06 October 2008

Alan Jones, Lebanese Muslims, Vilification

Alan Jones is no stranger to controversy so it is not surprising to see him embroiled in more controversy even though this is something that has been on the horizon since 2005 and never fully resolved. Alan Jones broadcasts on 2GB radio. This is an interesting case and will test the vilification laws and the lengths that elements of the community can go to in order to suppress criticism. It also has the potential to test the bounds of free speech in cases where discrimination has not been made out.

The crux of the matter will turn on whether you can vilify a religion or an idea. Simply, can an idea or a religion have rights? I can see and understand the arguments for vilifying a person and can comprehend the idea that a person has rights. However, I am less convinced that an idea, and religions are ideas, have rights which can be protected by a vilification or hate speech law.

The issue stems from two incidents. The first is where Sheik Faiz Mohamad told a gathering at an Islamic Youth Centre in Liverpool that women who dressed in skimpy clothing only had themselves to blame if they were raped. Essentially, the Sheik said that a woman is to blame where a man cannot control his sexual urges.

This brought on an outburst from Jones that saw him saying that all Lebanese Muslims were "vermin" and "a national security problem". It did not stop there for Jones, as over the next several days in April 2005 he referred to the "much discredited Lakemba Mosque" and added it was time to "take the gloves off and teach these bastards" (presumably a lesson in the Australian way).

But the words keep coming with, "we are far too tolerant of these people, we have to take out the root cause". On another occasion Jones said, "They have no connection to us. They simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that's taken them in. I can't believe what I'm seeing. What did we do as a nation to have this vermin infest our shores? Tell me we don't have a national security problem in the making."

This prompted Keysar Trad of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia to lodge a complaint at the Anti-Discrimination Board. After two years the Board failed to reach a decision but instead referred the matter to Administrative Decisions Tribunal Equal Opportunity Division.

The gist of Trad's complaint is that Jones had "expressed hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of a person or a group of persons on the grounds of [their] race". Furthermore, Trad alleges that the Jones tirade suggested that Muslims and particularly Lebanese Muslims are "despicable people", "unsuitable immigrants" who "do not and cannot assimilate". The Trad complaint also alleges that Jones suggested that members of Muslim communities were "prone to commit sexual assaults", were "parasites", and "an internal danger to the security of the country".

It is unclear whether Trad is going to have any more luck at the Equal Opportunity Division but the EOD has asked Trad to elaborate his complaint. This would suggest that the complaint is not going to be dismissed out of hand.

I will try and follow this case and post on it if and when juicy stuff becomes available (photo is from the SMH).

12 comments:

Polar Bear said...

The problem is Sydney society isn’t very happy with Lebanese Muslims – as was demonstrated at Coogee a few years ago…..

Jones is off the air now, has cancer, and has a big fan base who look back on the old days when Howard was in government and the economy was booming.

Lebanese Muslims have the highest unemployment ratio in NSW, and are VERY over represented in crime statistics. Trad might have a fight on his hands and do more damage than good in picking this fight.

Rob Baiton said...

PB...

This is why it is interesting to me.

This will be a test of the vilification laws and an exercise in hair splitting.

I am not sure that you can vilify a religion or an idea. I think you can vilify a race of people and Lebanese would meet the definition of race or be part of an identifiable racial group.

The legal angles interest me as much as the social and political ones.

Polar Bear said...

I am reminded of Oscar Wilde’s legal fight with the Marquis of Queensberry. ….

Rob Baiton said...

PB...

How so?

Polar Bear said...

Having said all of that, I had a drink with a Lebanese friend just after the Crunulla riots. I made a stupid drunken reference to it, and he looked like he was going to cry. “My mother is worried that I’m out tonight” he told me.

“But you are an Aussie mate” I reassured him.

“So were they…..” he replied.

Polar Bear said...

Oscar Wilde???

Trad is picking a fight based upon one mans on air assertions about an ethnic group.

Just like Oscar he is looking for a fight, and like Oscar the evidence isn’t on his side.
Statistics will show a lot of what Jones said is accurate.

Jones might get his wrist slapped. But once again the media will be full of the unemployment ratios, the crime statistics, the rapes, the drug deals.

Things best left well alone (Like Oscars sexual preferences…).

Rob Baiton said...

PB...

This is the thing, isn't it?

Many of Australia's "immigrant" population is no longer immigrant but rather the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or greater, generation of those that arrived on our shores.

Born and raised in Australia and Australian citizens through and through (perhaps similar to the Indonesian Chinese, Indonesian Indians, and Indonesian Arabs).

To be sure there are newer arrivals than this as our current immigration target is some 190,000 so I am lead to believe.

So, aren't we all Aussies in some shape or form?

Yes, on the OW question.

Once again, I am wondering whether the racial vilification laws provide for a truth exception. That is to say, is it the same as defamation in that if you can prove the truth of your assertion then you cannot have defamed the individual or group of individuals.

This is why it is interesting. If the claim proceeds under the Anti-Discrimination Act, and this is the act that contains the vilification provisions, then what is the implication of this approach?

I am printing out and will read the relevant parts later tonight.

Anonymous said...

Trad is up to his old tricks protecting Islam and trying to claim the moral high-ground. We all know what Jones said is - despite his hyperbole - an accurate enunciation of what has been seen in Sydney and reflects communal feeling. A victory for Trad will shut Jones up, but will provoke resentment in the community. As a consequence, let us say groups if 'Anglo-Celts' start causing trouble then no one in the community can label them. That is by the same reasoning. If you cannot categorise the problem then you lose the power to control it. Trad and the Lebanese Muslim cohorts are aware of this and they keep shifting position, play the victim, and push back on society to carve out their space a little more. But, by now, one should be aware that Trad has no credibility in the community.

Hannibal

Rob Baiton said...

Hannibal...

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

I think the point of my post was not to comment on the morality of the Jones tirade but rather the legal implications and the legal issues that it gives rise to.

Anonymous said...

Rob Baiton,

I am also interested in the legal question. I was merely providing an overview. It will be interesting to see if a religion has 'inalienable rights' and has to be offered the respect of a person or corporation and granted legal rights. The historical context would say that religion is (personal) belief. But, Islam has a political agenda. I view Trad as moving on that political agenda. I see a convergence of legal questions, political questions and religious questions in the issue. Where does freedom of speech end? Are courts hostage to PC?

Rob Baiton said...

Haven't seen anything lately in or on the news about this. I am in Indonesia so the news of it here is limited.

I have checked some Australian news sites but have not seen any updates there either.

What is the current status of this thing?

Anonymous said...

Rob Baiton,

The court found Keysar Trad a racist. He lost the case. The case was not against Jones so much as against another radio broadcaster at 2GB. There was relief in the community with the judgement.

Trad is to appeal.

Hannibal