Hindus lobby for Religious Freedom in Australia

By : Surinder Jain.

Hindus represented by Hindu Council of Australia along with representatives of Anglican, Catholic, Islamic and Buddhist faiths are meeting various federal MPs and impressing upon them to protect religious freedom and not to pass a law that can suppress religious freedom as an unintended consequence of anti-discrimination.

The main points being emphasized to law makers are :

  1. There should no ambiguity in law that can lead to unnecessary litigation.
  2. Religious Freedom is in the charter of United Nations to which Australia is a signatory.
  3. Faith based schools should continue to be able to segregate schools and activities (e.g. sports) based on gender.
  4. No religious institute should be restricted from teaching or propagating the teachings of their faith.
  5. No religious institute should be coerced into doing or making its resources available to teach or support any idea that is not in conformity with its faith.
  6. Courts can not interpret faith related matters and that interpretation of scriptures, philosophies and practices should be left to the faith community.
  7. Religious institutes that have been built with the donation of faith members with certain understanding should not be forced to break that understanding in order to confirm with new laws being considered.
  8. Hindus do not have religious schools in Australia yet but other religions who have religious schools have reported that there have been no significant discrimination events in their schools and that the laws should not be made to fix a problem that does not exist.

Since marriage equality vote in Australia giving equal rights to gay marriages, Australian society and politics has been churning with its implications for religious freedom. Can schools be forced to not only accept and respect gay teachers/students and staff (which is already happening and is not an issue) but also to permit propagation of marriage or other views that are contrary to their religious teachings.

Religious freedom collides with anti-discrimination laws in Australia

Both major parties have come out with their views and are aiming for a legislation that in the garb of Anti-Discrimination does not have intended or un-intended effects on religious freedom of Religious schools. A particular focus of the legislation to be discussed in parliament next month is to do with restrictions on faith based schools.

The Prime Minister and his Liberal Party has come out openly in favor of Religious Freedom. 

PM ScoMo fights for religious freedom despite the opposition

Australian Prime Minister – protection of our religious freedoms is synonymous with our identity

The opposition Labor Party is also making its stand clear. According to a Labor Federal MP, Labor has already pledged to end discrimination against students and teachers in religious schools on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The labor party wants to repeal parts of the Sex Discrimination Act giving exemptions to religious schools to discriminate against children. The party also feels that all Australians should have the right to express their faith freely and without fear of discrimination, for all faiths.

 

 

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The last of the Bahai 7 religious leader group released from prison

The Bahá’í 7[1], also known as the “Yaran” (friends), are seven Iranian Bahá’í community leaders arrested in 2008 that have served 10-year prison sentences in Iran. The seven prisoners of conscience are Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.[2]

Sabet was detained on 5 March 2008 after being summoned to Mashhad by the Ministry of Intelligence. Officers from the Ministry of Intelligence arrested the other six leaders in raids on their homes on 14 May 2008.[3] The seven were held in Evin Prison in Section 209, which is run by the Ministry of Intelligence, and were denied access to a lawyer. The five male detainees reportedly were placed in one cell together measuring 10 and without any beds.[4]

Images of the Bahá’í 7 at a rally in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (wikipedia)

On 7 August 2010, the Revolutionary Court in Tehran convicted the seven Bahá’í of crimes including “espionage for Israel”, “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the system,” and sentenced them to 20 years imprisonment.

On September 18, 2017, former prisoner Mahvesh Sabet was released. [10]

Thirty prominent Australians signed a statement welcoming her release, including Greens leader Richard Di Natale, former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr, former attorney-general Philip Ruddock, and members from all major faiths, including the president of the Uniting Church.

The other leaders were gradually released. By April 2018, only Afif Naeimi remained.

Afif Naeimi, the last of the seven Baha’i leaders imprisoned since 2008, has been released on completion of his sentence.

Dr Natalie Mobini, the director of the Office of External Affairs, Australian Baha’i Community, profoundly thanked Australian community for the concern and support shown for the seven during their incarceration over the past decade. She also said that the release of all members of the former leadership group is a significant milestone. At the same time, as you know, the systematic persecution continues. Baha’is in Iran are unable to practise their faith, more than 80 are currently imprisoned, and all experience multiple layers of discrimination at every level of life. The flow-on effects of this persecution are now further expanding into Yemen. Notwithstanding, we take this moment to breathe a sigh of relief that Mr Naeimi and his colleagues are all finally home with their families.

