We know what the law says about religious freedom in the home of Islam because the US State Department has helpfully produced a report called the 2011 Report on International Religious Freedom.
And it has devoted an entire section to Saudi Arabia.
And I’ve gone to the trouble of reading it.
And the most important bit is this:
“Freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law and is severely restricted in practice…The public practice of any religion other than Islam is prohibited.”
Of course, when the Saudis use the word prohibited, they mean it. So they have set up a body called the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Its job is to go around enforcing Sharia law. And ensuring that the only people allowed to publicly perform marriages between bearded old men and 12 year old girls are state-sanctioned imams.
Presumably, part of their daily duties is also to lock up, kill, behead and then torture to death anyone stupid enough to dress up as a piggy in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques. I just point this out because some people have still not got a handle on the finer aspects of Sharia law. But I’m sure they’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
Bendigo Bank: It’s doing Sharia wrong.
Other than that, the US State Department’s report is a dry read.
This headline is rather more sensational: Saudi keeps ban on churches. It was printed in Victoria’s Herald Sun just under a year ago.
And, more than likely, the Equity and Diversity Bureau within the Local Community Secretariat of the Human Services Division of the Bendigo Bank printed that story out, highlighted the important bits and then faxed it to every branch manager as the new public engagement policy.
That can be the only explanation for the unAustralian decision taken by Bendigo Bank to operate an account for an Islamic group seeking to build a mosque in Bendigo while closing down the account of the local community group opposing the application.
Unfortunately for the Bendigo Bank branch in the hometown of this famous Australian financial institution, Sharia law is not the law of the land.
However, it’s clear that Bendigo Bank’s legal eagles and religious diversity commandos spend too much time boning up on the latest fatwas issued in Saudi Arabia about Sharia finance to understand this. As a result, they don’t have the slightest skerrick of a clue about the law that does apply here. So I’ll help clear up the confusion.
Commonwealth and Victorian law applies. That’s right. Dinky-di, true-blue Aussie law rules supreme on this continent, including in the township of Bendigo. That’s why such a kerfuffle was made about Ned Kelly’s antics in regional Victoria in the 19th century and the same principles apply today.
Australians aren’t too partial to bearded thugs lobbing into town and imposing their own legal systems. Although Ned Kelly is regarded as a bit of a top bloke. He’s probably the exception that proves the rule.
Just to highlight how wrong Bendigo Bank is on all of its pro-Sharia and pro-mosque predilections, I’ll quote from the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010. And to be extra helpful, Bendigo Bank’s legal team can find this part starting at the bottom of page 49.
Division 4—Discrimination in the provision of goods and services and disposal of land
44 Discrimination in the provision of goods and services
(1) A person must not discriminate against another person—
(a) by refusing to provide goods or services to the other person; or
(b) in the terms on which goods or services are provided to the other person; or
(c) by subjecting the other person to any other detriment in connection with the provision of goods or services to him or her.
(2) Subsection (1) applies whether or not the goods or services are provided for payment.
Just for the benefit of Bendigo Bank, on page 14 of the same law it also states that ‘services’ includes ‘banking services’. That’s a gotcha moment, if ever there was one.
Furthermore, the same law also states on page 18 at subsection k that political beliefs are protected from discrimination. I believe that the correct legal terminology is that political beliefs are the kth attribute of Part 2, Section 6. And when that law was given final approval, it was signed by His Excellency the Honourable Professor David de Kretser, AC. Again, just to clear up any confusion, Professor Kretser gave royal assent on behalf of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, not King Abdullah, the dude who reigns supreme in Saudi Arabia.
Anyway, you can see ‘political beliefs’ right there on page 18, all proud in their protected legal status, nestled between physical features and pregnancy.
So if Bendigo Bank was to tell the ‘Stop the Mosque’ group that they can’t keep their bank account on account of their physical features (which, just out of interest, you can see because they don’t wear burkas during the weekly bank run) it would be unlawful discrimination. Or if Bendigo Bank was to say that pregnancy status was to affect account status, it would also not be halal.
But for some reason Bendigo Bank is stupid enough to think that it can shut down the financial operations of ‘Stop the Mosque’ because of its political beliefs. These are pretty straightforward: opposition to the proposal to build a mosque in Bendigo. You can’t get a more grassroots political stoush than a local community bunfight over a development application.
This is not painting a rosy picture of a good corporate citizen. In fact, it sounds more like ‘gotcha agin’.
It doesn’t matter that this application is for a mosque. Mosques are not protected species in Australia. Last time I checked, they still needed to jump through all the hoops that applied to other development applications. And like any other mosque proposal in Australia, there are a bazillion good reasons to oppose it.
A good place to start is with the Victorian Local Government Charter, which is part of the Local Government Act 1989. It states that the purpose of councils is to provide for the peace, order and good government of the local municipality. I’m not sure how approving an application for a building that will be used by adherents of the world’s most dangerous ideological belief fits in with this. But if the fact that Islam is a violent religion doesn’t cut it, then the parking considerations and impact on local amenities are a worthwhile basis for objection as well.
Local residents are entitled to jump up and down as much as they like to campaign against this proposed mosque. And to do that, a bank account is required.
Bendigo Bank has given one to the Islamic community. And now it has taken one away from the concerned citizens. All, supposedly, in the name of values. That’s not really the truth though. It’s because Bendigo Bank has lost its Australian values and adopted those that are more at home in Saudi Arabia.
This is an open and shut case of political discrimination. It’s also proof that Bendigo Bank is ignoring Australian rule and imposing decisions that fit nicely with a different kind: Sharia law.