Anne Aly, a Muslim member of Parliament in Australia, has proposed lowering the standard for an existing discrimination law that could result in a fine of more than U.S. $40,000 for those who insult a Muslim because of their religion, the Daily Mail reports.
“I find it a little bit strange that someone can call you a ‘dirty Arab’ and that be covered under the bill, but if they called you a dirty Muslim you’re not covered” said Aly, a member of the Australian Labor Party, in an interview with The Australian.
The law is called “The Racial Discrimination Act” and Aly wants to make sure that religion is covered under section 18C of the statute, along with factors mentioned in its current form like race, color, ethnicity, and national origin.
Opponents of the change see the Aly’s proposal as a way of making the Racial Discrimination Act double as an anti-blasphemy law.
Since what is offensive or blasphemous is purely subjective, the decision regarding whether one would be in violation of the law could be subject to the whims of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has come out as against the law, saying that it has “lost its credibility” because of its restrictions on the freedom of speech. Turnbull’s party is in favor of changing the RDA so that one is only in violation of it if they “harass” or “intimidate” someone because of their race.
Aly does not support PM Turnbull’s effort to lower the standard for the law. Her proposed change is on its way through the Australian parliament where it may face heavy opposition.
Section 18C of the Australian Racial Discrimination Act in its current form reads as follows:
RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 – SECT 18C
Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin
(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
Subsection (1) makes certain acts unlawful. Section 46P of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 allows people to make complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission about unlawful acts. However, an unlawful act is not necessarily a criminal offence. Section 26 says that this Act does not make it an offence to do an act that is unlawful because of this Part, unless Part IV expressly says that the act is an offence.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it:
(a) causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or
(b) is done in a public place; or
(c) is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public place.
(3) In this section:
“public place ” includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.