In this weekends election the Labor Party in the seat of Gympie had no official candidate, owing to his resignation when a blog comment he made in late 2006 in support of free speech for Sydney Muslim cleric Sheik Hilaly. The comments by Hilaly were at the time highly controversial, and in the wake of the Sydney cases of pack rape by a Lebanese gang, showed about the same level of PR skills as the AIG bonus deals. At least the AIG people demonstrated the skills required to get the US government to hand them $250 billion, which is no small achievement. 🙂
While the statements by Sheik Hilaly were pretty much over the top, especially given the context of the times, he was not advocating violence against women nor in my opinion attempting to inflame the situation. He struck me as out of touch with reality, probably through advancing age.
Australia has a long history of good relations with its Islamic community going back to the early 19th century, and it should remain this way.
The local paper “The Gympie Times” reported:
Labor candidate, Daniel Tabone chose to walk the plank at the weekend (and he insists he was not pushed) over his support for the free speech rights of the Sydney Muslim cleric who compared some scantily clad women to “uncovered meat”.
Mr Tabone made it clear yesterday that he did not support the cleric’s remarks or share his opinions but was concerned to defend the right of free speech.
Quoting the French writer Voltaire, he said: “I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it”. ….
Mr Tabone insists that he was not sacked by Labor over his remarks, although the word “dumped” has been widely used.
“I got a phone call at the weekend. I was asked very nicely if I would withdraw from the election and I agreed,” the almost ex-candidate said. “I guess I’m too much a person who calls a spade a spade.”
I contacted Daniel to find out the full story and he has been good enough to provide the following information:
The “offending” words
What ever happened to freedom of speech? I don’t believe in any religion , be it Islam or Christianity ( Just Physics thanks ) , But I do believe people should be allowed to express their views freely. If a Christian or Jew made similar comments, would we have the same reaction? Posted by: Daniel Tabone of Qld 7:28am October 29, 2006
It was mostly in reply to other blogs attacking him because of his religion and calling for him to be silenced. I would say it again tomorrow if it came up again as I don’t think it is offensive if taken in the right context. At the end of the day It’s not so important what other people think of me, the important thing is what I think of myself. I am not ashamed of making this comment regardless how the media want to twist it.
He also pointed out: I was a little disappointed about the fact they wouldn’t defend my freedom of speech especially when I was just defending someone else’s. But it was just a matter of timing I guess.
One of the worst aspects of this incident was the way rival candidates attempted to portray him as supporting the Hilaly statements, (from GT again):
The Greens’ Kent Hutton said: “I can’t relate to his comments. We live in a multicultural society that works toward harmony. Comments like this are unacceptable and to be condemned.”
Independent Elisa Roberts said: “The ALP dumped Daniel Tabone at the weekend after it was revealed he’d supported derogatory remarks made by Muslim Cleric Sheik Hilaly, about “scantily clad” women, two years ago. ….
Sitting MP David Gibson said: “Gympie is a vibrant community, with a rich diversity of religion, culture and opinion. Our community is built on a solid foundation of tolerance and respect. “The conduct of the Labor candidates is a matter for the internal workings of the Labor party, but ….
Gibson was more moderate in his approach but still left the allusion hanging in the air, the others were disgraceful in their distortion of the facts, or were too dumb to tell the difference between support of a statement, and support of the right to make that statement. I think the Labor Party were in a difficult position where they could have gotten involved in a damaging row about something which was easily distorted and not related to the issues, in an electorate that they had no chance of winning. A quick clean exit was probably good strategy, but in fairness, Mr. Tabone was sacrificed at the altar of expediency for a “crime he didn’t commit.”
Some time ago, when internet censorship was first raised, an article appeared in the local paper, “Hands off our freedom of speech,” by Greg Wildie:
What is unwanted content anyway? Unwanted by whom? I track a number of web sites that many people would see as unwanted. There is no better way to know what the loonies are up to than to watch them at play. The mental gymnastics of the Ku Klux Klan are very enlightening. You might dislike the holocaust deniers, but not everything they say is either inaccurate or bad history.
… Who will make the choices for the banned list? Will our over-religious prime minister balance his team with a few atheists, to ensure the offensively religious sites get the chop? Are Christian and Jewish hate sites going to be banned along with the Islamic media or will we be too lily livered to dump on all sides equally? Who will stand up for freedom of speech, freedom of political expression and a plain old fair go for all in this brave new world of Big Brother Kevin? Who will really suffer?
It won’t be the child pornography market. Unless Big Brother is going to start opening every letter, parcel and post bag sent in Australia, not unthinkable for the idiots who cooked up this scheme, then the millions of existing images will simply travel by post and increase in value. Much like with every other activity governments have tried to ban, it will merely create a market. Move over ice, kiddie porn is the next big thing. …