (apart from the futile Senate inquiry into kosher and halal certification). Indeed, most halal-related litigation Muslims involves halal butchers suing halal certifiers, halal certifiers suing other certifiers and religious bodies seeking to enforce contracts in which certifiers promise to pay some stipend. Halal v Halal. But now Australia’s fractured far right has joined the halal fray, largely a case of yesterday’s anti-Semites becoming today’s anti-Halalcertifites. As Dr Shakira Hussein notes, kosher certification was once used as a means to attack America’s Jewish minority. Now the same racist themes are being used to attack halal certification and the tiny minority of Australians who identify as Muslim, including ones like me who are happy to eat halal-uncertified McDonald's in Tokyo. Kirralie Smith and her colleagues from the Q Society/Halal Choices/Australian Liberty Alliance have found themselves defendants in a defamation claim brought by one of Australia’s major players in the halal meat game. Smith posted a video on Facebook headlined “Mosques promote bigotry. Islam is divisive”. She mispronounces the name of the dreaded faith as “Izlaam”, claiming that it isn’t a religion in the same way as Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Christianity. She claims Islam is a “totalitarian ideology” with both political and military aspirations. She also says that we don’t want people who behave violently against those who disagree with them. [Rundle: muddying the waters with Angry Anderson and the ALA] But Smith has come across a Muslim businessman who prefers not to get angry but instead to use the non-sharia civil law system via defamation proceedings. She needs every dollar to defend the court case and has organised public events in early February in Sydney and Melbourne to raise funds. For just $150 you get "a sparkling welcome, a variety of fine finger food and a generous serve of free speech. Article 19 UDHR applies. Drinks at bar prices." And where does the money go? The promotional material states: “All proceeds and donations go towards the legal expenses incurred by Q Society of Australia Inc, Kirralie Smith, Debbie Robinson et al. in the defamation action initiated by Mr Mohamed El-Mouehly (Halal Certification Authority Pty Ltd) before the NSW Supreme Court.” It continues: “This is a landmark case with considerable ramifications for freedom of expression in Australia.” How does litigation pursued in accordance with a jurisdiction legislated in Australia since 1847 have considerable ramifications for freedom of speech? Indeed, how often do you see senators and MPs involved in fundraising for one side or the other in a free speech case? Even in the case of Danny Nalliah’s defence of religious vilification claims brought by the Islamic Council of Victoria, entertainingly covered by Hanifa Deen’s book The Jihad Seminar, Peter Costello delivered an Australia Day message to a meeting organised by Nalliah and had been the recipient of Nalliah’s prayers, but that’s about it. Peter Costello also won’t be on the podium of the ALA event. Neither will Danny Nalliah or Fred Nile or even Pauline Hanson, who has campaigned heavily on Islam-related stuff (from halal meat certification to sharia law to toilets in the Tax Office building). No one from the United Patriots Front or the Reclaim Australia mob will be present. [Anti-Muslim sentiment reaches fever pitch as ministers channel their inner Howard] Indeed, were it not for the presence of Cory Bernardi and George Christensen, the event would hardly have been worth reporting on. This event is more conspicuous by who will be absent than present. The Islamophobic space in Australia has some powerful media and political backers. But its hardliners are deeply divided, mirroring the divisions in the Australian far right, for which hatred of Muslims has replaced hatred of Asians and Jews and other “Others”. In the electoral stakes, at 0.66% of NSW Senate votes Kirralie Smith came well behind One Nation (4.1%), Fred Nile (2.7%) but ahead of Danny Nalliah’s Rise Up Australia Party (0.17%). When it comes to the “Islam-critical” sector, as John Howard once never said, “The things that divide us are more important than the things that unite us”. Instead of other prominent Muslimphobes, Shariaphobes and Halalphobes, the podium will include a crime writer, an ageing hard rocker and some bloke named Ross Cameron. And now a couple of Coalition backbenchers.

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15 thoughts on “Guess who’s coming to $150-a-head anti-Islam dinner?

  1. Kfix

    So how are the Big Macs over there Irf?

