Fear of Islam is something which has been growing in Australia over the last decade. Fear of Sharia is just one manifestation of a general fear of Islam and Muslims among some members of the public, most of whom have never met a Muslim or have any real knowledge of Islam.
Most of the information the Australian public receives about Sharia comes from the media, which concentrates on exotic or sensational stories which will grab public attention and sell newspapers or internet advertising. Thus beheadings, lashings, polgamy, and terrorism (especially against western targets) are more interesting to the media than sober explanations of law. In this way the Australian public has learnt to connect Sharia with the hudud punishments of stoning and amputation & with the oppression of women in countries like Saudi Arabia & Iran, although in fact, these have no relevance to life in Australia.
There are some particular sources which encourage fear of Sharia. A recent report from the United States, ‘Fear Inc., the roots of the Islamophobic network in America’ (2011) detailed the existence of a well-funded network of right wing extremists actively involved in inciting fear & hatred of Islam in the US. These people have been able to infect the US media, politicians and public opinion to an amazing extent, and through the internet and other means their influence has spread to Australia.
There has been a fair bit of anti-Muslim and anti-sharia rhetoric in Europe & the UK,  which also influences public opinion here. Wearing the burqa has been banned in some countries as has praying in public places in France and in Switzerland, minarets have been prohibited.
At home, fear is generated by local media and comments by some politicians and community leaders. Headlines such as ‘Goodbye to rights under sharia,’‘Repressing women is sharia’s raison d’etre,’ and ‘Australia must steer clear of theocracy,’ create a misleading impression and instil fear. Talkback radio is another fruitful source of fear mongering.
Some Australian politicians have made their contribution. In 2005 Peter Costello, then Deputy Prime Minister, suggested that anyone who wanted to live under sharia law should go and live elsewhere, and he nominated Saudi Arabia and Iran as suitable places. More recently, Senator Barnaby Joyce, the leader of the National Party in the Senate, said: “Under sharia law, gay marriage would be an excuse for a good public stoning,” and wondered how many Islamic countries were introducing a carbon tax. Senator Cory Bernardi said “Sharia law is part of the Islamic proselytisation of Australia.” Senator Bernardi has invited the Dutch anti-Islamic extremist, Geert Wilders, to visit Australia. All this despite the fact that there has been no general call on behalf of the Muslim community for the establishment of Sharia as a parallel legal system or for the introduction of Islamic criminal law at all.
However, there are a few‘fringe radicals’ in the Muslim community who are loud and conspicuous in their demands that Australia adopt sharia as its legal system. ‘Sharia4Australia’ is one such splinter group, promising Australians that one day “they won’t be able to drink their beer…because one day they know they will be controlled.” The prospect of being deprived of beer is calculated to strike fear into the heart of the Australian masses whatever they might think of other proposals.
Response from Muslim community and religious leaders has been muted or non-existent. There is a need for rational and well-informed dialogue on this issue, a voice for Australian Muslim women, leadership from those who hold themselves out as religious or community leaders, and hopefully, a strong government supported campaign to inform the general public of the true meaning of Sharia in the Australian context. Information of this kind should reduce  misunderstanding and banish unnecessary fear in the public mind.
A question for all - what is the best way of convincing the Australian public that Muslims are not trying to impose Sharia on everyone and that, in fact, there is nothing to fear?

Jamila Hussain

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Comments

Deborah Hughes
02/13/2012 22:58

Hi
I'm not Muslim so I am ignorant as are most of the people I speak to about Sharia law in Australia. We only know what the media writes and as you mentioned this promotes fear in the people. I think women to women is a good start..reach out to non Muslim women, they are most likely to listen. I don't agree we should change our laws to suit other faiths, I certainly don't think Muslim countries would embrace our laws if we were settling and making them our homes so my question is why should we except Sharia law when it doesn't apply to non Muslim's. I am all for multiculturalism but we need to be educated about our new Australian's and not feel like we are soon going to be the minority in our own country.
Please help me and many other women understand. I believe we can all live side by side harmoniously.
thank you for the opportunity to ask questions.

