Former Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie has founded a new political party, with at least one its “core beliefs” based on a complete misunderstanding of both the Islamic faith and the Australian Constitution.
In a statement released earlier this week, Lambie announced the formation of the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) and detailed the 12 core principles those joining the party must embrace.
It only takes until point five for things to start to come unstuck.
“5. JLN is opposed to Sharia Law being imposed in Australia either formally or informally and will promote a policy of undivided loyalty to the Australian Constitution and people,” Lambie’s statement said.
The problem is, Lambie’s understanding of what ‘Sharia Law’ means is extremely poor. According to various academics and Islamic leaders, Sharia is a set of guiding principles (like the 10 Commandments), one of which binds Muslims to obey the laws of the county they live in.
Given following Sharia is an integral part of Islamic faith, outlawing it would likely breach Australia’s Constitution, which protects freedom of religion.
In an email to New Matilda, Lambie’s Chief of Staff Rob Messenger said the Senator would forward her new party positions through debate and private members bills.
“Sharia Law in itself breaches the Australian constitution. If you follow Sharia law then you automatically have a divided loyality [sic]with a foriegn [sic]power – which means that your [sic]can't stand for election to federal parliament,” Messenger wrote.
“In fact – if you support Sharia law its [sic]a clear indicator that you have a formal or informal allegance [sic]to a hostile foriegn [sic]power and could be in breach of sedition and treason laws.”
He said Lambie had no problem with Islam itself.
But JLN’s “core beliefs” have been slammed as ignorant, amid accusations the Senator has ignored the voices of Muslim women trying to help her come to a more informed position.
Dr Ghena Krayem, an expert in both Islamic law and Australian constitutional law at the University of Sydney, said these statements were “incorrect at a basic level” and that she had publically offered to assist Lambie and her team come to a better understanding of both fields.
“I think they demonstrate an ignorance of not only what Sharia actually is, but also ignorance of Muslims in Australia, and ignorance of the Australian Constitution as well,” Krayem said.
She said Sharia referred to living a life guided by Islamic principles, giving examples from her own faith.
“The fact I care about the environment, the fact I am a committed Australian, stems in part from my Islamic beliefs,” she said.
In a subsequent phone call, Messenger defended his boss, and said that on a recent day in parliament a group of Islamic school children had come up to Lambie to take pictures.
“They all came over and had selfies with the boss so I don’t think there are any hard feelings between Jacqui and the Islamic community,” he said.
Older Muslims haven’t had so much luck getting a hold of the Tasmanian senator.
Maha Abdo, CEO of the United Muslim Women Association, said she had sent multiple requests for a meeting with Lambie, but had so far been unsuccessful.
After the pair debated on live television last year, Abdo made an in-person offer. She reissued that offer yesterday on social media.
— hajjeh Maha (@MWA1983) April 1, 2015
“I thought she had her heart in the right place but doesn’t have the facts about Muslims in Australia,” Abdo said.
Krayem was less forgiving.
“I don’t actually think [Messenger] is necessarily ignorant of the law, I think it just doesn’t serve their political agenda to be aware of what the particular constitutional frameworks are,” Krayem said.
“They have an agenda, they have points they want to make regardless of whether they’re factually accurate or not.”
Amjad Mehboob, a spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, agreed with Krayem, and emphasised that Sharia explicitly encourages Muslims to follow the law of the land.
“In fact, the Sharia says that if you are living in a country which is not an Islamic country, then you are bound by the laws of that country, and you must follow that, and you must obey those laws,” Mehboob said.
Messenger has a long history of opposing Sharia and tried to introduce a ban on it when he served in the Queensland state parliament.
He said he could not remember a letter from Abdo but would need to double check.
“We’ve actually written to the Imam of Australia and we’ve written asking him about Sharia law and asking him if he would provide a simple explanation of Sharia law and he’s refused at this stage to respond to Senator Lambie’s letters,” Messenger said.
When pushed to respond to Krayem’s assertion that Sharia did not simply refer to formal legal principles and that outlawing it could in fact breach Australia’s constitutional protections of freedom of religion, Messenger hung up.
The 12 Core Beliefs of the JLN
1. Members must always put their state first in all decisions they make.
2. JLN will always have a special interest in all matters associated with veterans, serving members of the Australian Defence force and their families.
3. JLN will fight to establish a National Apprentice, Trade and Traineeship system incorporating both the Australian Defence Force and TAFE’s.
4. JLN supports the establishment of a Financial Transactions Tax to guarantee extra government revenue for the protection of pensions and entitlements of retired Australians and Defence veterans.
5. JLN is opposed to Sharia Law being imposed in Australia either formally or informally and will promote a policy of undivided loyalty to the Australian Constitution and people.
6. JLN will support the proper regulation of Halal and other food certification systems.
7. JLN supports dedicated Indigenous seats being established for Australian Parliaments.
8. JLN supports conscience votes on all moral and ethical issues.
9. JLN supports a halving of the Foreign Aid Budget in order to help boost federal government investment in Higher Education from 0.6 per cent to 1 per cent of GDP.
10. JLN supports the creation of Special Economic Zones in regional and rural areas to help boost business profitability and job creation.
11. JLN supports the introduction of a carbon tax — only after our major trading partners introduce a similar tax on their coal-fired power stations.
12. JLN supports a monitoring and regulation system which ensures that our power and fuel prices for Australian consumers and businesses are not more expensive than our overseas competitors.
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