Many a time, people have said, "But you have to be tolerant of others. Tolerance basically means, I don't like you, but I will allow you to be who and what you are so as not to create conflict. But where does tolerance become cowardice?

I can remember, nearly ten years ago, being in a shop and a Muslim woman was standing beside me paying for something and she was around ten or twenty cents short. The person working in the shop was willing to let her go and fix it up next time, but I offered to pay the shortfall for her, which she gratefully accepted. She told me it made her feel better as earlier in the day, at a petrol station, someone had yelled at her to go home. It didn't occur to the abuser that she was actually BORN in Australia.

The election of a right-wing populist to the Senate eight years later, who operated a skewed Islamophobic agenda, appeared to give licence to the intolerant to have a voice. The right-wing populist appeared to believe that Islam was incompatible with Australia, which it is not. The hijab may be different to what many people wear in Australia, but let us not forget that wearing a bikini on the beach in the early 1960s could incur a fine from a beach inspector, for the simple crime of a woman bearing too much skin. Not to mention that at the turn of the last century, on the hottest of days, men were expected to wear starched shirts with neckties and suits and women wore dresses that stretched from neck to ankle!

The issue that many of us on the left of politics have hurled at us by the right is, "how do you reconcile wanting Muslims and gays to live in Australia? Our answer is, the two are not mutually exclusive and if neither impact upon the other's right to peacefully co-exist, what is the issue. The extreme right counters with what happens in some oppressive regimes. Let us note, too, that many of the far-righters are not tolerant of gays, either.

The view that the fair-minded of us took during the plebiscite to allow same-sex marriage to become law in Australia is that what others do, provided they do not impinge upon the rights of others, should be covered by the live and let live principle. Those opposed to this move, notably a former Kirribilli Occupant with a usefulness factor of a fob pocket on a G-string, would claim that equal love is not extended to them, when the difference is, those opposed were seeking to impose their social and religious views upon the LGBTIQA community, what the LGBTIQA Community was seeking was the right to the same legal rights as heteronormative couples.

The Australian Constitution states that people in the country have the right to freedom of and freedom from religion, something that opponents of LGBTIQA marriage ignore. The former Kirribilli Occupant showed his ignorance of individual rights when it came to not only LGBTIQA Marriage but also abortion. It is fine for a person to say that they personally do not approve of abortion, but that should not allow a person in a position of power to use their religious beliefs to deny it to others.

A term that has been bandied around frequently lately has been terrorism. While it cannot be denied that events were terrifying, that is not the same as terrorism. If we take the Orlando event example, the perpetrator may have been Muslim, but it was not an attempt to impose religious beliefs upon or condemn through religion a way of being, it was somebody who, for various reasons, could not openly express their own LGBTIQA orientation and sought to attack those who could. Likewise, the Nice Incident was of a criminal seeking to avoid extradition or deportation who wanted to go out in a memorable fashion, finding death preferable to the former.

For myself, I was glad to leave a place where I had been living as a group of people opposed to the development of a mosque turned it not into concerns about suitability of location, but the irrelevance of Sharia Law. The construction of a mosque is no more the spreading or imposition of Sharia Law than the construction of a Catholic Church is of Canon Law. Believers and followers of Islam are entitled to a place to worship and the broader community needs to understand that Sharia Law only applies to Muslims and in its general form means not drinking alcohol and not engaging in certain activities. Members of the Islamic community are entitled not to drink alcohol and to request Halal food, but that does not mean they should ban the sale of alcohol here.

Tolerance towards people of minority groups, be it ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, autism or any others is the foundation for a successful secular society. Tolerance to intolerance is turning a blind eye to the rights of minority groups to respect and hence demonstrates apathy and cowardice.



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Peter Wynn

Peter Wynn

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.