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Government needs honesty on Shariah

By Joseph Wakim - posted Monday, 15 April 2013

It appears that Shariah law has become politically acceptable if it is dressed in a white collar and a business suit.

While Prime Minister Julia Gillard is wooing Chinese investors abroad, Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan will be wooing Islamic investors back home.

Today, Mr Swan will deliver the keynote address and indeed give the Gillard government's blessing to the inaugural Australian Islamic Finance Forum. This one day international investment forum in Melbourne is presented by Amanie Advisers Australia whose motto is 'driving global Shariah solutions'. It will bring together senior Shariah scholars, senior industry figures, global Islamic investors, Takaful (insurance) operators and Islamic bankers from the Gulf, Asia and Australia.


The forum follows the ASIC granting of an Australian Financial Services Licence to Amanie in February 2012, pathing the way for Shariah-compliant investments in Australia.

Just as Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been galvanising opportunities in China, this forum also recognises that Australia is the 12th largest economy in the world and a 'highly desirable investment destination…for Islamic investors'.

There is no problem per se with Australia securing a share of the booming global market for Islamic financial services which is worth more than one trillion dollar annually.

The problem is that our political leaders have been giving all things Shariah a public flogging for years, yet suddenly they are giving Shariah an air of respectability.

Let us examine what the treasurer's cabinet colleagues, past and present, have said on the public record.

In July 2011, when Prime Minister Julia Gillard was asked whether "Shariah law has any place in our society", her response was "there's only one law in this country, Australian law."


That same month, Attorney General at that time Robert McClelland declared that "there is no place for Shariah law in Australian society…Our constitutional founders included a provision against the state endorsing … religious practice".

Then in March 2012, Attorney General at that time Nicola Roxon declared that "there is no place for Shariah law in Australian society and the government strongly rejects any proposal for its introduction."

So far, so clear. There was no qualification about whether it was criminal or civil aspects of Shariah.

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About the Author

Joseph Wakim founded the Australian Arabic Council and is a former multicultural affairs commissioner.

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