Hindu Council of Australia congratulates the Bahai community on the release of their religious leaders.

[Read more here …]  and [Read even more here…]

 

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PM ScoMo fights for religious freedom despite the opposition

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter have released the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review and the government’s response. Although the Ruddock panel said that Australia does not need a religious freedom commissioner, the Prime Minister  has announced his intention to do so. The response also addresses issues like, when can a parent take their children out of studies that conflict with their religious beliefs, treatment of LGBTIQ students in religious schools, framing of a religious discrimination law etc.

The most controversial aspect of the Ruddock review is whether religious schools can discriminate against students, teachers and staff based on their sexual orientation. Most religious groups including Hindu Council, Jewish religious organizations, Islamic organizations and most Christian denominations oppose such restrictions on religious schools.

While the Prime Minister has openly come in support of religious groups, some in the opposition are not so sure and see it as an LGBTIQ rights issue.

We believe that the Prime Minster has struck the right balance between religious freedom and anti-discrimination and that religious schools should not be forced to preach any thing that goes against their teachings. They should not be forced to provide their school and other resources for propagating ideas that are not compatible with their teachings.

You can read about Ruddock review here.

You can read about Hindu Council response to the review here.

You can read more details about the review and comments here.

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Beef tallow in Australian currency notes

WHILE Australia was the first country in the world to produce banknotes made from plastic (polymer), what many people don’t realise is that our currency uses tallow — rendered animal fat from sheep, pigs and cows — as a ‘slip agent’ to prevent friction and static.

The Reserve Bank of Australia confirmed banknotes have a tiny amount — around one per cent — of the animal by-product

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Religious freedom collides with anti-discrimination laws in Australia

By: Surinder Jain.

Religious freedom is fundamental to Australian identity said the Australian Prime minister Scott Morrison. And Australians voted in favor of anti-discrimination laws to protect the rights of LGBT only recently. One would think that both are laudable achievements for Australia, but the future of religious freedom does not look so rosy.

A clash between Religious Freedom and Human Rights is brewing up.

Religious freedom right to propagate one’s belief permits Christians, Jews, Muslims and all other religions to run their own schools. Does this freedom means that these schools can admit gay students and have gay teachers imparting religious teachings to children when many believe admitting gay in their schools is against their faith.

This debate is heating up in Australia.

Religious freedom rights for an individual come in various parts. Right to belief is a right to believe in a certain religion and some/all the tenants that come with it. Right to practice a religion is a right to practice your religious rituals and actions coming from the belief. It also includes a right to propagate your beliefs either to your own constituency or to other non-believers.

Human rights on the other hand are also a set of rights for an individual and includes Right to Live, a Right to Freedom, a Right to Express and a number of other rights like anti-discrimination and so on.

Australia and most secular and theocratic countries permit Right to Belief. Australia also permits Right to Practice and a Right to Propagate religion without any state interference. Some theocratic countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia place restrictions on Right to Practice in public and thus not allowing any temple or church unless it has been sanctioned by the government. Many countries in the middle east ban propagation of any religion other than the state sanctioned one.

Communist countries like China place restrictions on all religions. They frown upon all religious beliefs and control them by total control over appointment of clergy and allow only state permitted rituals to be practiced. Communist ideology and whims of the party are given far higher priority than either religious freedom or human rights.

A clash between the rights of one individual to protect their faith and institutions and the right of other individuals to a fair go requires a balancing act. While the Liberal party PM has vowed to protect religious freedom as integral to Australian identity, the opposition Labor party is considering an “appropriate” balance between the two.

When Right to Life clashes with Right to Practice, the human Right to live wins hands down. Thus I can not take away life or liberty of an individual even if I believe that my religious belief requires me to do so. My Right to Propagate my religion by imposing it on others will be OK in ISIS ruled countries but will be rejected in most other countries including Australia.