    It would be interesting to know if the reason that the “other prominent” toerags aren’t showing up for this one is that they have more to gain than lose from Australia’s suffocating libel jurisdiction? Or (perhaps like Jackie Lambie as someone pointed out yesterday) are they finding they aren’t getting any traction from brownophobia?

  2. Nigel Stanley

    The fundraiser is not very attractive, more a collection of ‘yesterday’s men,’ it appears. I didn’t think Cory would be generous enough to shell out $150 for the usual luke-warm dinner plate, nor Georgie Boy, either. Or are they guest speakers and get free food?

    1. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

      Doubtless they will claim travel allowance so that George can say grace (on behalf and for the benefit of a grateful nation) and Cory can deliver a speech about government submarines and climate change. Scones and nibbles will be provided by a ladies auxiliary.

  3. tonyl

    Angry Anderson again?

  4. AR

    I’d happily pay $150 to defend free speech as long as i didn’t have to associate with any of the people mentioned in the article.

  5. Matt Willis

    The only valid criticism of halal certification is that it panders to people’s irrational beliefs in a god. The other stuff about Islam being a different beast from the other religions and being a totalitarian faith has been said over and over by the Harrises and Dawkinses of the world.

    Had these folks stuck to the facts they’d be fine, but on the face of it they’re now fighting a battle they’re bound to lose in court.

  6. Dion Giles

    I think the issue differentiating halal from kosher is that kosher products are purchased only by those who choose to buy them whereas the halal certification charge is a tax (jizya – see Google) on the entire population on a range of goods wide enough for it to be impossible to choose not to pay it.

    1. Matt Hardin

      Your statement is untrue with respect to kosher. I worked in a starch plan t that made ingredients for biscuits, cakes and thingof that nature and we had a RBI me in and declare the plant kosher. This cost a smal fee. I think you will find as long a list of kosher products in the “normal” aisles of a supermarket as halal products.

      1. Dion Giles

        It’s based on a section of my local Coles marked “kosher” and none marked “halal”.

        1. Marty Wallace

          Do they have a section for Atheists?

    2. Kfix

      The halal certification charge is no different to the kosher certification charge – it’s a voluntary process for those who wish to sell goods that meet the certification requirements.

      Jizya was (for it exists no longer, except possibly in ISIS and Taliban controlled territory) a tax on non-Muslims imposed by Muslim governments for political and economic purposes entirely unrelated to halal products.

      1. Dion Giles

        My point is that voluntary (supposedly) for the sellers doesn’t mean voluntary for the buyers on to whom the charge is passed. If we are talking peanuts it’s a non-issue. It the sums nationwide are large (say $1m or more) it would be worth an inquiry including the degree of choice the producer (such as the chook farmer) has over paying it. Just so we know we’re not funding a protection racket while there’s relentless government pressure on the poorest among us to make sacrifices “for the Budget”. The GST is theft enough.

        1. Kfix

          But that’s still exactly the same as kosher, if you buy kosher products. It’s also the same as RSPCA certification for eggs, or organic certification, or other marketing costs for that matter (as that’s essentially what it is for those who don’t believe in the religious aspect, and I’m talking about organic as well as halal here). It’s a commercial decision made by the producer, and to the extent that there is a racket going on forcing the producers to conform to certain practices you would be better off looking at the supermarket duopoly than at any of the individual cost areas.

          1. Dion Giles

            This one’s religious. Let’s see what it’s costing us. Open inquiry. If it’s big bucks, enforce real choice for producers to decline it without penalty and report anyone who threatens a penalty so it’s not a jizya or a protection racket to add to the GST.

          2. Kfix

            “enforce real choice for producers to decline it without penalty”

            What penalty do you think is being enforced, and by who? If Coles (say) decides it wants to offer certified products as a marketing strategy and so requires certification of its suppliers, are you going to make that illegal? If you don’t get certified, people who want to buy halal products won’t buy yours, that’s all that will happen. That’s not a penalty, that’s commerce.

            I really don’t get the level of fantasy around this issue. No one is penalising or forcing anyone, other than the big supermarkets as they do with all sorts of suppliers around all sorts of issues, and to the extent that those practices are unethical or otherwise undesirable that has nothing to do with the underlying reason for the various certifications.

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