Opinion

Analysis: It’s Important To Maintain Vigilance Against Hate Talk

Fijians who claim we have laws that restrict freedom of expression on religious and ethnic issues should look at developments in Australia. Attacks on religion and race that breed tension
23 Jun 2018 14:50
Analysis: It’s Important To Maintain Vigilance Against Hate Talk
Today we are a united nation of many cultures, religions and ethnicities having a common identity and enjoying equal rights. Photo: Ashna Kumar

Fijians who claim we have laws that restrict freedom of expression on religious and ethnic issues should look at developments in Australia.

Attacks on religion and race that breed tension and incite hatred and violence are outlawed here.

They include hate mail. But often they escape the law through fake addresses in the social media.

In Australia, the people there are getting sick and tired of the perpetrators of violence, the product of racism, religious intolerance, extremism or fanaticism and bigotry.

After a concerted campaign, they have managed to convince the legislators to enact laws in the State of New South Wales. The laws impose a three-year jail term on those who incite violence based on race.

They make it a crime to publicly threaten or incite violence against targeted persons or groups based on religious, or intersex status in addition to the existing grounds of serious racial, homosexual, transgender amd HIV/AIDS vilification”

The penalty is up to a maximum three-year jail term and a fine of AU$11,000 (FJ$17,078.88). This is a significant increase from the previous six-month prison term.

A coalition of 31 community groups and leaders have hailed the passage of the new laws. Fred Nile, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party told the NSW Upper House he was pleased to support the bill “because public threats and incitement to violence is a scourge that is plaguing certain sections of society.”

The law change would hold perpetrators accountable.

In a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society, there are elements that see easy pickings in tension and division.

They thrive in an environment of instability and capitalise on people’s fear. They promote suspicion and hate against others to score cheap political points.

One sinister campaign doing the rounds is the spread of the anti-Muslim sentiments. It has no basis and it is politically motivated.

It is spread by desperate Opposition politicians and it’s obviously aimed at the Attorney-General and Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who is a Muslim.

While the majority of Fijians say there should be no room for this kind of politics today, it continues unabated. 

There is no evidence that it’s inciting tension and violence now, but we know we have a history that tells us that it has happened before in 1987 and 2000. 

It has the potential to flare up again if we do not watch it and get too carried away with the politics of old and of division.

In New South Wales they have put their foot down and say “we’ve had enough of this, let’s tighten the laws.”

We need to be equally vigilant here to ensure that we do not slide back to the situation we saw in 1987 and 2000.

The perpetrators of the politics of race, religion, fear suspicion, division and hate, are people who are dead against the 2013 Constitution and will always push their own agenda because they refuse to move with the time and the changes that it brings.

Today we are a united nation of many cultures, religions and ethnicities having a common identity and enjoying equal rights. In essence, we are a nation of one people no longer divided by racial compartments.

Our Australian neighbours are maintaining an awareness of what’s developing on race and religion. We cannot afford to ignore it.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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