In a progressive country like Australia, Right to Propagate once religion has been well balanced with the Right to Practice one’s religion. Thus each religion is prohibited from imposing its belief on another religion. If I believe in a religion that does not have a personal God then I can not ask another religion to permit me to enforce my belief as part of their propagation. Thus if a religion does not believe in God, then s/he has no right to join a christian church/school and expect to teach his/her belief to the christian congregation or to students in a christian school. Religious practitioners can not invoke courts of law to enforce their Right to Propagate through the propagation machinery (churches, schools, congregations, Sunday mass, sermons, communications etc.) of other religions except in their own.

This is tampered both ways. No religion can frown upon the beliefs and practices of others as long as they are valid in law. No religion should propagate a belief that belittles the belief of another religion.

We can find the appropriate balance between right to propagation and anti-discrimination using the above well accepted principal. Thus all religions will respect the rights of LGBT and will not frown upon their practices in their religious propagation. At the same time, LGBT do not have an automatic right to use another religions propagation machinery to propagate their beliefs. Thus LGBT should not expect that they will be able to teach their belief in a religious school as much as a Hindu does not expect to have an automatic right give a Hindu sermon in a Christian church.

Number of Religious schools and number of students studying in religious schools is such a minority that it does not restrict the right of LGBT children to study or LGBT teachers to employment. These children have a very wide choice as to which school they go to study.  Teachers of LGBT persuasion are not constrained in applying for jobs to most schools and have a meaningful employment. And off course, there is nothing stopping people passionate about their gender beliefs to start their own special LGBT friendly schools.

Each new religion in Australia has to do the hard effort to establish their own schools, churches, temples and congregations. A newly arrived religion like Hinduism does not expect Christians or Jews to be forced to give up their resources like church or school for the propagation of Hinduism. Similarly, LGBT have to do their own hard yakka in establishing their own schools etc and not expect to get an easy ride on the resources of other religions in the name of anti-discrimination. And the Religions should not frown upon LGBT efforts to establish their own special LGBT friendly schools either.

By : Surinder Jain

 

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Hindu Women’s Issues Survey

If you are a Hindu woman living in Australia, please take a minute to enter this survey. It will help Hindu Council of Australia to frame projects and policies to face these issues.

Your Phone (optional) :

Your Age Group* : 18-25 years26-35 years35-60 yearsAbove 60

Your ethinic background : IndianNepaliBaliAustralianOther

How long ago did you come to Australia : Less than 2 years ago2 to 7 years ago7 to 15 years agomore than 15 yearsBorn in Australia

What in your opinion are the major issues facing Hindu women in Australia : Domestic ViolenceHave to Work at Home as well OfficeAcceptance at work placeSocializing with non-Indian neighboursLanguage barrierSexual harassment at workRacial discrimination at workImparting sanskar to childrenDifficulty in keeping Hindu way of lifeOther

Do you work : YesNo

If working, did your family support you : YesNoNot Applicable

Is it easy to adjust to work culture here : YesNoNot Applicable

Do you get accepted socially at work : YesNoNot Applicable

Have you experienced/witnessed Domestic Violence : Yes, I have been a victimYes, Someone close to me has been a victimNo, Never

Did the victim of Domestic Violence get support : Yes, Sufficient supportYes, but not enoughNo SupportDon't Know

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Invitation to conduct further research about ANZAC Jawans

By : Prakash Mehta.

Hindu Council of Australia has erected a cenotaph dedicated to all servicemen of Indian origin who have enrolled or served the Australian forces in World Wars. It was inaugurated with the joint efforts and support of the Department of Veteran Affairs, Hornsby Shire Council, Hornsby RSL, Hindu Council of Australia, local  Indian community and local MP Julian Leeser.

Cadets guarding the memorial at Cherry Brook Park, NSW

The memorial in NSW is a first of its kind in the state that recognises the contributions and connections of people of Indian origin. It is about the contributions made by the servicemen of Indian origin in Australia, by enlisting at the time of need. The plaque commemorates the service and sacrifice made by Australian Soldiers and Military Personnel of Indian heritage who served in the Australian Imperial Force in World War I.

