Tony Abbott believes in free speech, but…
Last week, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott announced plans to introduce stronger laws against ‘vilifying, intimidating or inciting hatred’ as part of a new suite of national-security measures. Although details of the new regulations were not revealed, it’s a worrying development. After failing to repeal Australia’s existing hate-speech laws, the Liberal government is now seeking to place even more restrictions on free speech.
Given the timing of this announcement, the law is clearly, at least in part, aimed at tackling Islamist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. Hizb ut-Tahrir describes itself as a political party whose goal is the creation of a global Islamic caliphate. It treads a fine line in terms of how it operates, not directly inciting people to commit violent or terrorist acts but, at the same time, defending the right of Muslims to protect themselves against attack – both violent and satirical.
Various countries have banned Hizb ut-Tahrir. Britain is keen to do likewise. Thus far, Australia has resisted doing so – and this is a good thing.
Late last year, a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia, Wassim Doureihi, went on ABC’s Lateline to be interviewed about the group’s ridiculous and backward views. He was summarily made to look a fool, after he clumsily evaded direct questions from host Emma Alberici. This interview stands as a perfect example of the power of having such groups out in the open, so they can be challenged and exposed.
What Australia needs is more speech.
Charlie Pearson is a writer based in London.
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