With attitudes to religious freedom a new key test for Australian citizenship, Australians should be concerned about rising religious intolerance on our doorstep.
Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton said the impending trial for alleged blasphemy against the Koran of former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, was evidence that some of our nearest neighbours do not share our values regarding freedom of religion.
“In Australia people are free to criticise the Bible, Koran and other religious texts. But in Indonesia someone can face up to five years’ jail for ‘blaspheming’ the Koran,” Mr Shelton said.
“In Pakistan, a supposedly moderate Islamic State, Christians like Asia Bibi are on death row for allegedly blaspheming Islam’s prophet Mohammad.”
Mr Shelton said that while the new citizenship test did not include a question about country of origin blasphemy laws, seeking applicants’ attitudes towards Australia’s approach to religious freedom and respect for women was a positive step.
“I don’t believe Australians want to see a situation where there is pressure to shut down freedom of speech about the merits or otherwise of various religious texts,” Mr Shelton said.
“No religious text is above scrutiny or criticism.
“Yet just a short flight from Darwin, we are about to see a former Christian governor of Jakarta go on trial for making a very reasonable comment about the Koran,” Mr Shelton said.
Ahok sparked massive protests from Islamic hardliners for suggesting that Muslims were free to vote for non-Muslims.
The ABC has described the blasphemy charges against him as “trumped up” yet under Indonesian law he goes on trial.
His trial was delayed until after yesterday’s election, which he lost.