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02/14/2012 00:16

Thanks for that comment. There is a common assumption that Muslims want to dictate what happens in Australia without considering the situation of existing Australians, and also that this situation could not happen in a Muslim country. In fact, Muslims have had little control over their own countries for decades, which is why there is an Arab spring right now, because of the imposition of French, English, Italian systems on the colonised countries of the Muslim world. That does not mean that Muslims want to do the same in Australia. The reality is that the law changes according to the needs of the people and becomes more inclusive as a result. So for example, there is a huge debate in this Christian country about same sex marriage laws - because there is a need amongst Australians for this to occur. Not everyone needs this law, will use this law or will become involved in same sex relationships as a result. It is about accommodating different needs. This is the same with Muslims who have different needs, and sometimes not having their needs addressed causes unnecessary conflict. If the law can provide a solution, that solves a problem e.g. divorce amongst Muslim couples, then it should be enacted. This has actually been the case for decades with Jewish law - they have special provisions for Jews to have their religious needs met under Australian law. Not everyone needs that, and Australian law has not going been taken over by Judaism as a result. It is just one way of letting the law makers solve problems that meet the needs of our multifaceted community. Hope this answers your comment a little - and yes, we should talk more, women to women. Salaams (peace)

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Deborah Hughes
02/14/2012 03:01

Hi Jamila
Thank you for your reply, you have answered my question. Now to learn about Sharia Law is next on my list.
I appreciate your time Jamila.
Salaams. :)

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Deborah Hughes
02/14/2012 20:18

Hello Jamila
.I have been reading about sharia law and have learn't a bit more than I knew yesterday...I've read discussions between Muslim and non Muslim and one issue stood out...If Sharia law was somehow integrated into Australian law what parts of it would that be? This is what one person wrote ....'Migrants come to this country because of the non discriminatory and non secular nature of the laws of this country. The laws of this country should not be adjusted to accommodate the sharia law. One law for one religious group and another for the rest of the population. This is not right. .' I agree one law for all as it would be if I was to go and live in a Muslim country I would have to abide by that countries law. .Lets look at Marriage..I understand that a Muslim man can have up to 4 wives..I have also been told that he must also provide equally for his wives and children even if they divorce...Ok here in Australia one wife one husband is the law...they must be of the legal age and if they divorce or separate the husband pays child support the wife, she either works to support herself if she is childless or centerlink pays her because she's a single mother.
So just taking this topic alone...would sharia law allow Australian Muslims to have more than 1 wife and girls at 14 be married even though Australian law prevents this....or would Muslims abide by Australian law as the law of the land you are told to follow? Just with this issue I see many problems evolving.."Will taxpayers be picking up the tab for the multiple wives" ? was another question raised in the debate...

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Salwa Kirk
02/27/2012 22:04

Hi Deborah.

Every Muslim I know is embarrassed and ashamed at the way some countries have chosen to interpret and apply sharia' law. It was never meant to be harsh, restrictive and cruel, though this is the way it is carried on in the countries we hear most about. The operative word here is 'chosen' to interpret, because Islam itself is not cruel and certainly not to women. Men - yes men - are the ones who have made Islam so uncomfortable for so many.

Jamila Hussain has written an excellent book about the sharia', now in its third edition. It's typical of her that she didn't tell you about it!
Its title is 'Islam; its Law and Society' and you will find that it's very interesting and easy to read. There's another great book called 'the Muslim Next Door' by Sumbul Ali-Karamali, which is quite amusing as well as interesting and informative.

I'm not trying to induce you to Islam here, just to give you sources which will help you understand, to the extent that you want to.

Good on you for being open enough to ask, and to listen to answers. I wish there were more like you.

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Deborah
02/29/2012 23:35

Hello Salwa
Thank you for your response..I have been studying about Islam because I see truth in what you believe and I want to understand . I became a Christian about 12 years ago before that I believed in God but not that Jesus was God... I believe there is One God and after my years of trying to understand the Bible I still don't believe Jesus is God but God is God. .When I pray I pray to God not to Jesus and this bothered me because Christian doctrine says you must believe Jesus is the son of God to be a Christian..so when I went to the Pastor of the church I belonged to with my concern about the doctrine..she prayed that I would know the truth...that was 2 years ago and I still feel the same. I stopped going to church 2 years ago and now I have found I'm drawn to Islam but I have doubt in my heart and this is why I find myself reading and watching everything I can find on the birth of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. I'm happy to have found a friend in a women who is Muslim..she is an Author she has written 5 or 6 books the latest Ali Abdul V The King... Muslim stories from the dark days of white Australia and after reading this book I learn't things about Muslims I didn't know anything about so I am hungry for more..I went to Istanbul and Egypt in 2010 then in 2011 went back to Istanbul..I love the culture and especially the Mosque call 5 times a day..it resonates in my heart. At this stage I would be grateful to you if I can post questions when they arise and discuss with you here on this website. I am getting opposition from my Christian friends when I try to explain what it is I've learn't about Islam but I'm sure they think I'm being brainwashed..lol I wish my Christian friends would open their hearts and minds and not be so Islamophobic if that's a word...:). I think the women of the three religions..Jewish Islam and Christian have to have a louder voice and reach out and support each other through this dark time in the religious world because the men have done a terrible job so far...
Thank you for the info on the book I will look for it...I love the title..we are all neighbours in God's world.. this I believe is true.
Peace to you and your sisters.