It also remembers and recognises up to 15,000 Indian Soldiers who fought with allied troops at Gallipoli where almost 1,400 Indians Soldiers died at Gallipoli and up to 3,500 were wounded. It also remembers and recognises the Indian Soldiers who have participated alongside the Australian Soldiers in various Military Campaigns and Peace Missions. ”

The first effort to find out about such service men came to Hindu Council’s attention by an article written by journalist Manpreet K Singh and published by SBS dated 9 June 2017.

https://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/punjabi/en/article/2017/06/09/12-indian-anzacs-who-enlisted-australian-imperial-force-during-wwi

These names were further confirmed with research center of Australian War Memorial Canberra service records about the accuracy and authenticity.

The President of Hindu Council has called upon people to come forward and do further research and said that

We hope this Cenotaph also encourages more research and publications to connect larger Australian Indian community with Anzac history.

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Australian Prime Minister – protection of our religious freedoms is synonymous with our identity

The Australian Prime Minister Hon Scott Morrison #ScoMo has a issued a press release vouching for the freedom of religion as essential to Australian identity in a diverse Australian society of today. Hindus applaud his statement and support a multicultural Australia, free of religious hatred and free of terrorism.

 

THE HON SCOTT MORRISON MP

Prime Minister

Australian PM Scott Morrison saying Namaste to Hindus at Deepavali 2018

 MEDIA STATEMENT

 Thursday 13 December 2018

RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS

There is no more fundamental liberty that any human being has than their fundamental right to decide what they believe and or not believe.

What you believe should always be a matter for you.

The protection of our religious freedoms is synonymous with our identity and it is particularly relevant because of our diverse Australian society.

Some of our largest and most established communities and some of our more recent arrivals to Australia have a higher proportion of members expressing identification with a religious belief.

94% of Indian born Australians identify as having a particular religious faith and those faiths are many including Hindu, Christian, Sikh and Muslim.

PM with some of the Hindu Council team members

If you support an open tolerant multicultural Australia then you will support and understand religious freedoms.

Religious faith is a way of life and an integral part of harmonious Australian culture that is critically important for our continued success.

Australians are substantially united that all beliefs and all Australians, including not having a belief, should always be respected by each and every citizen.

ENDS

Media Contact: Rosa Stathis, 0417 669 223

Prime Minister’s Press Office

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Bioethics – a Hindu Perspective

By : Dr Raj Maheshwari.

(The following is an abstract of the talk delivered by the author at the conference on “Core Ethical Teachings” at NSW Parliament House on 4 March 2011).

Dr Raj Maheshwari
Forensic Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist at St John of God Health Care
Sydney, Australia

Bioethics addresses specific ethical issues relating to science and medicine. With the advancement in technology, we are constantly faced with new scientific scenarios where ethical decisions need to be made. The principals of ethical decision making in Hinduism is informed by some of the ancient texts, namely Vedas, Upanishads, and two main epics: Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Core Philosophy

Cycle of rebirth is one of the core concepts in Hinduism, based on the belief that the body is just a carrier for the soul, which passes on through the repeated cycles of birth-life-death-rebirth until the soul has been purified and can ultimately join the divine cosmic consciousness, also called as Moksha.

Hindu View of Life and Suffering

Contrary to the western view of health, Hinduism doesn’t view health as mere absence of disability; instead it is assessed as a product of sound mind and body, which off course is one of the goals of a Dharmic life. Likewise illness is accepted as part of ordinary life experience, which is instigated as a consequence of a bad past karma or a test from god to assess your commitment to a dharmic life.

Hindu views death as not opposite to life, rather, it is opposite to birth, and life is a journey between birth and death. Hinduism accepts suffering as inevitable even in death, so discomfort is accepted over drugs, while a conscious dying process is seen as a good death that would determine the properties of your rebirth. Thus death is seen as just another step in this cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

Hindu View on Organ Transplant

Cremation in Hinduism is considered as both a destructive process and a course of creation; physical body and mind reunites with the earth, while atman wanders for about 12 days before continuing again the cycle of rebirth. Although in short no religious law prohibits organ transplant or donation in Hinduism, however there are contrary views. Some argue it to be a charitable act which is likely to attract karmic benefits; while others argue that if the body is incomplete during reuniting with the earth, the atman of the dead is suspended in a “state of animation” risking a karmic burden for family members. However, it is commonly insisted that the permission should be explicit.

