The recent case of the Muslim men accused of lashing another Muslim in his home is still to be decided by the courts but early reports suggest that Islam was once again hijacked and used as justification for criminal behaviour.
As lawyers and as Muslims, we find it reprehensible when Islamic jurisprudence is appropriated by backyard thugs whose actions show an utter contempt and arrogant disdain for the ethical, moral and reasonable principles that underlie Islamic theology.
The majority of Muslims are fed up with a minority who are content to manufacture ugly interpretations of Islam, which are far removed from the compassionate and just jurisprudential legacy we have inherited. Unfortunately, we live in a society where very few people make a distinction between the teachings of a faith and the myriad interpretations and distortions such teachings can produce.
We are also fed up with the media highlighting every criminal or stupid act by somebody who happens to be Muslim. There are more than 300,000 Muslims in Australia and while the vast majority are law-abiding, they stand accused alongside every Muslim who has a run-in with the law. The media attention is disproportionate, leaving the grossly unfair impression that the majority of Muslims are on the wrong side of the law.
The Muslim community is as diverse and eclectic as any community which broadly falls under a religious category and individual actions should not be extrapolated to a judgment about an entire faith community.
For every outrageous false claim made by a Muslim in the name of Islam, whether to justify misogyny, brutality or ideological divisions, there are countless Muslims – lay people, scholars, academics, community workers, activists, professionals, students – countering such ugliness.
We are not here to defend badly behaved Muslims. To such Muslims we say you should be held to account if necessary.
As Muslim women, as lawyers, as Australians, we have this message: there is no fundamental or intrinsic incompatibility between Islam and democracy.
We also say this: fears about the criminal code of sharia having a place in Australia are generated by sensationalist scaremongering. The criminal code is barely implemented in Muslim majority countries so any such debate is a moot point. That some might seek to justify their behaviour on the basis of sharia does not mean their actions are a true reflection of sharia law or that sharia law is coming to Australia. To be a good Muslim and a good Australian are one and the same thing. A life devoted to Islam’s ethical and moral principles means a person will strive to have integrity, be law-abiding and embrace civic responsibilities.
Let us name criminal behaviour for what it is and not grace it with any religious labels.
Randa Abdel-Fattah and Mariam Veiszadeh are both lawyers working in Sydney and devout Muslims
Originally published in The Daily Telegraph 15 August 2011