Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician famed for his anti-immigration views, recently launched the Australian Liberty Alliance, a political party whose platform calls for banning Muslim migration to Australia. While there is no denying that radical Muslims exist in our community and overseas, Wilders and the ALA's call to ban Muslim immigration amount to a call for tyranny of a different kind: a tyranny that denies individuals the right to live and migrate here merely because of their religious background. I do not dispute their right to express their views, but they are profoundly mistaken.
Those who argue that our laws should ban Muslim immigration overlook the profound impact on civil liberties these laws will have. Collective punishment undermines the presumption of innocence. Migration bans presume that all foreign Muslims are completely incapable of respecting our freedoms. They are found guilty of that charge without a trial. Abandoning the right to a fair trial and imposing an ideological test for migration is the antithesis of liberty.
The ALA and Wilders no doubt wish to trade liberty for security. But where does that stop? Should we lock up all of the Muslims here from fear that some of them might be extremists, as Roosevelt did to Japanese-American citizens? Deport them? What will come next? If we concede that individuals do not have the right to a fair trial merely because of their religion, anything seems possible. Those who think they can build and control anti-Muslim sentiment and abolish the right to a fair trial without any repercussions forget the lessons of the French and Russian revolutions, which led to waves of collective punishments for imagined crimes. They may find themselves next in the firing line.
There are many secular and moderate religious Muslims in our community. They speak their minds openly and without fear of retribution. Nothing would do more to breed distrust, division and suspicion of Australia among them than establishing a religious test for immigration. Nothing would do more to breed extremism amongst Muslims than laws that ban perfectly innocent, law-abiding people from migrating here on account of their religion.
Contrary to Mr Wilders' claims, Islam is not a fundamentally extremist creed. Islam is simply a set of religious texts. It is not fundamentally anything. All religious texts contain passages that condone religious war of some kind or another. Centuries ago, Muslim lands were ruled in a manner that was far more tolerant and accepting than their Christian European counterparts, which quashed all dissent. To claim that Islam is a fundamentally extremist creed is an obvious instance of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.
While Muslim extremists do advocate violence against non-believers, their influence in Australia should not be overstated. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Australian Muslims are law-abiding. Terrorism remains exceedingly rare, and most attacks have been prevented by law-enforcement action, sometimes as a result of cooperation with the Muslim community. You are more likely to be hurt climbing a ladder.
Those who argue that Muslim refugees are more likely to be terrorists overlook that these refugees are fleeing a civil war wrought by extremists. These refugees are the people most likely not to adhere to extremist ideologies in the first place. They are also the most likely people to abandon those views once living in our flourishing and free society.
Far from banning Muslim migrants, we must embrace them together with migrants of all backgrounds. Migrants enrich our community and contribute valuable skills in a range of areas in the economy. For decades the bulk of them have integrated successfully into our liberal society. We should celebrate their presence and contribution.
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