Hindu view on contraception and abortion

Hindu bioethics agrees that there are two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning that brings husband and wife together, and the procreative meaning that capacitates them for the generation of new lives; and each and every sexual act need not be valued for its procreativity.

On abortion, the Hindu ethical decision making is based on the belief that the foetus is not just a foetus but a complete soul advancing into the next cycle of rebirth, so abortion is akin to murder; however, if mother’s welfare is in danger then the dharmic principle of duty to oneself takes precedence and abortion is permissible.

Hindu View on Biotechnology

Hinduism supports the idea of somatic cell genetic engineering which can address issues like sickle cell anaemia, haemophilia, or AIDS, on the principle of obligation to ensure survival of the present and future generations. However, it does not supports the idea of using genetic engineering for mere achieving perfection in body or bodily functions, again because Hinduism’s focus is on perfection of the soul rather the carrier body.

Regarding Cloning there are complex arguments in absence of any direct scriptural reference. The decision-making is guided by the principles of nonmaleficence (anyone’s well-being must not be sacrificed on some high altar of promoting a greater social and scientific good), beneficence (someone with leukaemia needing a compatible source of bone marrow), and autonomy (procreative or recreative rights along with rights to self-replicate).

Hindu View on Fertility Related Matters  

In ordinary cases, Hindu bioethics would want to limit IVF to married couples, using their own gametes in order to maximize the chance of both physical and emotional success for the child. However, there is provision for use of other person’s sperm in exceptional circumstances. One of the UpanishadsNiyoga, supports it if its purpose was the impregnation of a wife of an impotent or dead man so that his family may be preserved, and he may have sons to offer oblations for the welfare of his soul in the next world.

In summary, Hindu bioethics is philosophically pluralistic and ethically contextual, giving it the conceptual flexibility demanded by today’s complex moral problems. It is based on a multi-legged ethical decision making model involving the laws of Karma (good and bad actions), Dharma (righteousness), life after death, and Moksha (eternal freedom).

References and Advanced Readings

– Crawford, S. C. Hindu bioethics for the Twenty-first Century 2003; Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

– Lakhan, S. E. Hinduism: life and death. Student BMJ2008;16:294-336

– Coward, H. and Sidhu, T. Bioethics for clinicians: Hinduism and Sikhism. CMAJ, October 31, 2000; 163 (9)

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Pauline Hanson gives thumbs up to Indian Migration to Australia

By : Surinder Jain.

Pauline Lee Hanson is an Australian politician and a Senator representing the state of Queensland. She is also the founder and leader of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (PHON). Despite Hanson’s repeated denials of charges of racism,[13] her views on race and immigration have been discussed widely in Australia. In her maiden speech, Hanson proposed a drastic reduction in immigration with particular reference to immigrants from Asia. Condemning multiculturalism, her One Nation party has rallied against government immigration and multicultural policies.[20] Hanson publicly backed Kevin Andrews, then Minister for Immigration under John Howard, in his views about African migrants and crime.[25]

Senator Pauline Hanson (source : Wikipedia)

Hindu Council of Australia, in association with the Hon Coleman MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs and Senator the Hon Zed Seselja Assistant Minister for Treasury and Finance, celebraterd Deepawali festival and Annakut in the Great Hall of the Federal Parliament House in Canberra on Monday December 3, 2018. Pauline was one of the honored guests at Diwali.

Although Diwali has been celebrated at federal Parliament for over ten years now, it was the first time that Pauline Hanson joined. “This is the first time I have ever been to this event. I am not anti-migrant at all.” She said that she did not see any  problem with Indians migrating to Australia.  She expressed her happiness for having joined Diwali festivities. “It’s very special what I understand as a community. I am still learning. I don’t understand it fully but I think as a member of parliament and a national political party, it’s nice to be a part of it and I support the Indian community on this special day.”

[Read more …]

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