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Salwa Kirk
03/01/2012 05:13

Deborah, it was lovely to get your most recent message. I well remember that feeling of being drawn to Islam and in fact I was enrolled in university doing a grad dip in theology (with the aim of becoming an Anglican priest) when I realised I simply couldn't accept what we were supposed to believe and promulgate.

Your Christian friends probably won't believe this, but no Muslim will ever (or certainly should never) try to persuade, push, urge or hurry you to Islam because it is quite clear in the Qur'an that there is no compulsion in religion. One of the things which impressed me gretly, in the three years it took me to embrace Islam, was that no one ever put any pressure on me, but would simply answer and questions I had, then stop. When I mentioned this, they told me what the Qur'an said and then of course I saw it for written for myself.

The Qur'an also says that God calls whom he will, so if you feel you are being called you are in the good company of thousands who have had experiences similar to those you are describing.

I keep a stock of books that I give to seekers like yourself, if you would like me to send you something. My own favourite is the good old Idiot's Guide. There is one for the Qur'an and one for Islam. Send me your address if you like, and I'll post one to you as my gift. I have others as well, but that's a good place to start.

I'm glad you have met Hanifa Deen. She is well known and respected in Muslim circles and you won't learn anything untoward from her. (It makes my hair curl when I hear some of the things some converts have been told).I have two of her books and always enjoy her writing.

If you have access to a computer that doesn't take a hundred years to download TV programs, have a look - and a good laugh - at 'Little Mosque on the Prairie' by Canadian TV. It tells you a lot about Islam and gives you some good laughs at the same time. I can lend you the CDs if you can't download it.

By the way, 'Islamophobia' is indeed a word and it is alive and well in Australia. We know it is there but sidestep it, because there is no point in arguing with bigots.

If your Christian friends are the revivalist kind, they wold have a fit at the thought of you leaning towards Islam, though I have found that mainstream Christians are quite open. One of my brothers-in-law is an evangelical Christian and I can see him having real trouble realising that I am still the same person he has known for years and have not taken up bomb-carrying or trying to undermine our social or political systems. Goodness knows what he is being told at his church.

Anyway, please keep asking questions, even the difficult ones. We have heard them all, I promise you, and will not be shocked. Any of us us AMWA will always do your best to answer you. Most of us are converts and understand how hard, as well as how exciting, it can be as you continue your journey of discovery.

There is a little book of personal stories by converts that you might enjoy. It is about how individuals came to Islam rather than about Islam itself. Hanifah may have a copy but if she doesn't, I'll happily lend you mine.

Keep in touch and rest in God. It's the same God, as you already understand, so I suggest you just pray as usual, and ask that your course may become clear. Then simply trust that it will.

Remember to send your address (which will only be seen by us and not be the public) if you'd like some books. They won't be hard to read, I promise.

Salam (peace),
Salwa.

Deborah Lisibach
03/05/2012 00:34

Thank you Salwa for sharing your journey. I know there are many women like me who have been through the whole nine spiritual yards. Maybe as you get older the veils are peeled away and you start being honest with yourself...At this point in my journey I don't want to attach myself to any religion...I believe God knows my heart and will lead me where he will. I appreciate your book suggestions and I would like to receive anything you want to send me.
My address...Unit 1/404 Glenfern road Upwey, 3158...Melbourne.
I'll look forward to more study.
Peace..:)

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Deborah Lisibach
03/05/2012 00:34

Thank you Salwa for sharing your journey. I know there are many women like me who have been through the whole nine spiritual yards. Maybe as you get older the veils are peeled away and you start being honest with yourself...At this point in my journey I don't want to attach myself to any religion...I believe God knows my heart and will lead me where he will. I appreciate your book suggestions and I would like to receive anything you want to send me.
My address...Unit 1/404 Glenfern road Upwey, 3158...Melbourne.
I'll look forward to more study.
Peace..:)

Reply
Deborah Lisibach
03/05/2012 00:34

Thank you Salwa for sharing your journey. I know there are many women like me who have been through the whole nine spiritual yards. Maybe as you get older the veils are peeled away and you start being honest with yourself...At this point in my journey I don't want to attach myself to any religion...I believe God knows my heart and will lead me where he will. I appreciate your book suggestions and I would like to receive anything you want to send me.
My address...Unit 1/404 Glenfern road Upwey, 3158...Melbourne.
I'll look forward to more study.
Peace..:)

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Salwa kirk
03/18/2012 15:54

Dear Deborah,

I've been ages in getting back to you and apologise. 'Life happened', as they say. I'm posting you the 'Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam' because it is one of my favourites.

