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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4235

Mr TUCKEY (8:12 PM) —This is an important motion which, above all else, deals with religious freedom and the prevention of persecution, particularly on religious grounds. From my own reading and also from representations made to me over time in my electorate, I have found people who practise the Baha’i faith to be people of peace and goodwill. I find it ridiculous to suggest that, in a place like Iran, they would want to be spies. One might further ask just what that spying would achieve. There has been another case in Iran recently involving a woman broadcaster. She was suddenly dragged into a secret court, found guilty of spying and incarcerated. When the international community protested as to the injustice of these arrangements, the woman was taken back to court and a plea bargain was arranged. The result was not an eight-year term of incarceration but a two-year suspended sentence. That is like a nothing.

Why do you attack people for spying when, in your eyes, their only fault is that they draw attention to an alternative faith? I have not had people come to me and criticise the Muslim faith, the Islamic faith, because they are Baha’i. The Baha’i just say, ‘Can we please have the freedom to act in accordance with our faith?’ To me, this is extremely important. Previously, when representations were made to me that were not as specific as those in this situation where a group of people are in detention on account of charges for which there has been no proper process, I found myself making representations to the then Iranian ambassador. He came to my office to assure me that the Iranian constitution guarantees religious freedom. Yet, after my being told that, I am now confronted with the circumstances that the member for Leichhardt has drawn to the attention of the chamber. This situation is wrong and, what is more, it is unsustainable in terms of any logical response.

You cannot be a spy unless you have someone to whom you pass the information. Would that be because the economy of Iran is in dreadful shape, it has huge inflation and most people find it extremely difficult to survive on the income available to them? That is public knowledge. So why is it a sin if somebody has commented on that? As I said, when people have visited me they have come not to tell me what is wrong with Islam but to seek protection for their faith under international law.

I think we can welcome with considerable commitment this particular motion. The Iranian government is wrong because it alleges the activity of people but there is no attempt to prove it. That makes the following point to me: why would someone involved in a dominant religion have to be so brutal towards others who have a different point of view? If you are right, if you know that you are right and if you believe that you are right, why do you worry about the other fellow? It is just silly, and yet we have this ridiculous situation, frequently tolerated by Western countries. The attitude is: ‘Don’t you say that about them. Don’t you publish a cartoon.’ It would be pretty tough if we politicians had to worry about cartoons, wouldn’t it? Suppose we said: ‘You published a bad cartoon. I’m going to shoot you.’ In my mind, it is a religion under attack when Islamists have to use brute force to sustain their religion. It has happened in Christianity historically. SBS has just run a series on the Catholic religion— (Time expired)