Sada-e-Watan Sydney ™

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane's Speech on Religious Freedom

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE [4.13 p.m.]: Last September my colleague the Hon. Amanda Fazio and I were presented with a copy of the Holy Koran during an Eid celebration at New South Wales Parliament House. The Koran was gifted by the Pakistan Australian Business Council of which both the Hon. Amanda Fazio and I are patrons. On 26 March 2013 I moved a motion to formally present the Holy Koran to the President of the Legislative Council, and the House unanimously agreed to that motion. On 21 May 2013 the Hon. Amanda Fazio and I had the honour and privilege are formally presenting the Holy Koran to the President, the Hon. Don Harwin, MLC, at an official ceremony in Parliament House attended by more than 100 senior members of the Muslim community, dignitaries and multicultural media.

 It should be noted that this was the first time in the history of any Australian Parliament and possibly any Parliament in a Western non-Muslim nations that a motion was formally voted on and agreed that a copy of the Holy Koran be presented to the Presiding Officer. That is a credit to the New South Wales Parliament. This historic moment was as significant as it was symbolic. It is indicative of how our elected representatives are committed to promoting the principles of multiculturalism, religious harmony and genuine interfaith. This ceremony was not just about religion; it was about respect not only for those practising Islam but for people of all faiths who have the right to practise their religion freely in this great land and under the umbrella of State, Federal and international laws. As my colleague the Hon. Amanda Fazio said in her speech: I am sure that we all appreciate that Australia, and NSW in particular, provides the freedom for cultural, educational and religious diversity in harmony, within a democratic, institutional framework based on mutual respect for our heritages, along with acceptance of our differences.

I am proud of the fact that this ceremony, attended by my parliamentary colleagues from across the political spectrum, reflects the openness of our multicultural society—one that is built on acceptance, tolerance and trust. I sincerely hope this has paved the way for others to formally present other holy books to promote respect for race and religion. In particular, I extend my gratitude to the President of the Legislative Council, the Hon. Don Harwin, who formally and graciously received the Holy Koran on behalf of the Legislative Council. I thank my colleague the Hon. Amanda Fazio, who also presented the President with a framed photograph of worshippers in Jakarta's Independence Mosque, the largest mosque in South-East Asia.

 I also thank Mr Kashif Amjad, Mr Iftikhar Rana, Mr Azam Mohammed, Mr Asif Muhammad, Sheikh Yusuf Elrich, Ms Maha Abdo, Ms Rana Saab, Ms Aisha Amjad, Mr Louay Moustapha and Ms Trish Marinozzi for their valuable contributions in making the event memorable for all. Also, I take this opportunity to say that, while so many members of Muslim communities have been working hard to build tolerance and foster relationships based on interfaith harmony, unfortunately there are some individuals who let everyone down. Whilst we had this significant ceremony in Parliament House as a symbol of solidarity for religious freedom, one man has been causing considerable angst to many people. I would have preferred not to mention this matter while reporting on this historic event, which I will remember fondly for many years to come, but Mr Mohammed Issai Issaka has sullied the waters.

In a democratic country such as ours there are many ways in which people can express their views the opportunities are wide open. I am a person who will not shy away from having my say. I will always say and do what is right, even in the face of trash that I have read in the Australian Israeli media. One or two reporters writing in the Murdoch press namely the Australian have been attacking me and denying the truth of Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and the killing and dehumanising of the Palestinian people. That is utter garbage. I accept the right of people to express their views, even when they are wrong, naive, ill informed, indoctrinated and blinded by the power of a political lobby group that is cancerous, malicious and seeks to deny, misinform and scaremonger. What I do take exception to is foreigners intervening in the rights of Australian politicians to speak out. Therefore, I say to the Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, "Butt out and stay out. Your perceived right to bully as you do in the Middle East does not extend to the Australian political arena."

In today's Australian Cassandra Wilkinson, lacking journalistic integrity and informed knowledge of Israeli occupation of Arab land, took aim and attacked me. In an example of sloppy reporting and sloppy journalism, she quotes a statement she attributes to Mr David Shoebridge, MLC, that was actually made by Dr John Kaye, MLC. Perhaps because Dr John Kaye is of Jewish descent Ms Wilkinson conveniently attacks others in the New South Wales Parliament who simply dare to "criticised ”as any ethical or moral person would do the State of Israel's illegal and criminal practices against the Palestinian people. I applaud all Muslim and Arab leaders for speaking out on these and other issues. I call on the Australian Arab Muslim community to unite and for once to speak with one Australian voice. I ask them to protect the right of their community to speak out and deliver a message of peace and citizenship on behalf of their community so that neither they nor their messages are misconstrued or misunderstood.

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