Australian law inadequate to protect Muslims from hate crimes

29th Jan 2016

Nadine Osman

Australian law is inadequate to fully protect Muslims from hate crimes, according to a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The report, released on November 5, 2015, shows that protection of Muslims under the Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act is “limited” because “religious identity” is not covered under the act while Australian Jews and Sikhs – are covered because the Federal Court has accepted they have a common “ethnic origin” and can thus be protected under the Act.

The Court has determined that Jewish people constitute an ethnic group due to their shared customs, beliefs, traditions and characteristics derived from a common history and identity.

Legal and ethnic affairs experts are calling on the Federal Government to investigate how to better protect Australia’s Muslim community from discrimination.

The report finds that discrimination against Muslims has escalated since the Lindt Cafe siege on December 15, 2014, during which lone gunman Man Haron Monis killed two hostages at the end of a 16-hour standoff.

Director of Law Reform and Social Justice at the Australian National University, Professor Simon Rice, said that changing Act legislation alone won’t make a difference.

“Reliance on law alone is very limited. The law has to be given effect to by lawyers and courts and tribunals who understand it and pursue its spirit.

“It has to be backed up by mechanisms like the Human Rights Commission, which would have to be properly funded to promote and investigate those sort of complaints,” he argued.

“It would have to be supported by an extensive education and awareness campaign. And in my view most importantly, it has to be supported by leadership, by a public commitment from our leaders and commentators to address a wrong like this.”

The basis of his argument being that “a law is sterile unless it’s actually widely publicly supported.”

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