On 13 February, a debate about immigration on ABC News Australia led to an explosive argument on air. Nationalist senator Jacqui Lambie started sparring with TV presenter and activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied on the topic of Sharia law. Soon afterwards, Abdel-Magied faced a backlash, with a petition to get her fired quickly gaining steam. But she raised a crucial point during the debate that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The debate started after an audience member asked if new rules surrounding immigration were necessary to avoid community conflict. Lambie then stated that anyone who supports Sharia law should be deported from Australia.
But Abdel-Magied raised a very important point, asking “do you know what Sharia law is?” She said [0.30]:
People talk about Islam without knowing anything about it. And they’re willing to completely negate any of my rights as a human being, as a woman, as a person with agency, simply because they have an idea about what my faith is about.
She also insisted on the importance of differentiating between culture and faith, stressing:
some countries run by Muslims are violent, sexist and do oppress their citizens. But again, that’s not down to Sharia. That’s down to the culture, and the patriarchy, and the politics of those particular countries.
Whatever people may think about Abdel-Magied’s beliefs, her point about actually understanding what Sharia law and Islam are before criticising them is very pertinent.
What do people think?
A recent poll in the UK found that almost a third of respondents believe Islam is a violent religion and promotes acts of violence in Britain. But when asked about their understanding of the religion, only 41% of 18-to-24-year olds said they had a good understanding of it. And only 27% of those aged over 45 said the same.
When Abdel-Magied asked Lambie what Sharia law was during the debate, Lambie struggled to respond. And the senator also seemed surprised when Abdel-Magied pointed out that Sharia law says people should follow the law of the land where they live.
Lambie continued to use negative stereotypes, however, and when the host asked if she accepted that some people may consider her words to be hateful, she responded [3.48]:
To a minority… but this is for the majority. This is what the majority want.
A debatable claim. But a worrying one nonetheless. Does hate really become acceptable if it’s ‘what the majority want’? Even if it’s based on stereotypes or misinformation pushed by right-wing media outlets and politicians? And even if it’s based on a fundamental lack of knowledge or understanding?
– Find out more about the debate.
– Put an end to hate crime.
Featured image via YouTube