CCL at Religious Discrimination Bill protest rally

Despite the rain, NSWCCL Committee member, Lydia Shelly (pictured) spoke at Sydney's No Right to Discriminate: Religious Discrimination Bill protest rally this month. Lydia spoke to the CCL position on the bill, how religious groups have been co-opted, and the implications of the proposed bill.

CCL supports the need for a law against religious discrimination, but this Bill subverts key principles as to the ‘indivisibility and equality’ of human rights. It grossly over-privileges religious rights to the detriment of other rights. It seriously weakens existing anti-discrimination laws. It will cause harm to many groups and generate dissension and ill-will in our community.

It is CCL's view that the Government must withdraw this Bill and start again with a better and more cohesive process. More detail on CCL position HERE.

*Lydia Shelly is a lawyer and student in terrorism and security studies, and  a Committee Member, NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

 Here we share the speech Lydia gave at the rally.


Watch the video

Salaam alaikum - Peace be upon you.

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and I pay my respects to ancestors, past, present and emerging. I recognise their ongoing connection to country, to water, to community. Sovereignty was never ceded.

Our fight against prejudice must always have the struggle of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters at the heart, and we must not forget this.

First I want to send a message to my Muslim brothers and sisters who are also same-sex attracted. Many fellow Muslims love you. We see you. You matter. And your creator loves you. I stand before you as a Muslim woman, as a woman of faith, as a lawyer, as a Committee member of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, and I oppose the Religious protection Bill.

There is no doubt that Muslims deserve protection from prejudice, from violence and from hate speech. But as a Muslim woman, I know first hand the reality of managing your own safety and security in the context of Islamophobia. The Bill’s objectives are to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and to ensure that everybody is equal before the law. But this Bill will not do this. This Bill is a Trojan Horse. This Bill will fail at its objectives. It will privilege religious rights and it will weaken existing protections against vulnerable members of the community. As a Muslim woman, as a lawyer, as a member of the Council for Civil Liberties, I say no, no to the Bill.

This Bill will enshrine prejudice and discrimination into law, it will provide economic rewards for discriminating against others. It will cause further cultural, religious and economic divides that will benefit the rich. It will entrench privilege and it will maintain ideological ghettos.

This Bill is bigger and what is at stake is bigger than Muslims, it’s bigger than Jews, or Christians or atheists. This Bill is about who we are – who we are as individuals, and who we are as a country. It is about whether we are comfortable building our own security, our own safety on the backs of other people, people that may include the person standing next to you in this crowd today. It is about how comfortable we are dehumanising others.It is about how comfortable we are giving someone who might look different to us, who speaks differently, who loves differently, but who loves all the same. How comfortable we are in sacrificing their rights for our own. Because I am not comfortable with that. As a  Muslim woman, as a lawyer, as a member of the Council for Civil Liberties, I am not comfortable with that. Are you? (Crowd: NO). Are you comfortable with that? (Crowd: NO).

And I am angry because people of faith are being co-opted by intolerant faith leaders, those responsible for leading us spiritually. I’m angry because those responsible for leading us politically – they are failing, and they are not leading. Because those behind this Bill and those who support his Bill, they are trying to sell us a lie. They are trying to sell us the lie that the only way to protect religious freedoms in this country is to sell-out the LGBTQI community and throw them under the bus. To throw disabled people under the bus. To throw other vulnerable members of our community under the bus.

They are trying to sell us the lie that the bonds that bind us as humans, as our brothers and sisters in humanity, that they are frayed, that they are broken, they are fragmented. But that is not the case, that is a lie. The bonds that bind us together, that bind us as brothers and sisters in humanity, they are strong and we can see that by the turnout today.

Those behind the Bill and those that support the Bill, they want to smash the values that we all hold dear. They want to smash the desire that we all have to live peacefully, to love those that love us, and to know that we all matter. But we will not be reduced to the god/gods that we pray to, or who we love, or what language we speak, who we vote for, which holy book we read, whether it be the Koran, the Bible or the Torah, or god forbid the Daily Telegraph or the Australian. We will not be reduced to our gender, our disability status or the colour of our skin.

We will not allow those that are behind this Bill, those that support this Bill, to pull at the very fabric of our country, to pull at the little bit of civil liberties that we have left in NSW and in Australia. We will not allow it. Will we allow it? (Crowd: NO)

A word to our so called leaders, whether they are in the Senate, in Australian parliament, NSW state parliament, whether they are in politics, in our churches or in our mosque, we say this - If you will not lead us on this matter, we will lead you. We will build a community with compassion, with acceptance, we will lead you. We’ll lead you to a point where we are all equal – we are equal in our homes, in our workplaces, in our schools, even in hospitals and in the back of taxis. We will lead you to where we are all equal in the law, and we are all equal in love.

To my gay Muslim brothers and sisters, I send you this final message do not lose hope, there are people in the Muslim community that love you, that respect you and want the best for you, in this life and the next.

Salaam alaikum.