All this came rushing back to me this week as the Abbott government announced it was dropping its proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act. The announcement wasn’t altogether surprising, but the context for it was. Suddenly section 18C would be left alone as a figleaf for Muslims; a kind of transfer fee for their recruitment to “Team Australia”. Consider how that looks if you believe – as presumably the government still does – this section is an egregious attack on free speech. Apparently we must continue to live under its yoke to appease Muslims in the hope that they’ll help us fight terrorism. We’re being held to ransom again. Muslims are the Grinch who stole freedom.The truth, of course, is that Muslims are largely peripheral to both issues. I don’t think I’ve met a single Muslim – or indeed a member of any other religious minority – who could care less about public Christmassy-ness. And whilst I have met Muslims who were unimpressed by the government’s plans for the Racial Discrimination Act, it seems an unusual red line for them to draw given that Muslims aren’t even protected by it. The law doesn’t regard Muslims as a racial group. So, whatever it is section 18C prevents you from saying about Aborigines or Asians or Jews, you can go right ahead and say it about Muslims. That’s exactly why Victoria introduced laws specifically targeting religious vilification: because the Racial Discrimination Act has nothing to say about it.
via Abbott’s 18C puzzle: linking terror and free speech raises interesting political questions.