Due to technical difficulties we have been unable to produce an up to date edition of Australian News. We have therefore taken some earlier stories not previously aired across our network to form this week’s Australian News
POLITICIANS, EDUCATION OFFICIALS SHY AWAY FROM HANDSHAKE PROTOCOL
A public boys’ school in Sydney has been accused of encouraging disrespect for women and kowtowing to religious minority groups with its decision to permit Muslim students to decline to shake hands with women for religious reasons. The handshaking protocol, devised by the Hurstville Boys’ Campus of Georges River College, after consulting with parents, students and staff, was tested recently at an awards ceremony, when women invited to present awards were told some students would not shake hands. The practice is based on the ancient Islamic hadith: “It is better to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is not permissible to you.” It has been endorsed by the NSW Education Department, which says it is up to school principals to assess the needs of their communities when implementing diversity policies.
While some commentators have denounced the protocol, claiming it has no place in a secular education system, NSW politicians have gone to ground. Liberal MP for Oatley, Mark Coure, was at the Hurstville Boys’ Campus awards ceremony in December but declined to comment. State Education Minister Rob Stokes also declined to comment, a spokeswoman saying he “has nothing to add to the department’s earlier statement”. Opposition education spokesman Jihad Dib, a former school principal who is a Muslim, also declined to comment. Jeremy Sammut, a senior research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, questioned the Education Department allowing a school to introduce “a divisive” policy. “This is an issue of misplaced cultural sensitivity by the education authority that does both the broader community and the Islamic community a disservice,” Dr Sammut said.
“And it doesn’t say much about the recent claims by Muslim activist (Yassmin Abdel-Magied) that Islam is a feminist religion.” Dr Sammut said. Peter Wallace, an aspiring independent politician and former Hurstville Boys student, described the policy as “disgusting”. “This is teaching Muslim boys that women are not their equal. It’s not multiculturalism, its gender segregation,” he said. Georges River College principal Joanne Jarvis did not return calls or emails. Ms Jarvis is active on Twitter, where she describes herself as a feminist, and weighed in on the fiery episode of ABC’s Q&A when Ms Abdel-Magied went head-to-head with Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie, tweeting: “Lambie ignorance rendered the panel gobsmacked.”
Many senior Australian Muslim figures consider the quoted hadith does not prohibit handshaking with the opposite sex, and is open to many interpretations. It is understood to be more commonly adhered to within the conservative Salafi and Wahhabi Muslim communities, where men and women refrain from shaking hands with each other. However Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Federation of Islamic Councils, said many Muslim scholars viewed the hadith as a denouncement of “unwelcome harassment” and it was not an issue of sexism. Lydia Shelley, a lawyer and Muslim community advocate, dismissed concerns over the school’s handshaking protocol, saying “if you seriously want to address the issue of gender inequality you could focus on Australia’s national shame of violence against women”. By comparison, she said, the handshake issue “pales in significance”.
WHY DID THE ACT POLICE SEEMINGLY WITHHOLD CRUCIAL INFORMATION ON BOMBING
Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Andrew Colvin’s revelations in Senate Estimates that the alleged Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) bomber chose the ACL office as the location for his dramatic suicide attempt seemingly contradicts comments made by the police in December when the incident occurred. ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said that after two months of being led to believe the attack was completely random, he was disturbed to hear the Commissioner’s revelations. “What has changed since December 22 and now?” Mr Shelton said. When Commander Mark Walters of the AFP gave a media conference on Thursday December 22, the morning after the bombing, he was directly asked the question whether the driver was intentionally at the ACL. Despite being asked several times, the AFP refused to acknowledge that the driver did intentionally target the ACL building.
In fact, the AFP went to some lengths to publicly and privately state that there was no connection to the ACL building. Yet in the Senate Hearings Mr Colvin said: “We do believe that he knew it was the Australian Christian Lobby but he was not driven by any ideology based on anything the Christian lobby had done or said.” Mr Shelton said he was deeply disappointed that knowledge of the bomber’s intent in choosing the location was withheld until now. “I would like to know why the police withheld this information from the public,” Mr Shelton said. “Mr Colvin’s revelations raise more questions than they answer.”
The Department of Finance has no protocols about political flags being set in their foyer, a Senate Estimates hearing has heard. Senator Abetz quizzed departmental officials how the flag came to be there, with officials admitting there was no protocol and that such a decision was a matter for the Executive Board. However, officials could not recall discussing the issue. “To cut to the chase, there was the rainbow flag on display in the lobby. Some people see it as an activist flag to support change to the legislation on marriage. If you allow one side of the debate, then you need to allow the other side and that is why I sought to determine who is responsible for making these determinations.” Departmental officials said the issue would be raised with the department’s executive board. Senator Abetz asked for a copy of the minutes of the meeting in which the board decided to fly the flag.