Submission: Freedom of Religion Inquiry

The Islamic Council of Victoria’s senior policy advisor has prepared a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade, Inquiry into the Status of the human right to freedom of Religion or belief. The submission powerfully argues for the protection the human right of freedom of religion for Muslim-Victorians while highlighting cases and effects of breaches of this human right.


 

Preamble

On Tuesday, 29 November 2016 the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, asked the Committee to inquire into and report on The status of the human right to freedom of religion or belief. You can read more about this particular parliamentary business here. Information about making a submission is available here.

The Islamic Council of Victoria:

Muslim Victorians experience religious intolerance in the form of Islamophobia, racial abuse and breaches of our universal human rights in the name of national security and some Australian media personality’s ‘freedom of speech’ claims.

Religious visibility of Muslim communities is also described in the context of targeted Islamophobia, not only for women wearing a hijab, but for the description: ‘middle eastern appearance’ in the media.

Islamophobia in the public policy arena is shown to result in a failure to recognise and support Muslim community responses and work to address family violence, mental health, employment, education, settlement services, youth work and the court and justice system.

There is a lack of support for these community led initiatives, with funding largely going to national and state security for countering violent extremism instead.

The submission outlines the ways in which religious intolerance and Islamophobia affects Muslim-Australians adversely, especially young people.  It highlights currents efforts made toward achieving freedom of religion and growing interfaith support for Muslims.

The submission argues for respect of the human rights of Muslim asylum seekers as well as Australian Muslims and makes 11 recommendations to the Inquiry on behalf of Victorian Muslim communities:

Recommendation 1:

New government consultation with the Muslim community on a new code of practice for research and/or service agreements for partnerships with Muslim community organisations. This will recognise Islamophobia as a significant variable effecting public policy, media and gaps in research on the violations and abuse of Muslims’ human right to freedom of religion and belief.

Recommendation 2:

Existing Commonwealth CVE and CT funding re-allocated to create safe spaces urgently needed by Muslim youth to meet and talk about a range of issues in emotional terms, where they can be frank and even use words, which in a public space would sound inflammatory.

Recommendation 3:

A meeting between the MEAA, the Commonwealth and the ICV to initiate a consultation among its journalism and news producer members about their compliance with the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics point #2 in their reporting of Muslim Australians.

Recommendation 4:

Existing Commonwealth CVE and CT re-allocated their funding into more inter-faith activities and programs in partnership with Muslim community organisations.

Recommendation 5:

Government maintain current protections in s18C and include a protection for people to safely practice their freedom of religion in Australia.

Recommendation 6:

Commonwealth and State Government maintain its commitment to Multiculturalism and to a broaden their commitment to assist Muslim families to access non-CVE policy support to increase assistance in as family violence, health, mental health, corrections, youth, education and employment.

Recommendation 7:

Commonwealth Government contribute to the final report of this Inquiry by outlining their record and commitment to international human rights agreements, and especially Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Recommendation 8:

Australian Commonwealth Government review the new control orders in the Counter-Terrorism Act in the context of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Recommendation 9:

New government funding for counsellors of Muslim parents of children affected by new control order for children. This will acknowledge the risks to mental health, employment, rental housing, poverty and education as a result of any unforeseen consequences of legislation which disproportionately affects Muslim youth.

Recommendation 10:

Australian Commonwealth Government adhere to its existing international human rights agreements.

Recommendation 11:

Australian Commonwealth Government review all current policies for refugees detained on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru by: a) speeding up the process; implementing permanent non-detention policies for asylum seeker children, permanent asylum to persons on bridging visas; and reduce reliance on resettlement agreements with countries such the US.

Download pdf of full Submission

ICV welcomes feedback and comments from our communities.

 

 

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