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Magna Carta barely makes it 800 years in Australia

By Kuranda Seyit - posted Friday, 19 June 2015


It’s been 800 years since the Magna Carta or the Great Charter was written and granted by King John of England on 15 June 1215.

This is quite an important milestone, as it symbolizes the great achievements of Western Law as the first set of ideals by which the English people could live in a time which was relatively backward.  The Magna Carta established that the king was subject to the law rather than being above it.  Another important aspect of the charter was that all free men accused of a crime had the right to be heard before a court of law;

It writes:

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No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

Justice delayed is no justice at all. I just cannot but feel the irony of this, as we celebrate this great milestone more Draconian laws are being rushed through parliament that will effectively turn the concept that all men are equal before the law on its head. An exception will be created to this law for those who are suspected of fighting with a terrorist organization, the key word being ‘suspected’.  As well as introducing a new law that will strip a suspected terrorist of one’s citizenship; that is, strip you of your rights, in direct contradiction of the Charter which clearly states that “no free man should be stripped of his rights”, based on suspicion. No court, no jury and not even a judge.

800 years on and we are now talking about limiting internet access of those suspected on being extremists. We have already made amendments to the anti-terror laws which allows a person to be detained without charge and we have introduced laws that allow police access to your metadata.  

So this is how far we have come in 800 years.  Come on, let’s celebrate!

And what about the celebratory language of the prime minister? It’s equally disappointing. Last week the government hosted an international summit on terrorism and in his opening speech, he said that;  “Daesh is coming, if it can, for every person and for every government with a simple message - submit or die.”  And going as far as suggesting that Islam needs a "religious revolution to reverse centuries of false thinking." This was blatantly arrogant and misguided (regardless if other Muslim leaders think this).

In contrast President Barack Obama, speaking at the US summit on countering extremism back in February, took a more conciliatory tone, appealing for more acceptance of Muslim-Americans while emphasizing the need to remain vigilant against radicals who could turn violent.

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"We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam," Obama said, he went to lengths before the summit began to avoid linking extremism to the Muslim faith;

"They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam," he said. "We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists."

There is a profound difference in the two leaders approaches and styles. While I understand that they cannot be identical, there is a distinct difference in the level of sophistication and sincerity of approach.

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About the Author

Kuranda Seyit is a council member of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations (FAIR) and an independent documentary film maker.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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