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Irresponsible Comments Draw the 'Religion Card'

Irresponsible Comments Draw the 'Religion Card'

Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner Tom Calma today condemned the irresponsible comments made by Liberal MP Danna Vale yesterday, where she linked the debate on the abortion drug RU486 with religion and race.

Mrs Vale is reported as saying that Australia could be a Muslim nation in 50 years time because Australians are ‘aborting ourselves almost out of existence’. Vale is proposing an amendment to a private members bill that seeks to remove ministerial veto over the abortion drug RU486.

‘It is highly irresponsible and deplorable for Mrs Vale to draw a random connection between the Muslim population in Australia and a parliamentary debate on an abortion drug, simply in order to score a political point,’ said Commissioner Calma.

The MP’s comments undermine the good efforts of governments and community groups to build bridges between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Australia in the face of recent events.

‘I am extremely disappointed that a political leader would use the ‘religion card’ at a volatile time in Muslim and non-Muslim relations - a time when leaders should be taking a key role in building bridges and promoting mutual respect and understanding,’ Mr Calma said.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s 2004 Ismaﻉ Report, which summarised national consultations on eliminating prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians, recommended that political and community leaders encourage Australians to uphold the principles of multiculturalism, including respect for the right of all Australians to express their own culture and beliefs. Mrs Vale’s comments do exactly the opposite.

Not only are the comments damaging, but claims that Australia is being taken over by Muslims are not factually correct. According to the 2001 Census, there were fewer than 300,000 Australian Muslims, representing around 1.5% of the total Australian population. Between 1996 and 2001 only 9% of new arrivals were affiliated to Islam.

‘Mrs Vale should issue a public apology to Muslim Australians and cease all such political scaremongering,’ Commissioner Calma said.

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