Australia’s first Muslim frontbencher has been sworn into his position with a Koran, and has been subjected to a torrent of abuse through social media.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s new parliamentary secretary, Ed Husic, is the son of Bosnian Muslim migrants. On Tuesday he chose to swear his oath on the Koran, the main religious text of the Islamic faith.
During the ceremony, Governor-General Quentin Bryce told Mr Husic that “This is a wonderful day for multiculturalism, and everything it stands for in our country.”
However, by Tuesday afternoon Mr Husic was receiving abusive messages on his Facebook page as people expressed their outrage at his choice to be sworn in using the Muslim holy book.
One user, Peter Edhouse, said “Some of your brothers in action in the UK – do you still support that dastardly Allah/Mohammad? Do Australians want this menace here? No!!!”
Another, Rod Rulz, claimed “Ed Husic has committed treason against the Commonwealth. He is therefore illegally in office, due to not fulfilling the requirements of the Oath Act of 1900 (NSW).”
Mr Husic’s response to the abuse was relatively mild. When asked about it on Tuesday afternoon, he said that people were entitled in a democracy to question his choice. “[People] may have questions and they may have concerns and people are right to raise that. But I also think you’ll have, from time to time, people of the extremes. There are people that are definitely extreme… and they will always try to seek ways in which to divide people. The important thing is mainstream Australia wants everyone to work together.
Mr Husic has previously described himself as a ‘moderate’ (not deeply religious) Muslim, who is not heavily involved with most of the customs and behaviours of his religions.
I would like to start by saying that Ed Husic is not unique in his actions. He is certainly not the first minister to choose to swear his oath on something other than the Bible. In 2010 Josh Fydenburg and Michael Danby both swore their oaths on the Jewish holy book, and no less a person than the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, chose not to use a Bible. Instead, as she considers herself to be an atheist, she chose to take an ‘affirmation of office’ rather than swear an oath.
None of these actions, however, sparked national outcry. None of these politicians experienced anywhere near the level of vitriol or personal attack that Mr Husic has received in the past 24 hours.
It seems that the situation becomes infinitely more fraught once we bring the Koran into the mix. Apparently some people still can’t see past the fact that a misguided minority has given Muslim people all over the world a bad name, and that what those extremists call ‘Islamism’ has very little to do with Islam.
I, for one, don’t think it’s any of our business. If Mr Husic wants to swear on the Koran, the Bible, Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species or Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that, rather than pretend to be something he’s not just to please the media and the masses, Mr Husic was honest and stood up for his beliefs. Swearing an oath is a deeply personal act, and to ask anyone to swear an oath over a text that, for them, has no relevance or significance, makes the oath worthless.
So I say good on you Ed Husic and congratulations on your appointment. To the Australian minority making the rest of us look bad with your embarrassing display of racism, get over yourselves. It’s really none of your business.
What do you think? Should Ed Husic have followed tradition and sworn his oath on the Bible? Should he have simply avoided swearing over a religious text at all? Or was he right to stand up for his beliefs and swear his oath on the Koran?