Australian representatives of the Muslim community seemed pleased that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 would remain, which is kind of strange for a couple of reasons, as I will explain.
Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of the wording of 18C. The section reads:
(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.
Note that there is no mention of religion in (b), only “race, colour or national or ethnic origin”, which essentially means – first strange reason – that section 18C does not apply to offensive or insulting remarks about Islam. People often claim criticism of Islam is ‘racist’ but forget that it is not a race.
On the other hand, however – second strange reason – some of the banners at the recent Gaza protests would easily fall within the requirements of s18C. The photo above reads ‘Zionism Nazism is the same’ with an Israeli flag torn away to reveal a swastika. The display of such a banner is reasonably likely to offend and insult a group of people (Israelis), and was done because of the national or ethnic origin of the people in the group.
Perhaps we should launch an action? No, forget it. We all know that there are only certain privileged minority groups which section 18C can be used to protect, and Israelis aren’t one of them…