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Editorial: Who’s pushing who into a corner over the meaning of marriage?

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One Nation Party leader Pauline Hanson entered the Senate chamber dressed in a burka on August 17, 2017. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Published August 28, 2017

Forget Burkas. Progressive moralism is the new black: the absence of colour, cloaked in a rainbow. Sections of what passes for a commentariat in Australia went into much-practised meltdown last week when Pauline Hanson temporarily enfeebled any serious attempt to engage with Islam by flaunting her burka-clad self in the Senate.

She might have passed for a religious adherent or, to the justly-mocked anti-immigration commenters on a recent Norwegian news page, the visage of a seat in an inner-city bus. But alas, when the veil was lifted, all that emerged was the muddled senator, urging, by way of a question to Attorney-General George Brandis, that a form of religiously-motivated dress be banned.

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Mr Brandis rose to give what ordinarily might be regarded as a sterling rebuke, absent the past five years of discursive collapse:

“I would caution you and counsel you, Senator Hanson, with respect, to be very, very careful of the offence you may do to the religious sensibilities of other Australians. We have about half a million Australians in this country of the Islamic faith, and the vast majority of them are law-abiding, good Australians.

“Senator Hanson, it is absolutely consistent being a good, law-abiding Australian and being a strict-adherent Muslim …

“To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do, and I would ask you to reflect on what you have done.”

The Labor senators stood and clapped as Mr Brandis resumed his seat, and the usual flurry of social media virtue signalling followed. But it wasn’t only the festering Twitterati who got in on the action. The ABC’s Andrew Probyn, speaking on the 7.30 program, opined in a way that once would have been considered an anathema to journalists:

“What Pauline Hanson did today was despicable and shameful,” Mr Probyn said. “With the cheapest of stunts she vilified a section of our community, worse, she risked inciting hatred against vulnerable women.”

The Catholic Weekly does not substantively disagree with Mr Probyn or Mr Brandis, but wonders, given the mania of invective heaped upon people who believe in marriage in recent years, whether they’ve really thought about what it means – to borrow Mr Brandis’ phrase – to drive a community into a corner.

The previous weekend, the ABC’s Insiders program, on which Mr Probyn is a regular guest, played Tim Minchin’s musical contribution (Warning: language, and very weak satire) to “the debate” – one on par with Ms Hanson’s Burka effort.

Among its many charms, the song includes a line in which Mr Minchin denounces all people who refuse to call something that isn’t marriage “marriage” as “bigoted c–ts”.

When Australia’s media and political elite chortle in indignation, ostensibly on behalf of Australia’s Muslims, one wonders just what they think the majority of Muslims believe – particularly about marriage.

Apart from a small number of clerics touting polygamy and their associated communities, it’s a reasonable hypothesis that most Muslims would recognise marriage to be a relationship constituted in difference – a unique relationship between a man and a woman. (We say ‘hypothesis’ because we have not been able to cite any recent Australian studies to this effect.) The same might be true of many Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, not to mention large swathes of our otherwise-celebrated multicultural Australia.

Our great and good might consider what they actually mean come the next round of chest heaving – much of it necessary and good – on behalf of Muslims or ethnic minorities (many of them Catholic). Because the extent to which they view people who believe in marriage with utter disdain, is probably the extent to which their words are insincere and self-serving.

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