Like you, I believe that God knows your heart and will lead you. If any of us on this site can help you with your journey, that will be our pleasure and our privilege.

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We are not used to blogs and in reality liked your blog. I'll search for your webblog and keep viewing you. I absolutely should give you thanks with regards to writing your web web site.

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Salwa Kirk
05/14/2012 00:19

Hello there, mooloolaba holiday apartments. That's a lovely thing to say, so Thank You.

I don't actually have a blog, though you are the second person to suggest that I do. I'll think about it. In the meantime, I try to explain things from the AMWA site, ie here, if people ask questions.

Are you Muslim? It doesn't matter if you aren't, because you are still welcome here.

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05/14/2012 01:33

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it..I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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Salwah Kirk
05/14/2012 01:40

Thank you, whitsundays accommodation. However, I don't post anything except in response to questions.

Do you have a question about Islam?

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05/24/2012 00:45

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it..I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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Salwah Kirk
05/24/2012 01:19

Thank you, Mooloolaba Accommodation. Do you have a question about Islam?

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05/24/2012 01:39

Hi, This page is very informative and fun to read. I am a huge follower of the things blogged about. I also love reading the comments, but it seems like a great deal of readers need to stay on topic to try and add something to the original topic. I would also encourage all of you to bookmark this page to your most used service to help get the word out. Thanks

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05/29/2012 21:37

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Salwah Kirk
05/29/2012 23:05

Thank you, Airlie Beach Apartments.

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I can’t believe it stumbled onto your post...Thanks so much!!! i am going to have to sign up 2 ur RSS feed so it can keep updated with your post...thanks Again

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Salwah Kirk
06/05/2012 00:09

I think there are gremlins in the system!

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Salwah Kirk
06/05/2012 00:11

Can someone have a look at this please. I think the above six comments are some kind of spam or hoax.

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Silma Ihram
09/19/2012 01:22

No, there's no spam - everything is fine. Just took me a while to respond heh

Reply
09/17/2012 06:25

THE problem isn't us. It isn't even some YouTube clip posted by a filmmaker no one has heard of.

No, the problem is them.

Islamists. Extremists desperate to take offence. Bigots who use violence to frighten us into giving up our free speech.

I mean not just the people setting the Middle East ablaze, but the hundreds of Muslims who in Sydney on Saturday staged a violent riot, allegedly over a video that insults Islam. Enough.

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Silma
09/19/2012 01:19

We have already said "enough is enough" so we agree on that. And yes, we do have extremists and angry young men. But we also must address the issue that there continues to be a continual cause of pain that our angry young men feel is just not being addressed: a) the drone strikes without any accountability b) the bombing that misses and kills 9 women c) the continual violation of UN rulings in Palestine and so on, the list is endless. We hear it occasionally as a small news blip, sigh or tut tut, but many of these young men have extended family in these countries, or look at the international news coverage which is far more explicit and focussed than ours, and say "why is everyone ignoring this? How can this continue to happen without anyone doing or saying something?" this is what builds anger and resentment. I am not supporting what happened at the protest by a few, some of whom are already known to the police, but the rest of the hundred or so protestors came in peace.
And we really do need to stop ignoring the frustrations of angry young men simply because we live in such a lucky country.

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your angry young men
09/21/2012 04:53

silma,

your attempt to justify the actions of your "angry young men" is deceitful, misleading and cowardly. Your insinuations are out right lies.

In fact your "angry young men" hear in the lucky country and in the places you mentioned are the ones inciting the hatred and bombings and all the things you claim other are doing to you... Please open your eyes...
Please stop lying and Please take action....

There has NEVER been a suicide bomer from the other side!
There has NEVER been a child with a gun from the other side!
There has NEVER been angry mob demanding "beheading" from the other side!

TAKE NOTE:
TAKE ACTION:
PLEASE

10/04/2013 07:47

Thank you for publishing articles about such a critical issue, I believe that in fact it is completely invented, because Australia - a very diverse country, which is almost independent of religious institutions and other outdated regulations. Religion - is a personal choice.

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