It’s heartening that in the political oblivion to which the voters of Bennelong consigned him exactly a decade ago, John Howard has adopted a somewhat warmer view of Australia’s Muslim communities.

Speaking to his old friend Dennis Shanahan (readers may recall that, in the Howard years, there was quite a diversity of views at The Australian: Shanahan backed Howard, Glenn Milne backed Costello), Howard said, “the argument that religious freedoms will lead to the ­imposition of sharia law is just plain wrong and is a disgraceful appeal to community fears.”

Howard, of course, is unhappy with the jujitsu that Liberal Yes advocates have performed on marriage equality deadenders looking to delay Dean Smith’s bill by warning that any protection of “religious freedom” would open the way for religious freedom of the kind deadenders have long warned about, sharia law. Clearly, in Howard’s view, such an argument, is an anti-Muslim scare campaign.

Coming from the bloke responsible for “children overboard”, who exploited citizenship as a wedge tactic, complained that Muslims didn’t embrace Australian values and weren’t critical enough of terrorism, locked up and cancelled the visa of an innocent Indian Muslim doctor on trumped-up terror charges and insisted racism played no role in the Cronulla riots, it’s comforting to know that in retirement, he now worries about “disgraceful appeals to community fears” regarding Muslims.

Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that some Muslim communities in Sydney’s west, along with other ethnic and religious groups and Howard himself, voted No?

Peter Fray

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