Tim Wilson calls for changes in Discrimination Laws

Charlie Hebdo cartoons would be banned in Australia, he says

Human rights commissioner Tim Wilson has joined calls for changes in laws relating racial discrimination laws, arguing many of the cartoons published by French magazine Charlie Hebdo would be banned in Australia under existing legislation.

Citing concerns from the Muslim community, the Federal Government last year dumped plans to remove section 18C from the Act making it illegal to offend, insult or humiliate on basis of racial grounds.

Liberal senators Cory Bernardi and Dean Smith argued that was a mistake and have used the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris to call for the debate about free speech to be reopened.

Mr Wilson backed the call, saying the Racial Discrimination Act, as it stood, amounted to censorship.

“Around the world, if you’re going to say you believe in free speech and that people should have the freedom to offend or insult somebody, then the solution cannot be censorship,” Mr. Wilson said. “That is what we have in Australia today. We have a law that makes it unlawful to offend or insult somebody” he added.

Mr. Wilson said while he did not believe it should be illegal to offend or insult, there should be strong protections against public humiliating or denigrating a person based on their race.

“So people are either being hypocrites when they say they defend other people’s right to free speech, or they actually believe in free speech and recognise that laws that make it unlawful to insult or offend people are censorious and would see that Charlie Hebdo would be censored in Australia”.

Ghaith Krayem, from the Islamic Council of Australia, said cartoons that circulated after the Charlie Hebdo attacks were offensive to all Muslims.

“For Muslims, the character of the Prophet (PBUH) and our religious symbols are extremely important,” Mr. Krayem said while talking to media. He openly asked in his media briefing “There is cartoons which depict him… in a sex act. How could that not be offensive to somebody who holds the character of that individual central to their whole belief system?”

“Categorically, no Muslim in Australia would support what happened in Paris last week, but on the same basis, we have a right to be offended by what people do.”

Mr. Krayem said whilst people had a right to have their opinions heard, that should not excuse “bigotry”.

“I understand what Tim Wilson is saying. People have a right to have a view and have that view heard,” he said. “But at the same time, I have a right to be able to say “what you’re saying hurts me and it’s not for you to dictate how I respond to that bigotry, because it is, it is bigotry.”

– ABC News

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