In bed with Fred Nile

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'In bed with Fred Nile' by Chris JohnstonMy middle class South Asian 'aunties' have certain things in common. They all cook real Indian food (not that Anglicised 'vindaloo' or 'butter chicken' rubbish served by the tonne at metropolitan food courts). They all want their kids to become doctors. And they all believe that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. They would happily support any push to stop gay marriage.

Years ago, Rev. Fred Nile could boast of having support from many socially conservative ethnic and ethno-religious groups for his morals crusade. When the film Hail Mary came to town, Nile was accompanied by a crowd of Muslims offended by the film's portrayal of an historical figure the Koran describes as being chosen by God above all women of creation.

Nile's 2001 autobiography boasts of his opposition in the New South Wales Legislative Council to 'homosexual bills, including several bills to decriminalise sodomy'. In 1993, he successfully argued for a clause exempting religious teachers from homosexual anti-vilification legislation, including for 'teachers from other religions such as Judaism and Islam'.

As a devout Christian, Nile naturally was not attracted to the faith of his Muslim supporters. But he was prepared to build bridges with them for a common cause. The common enemy was the 'homosexual lobby'. In war, my enemy's enemy is my friend.

In more recent times, and in search for other friends, Nile has turned on his Muslim friends and declared them enemies. His positions on moral issues are even more on the fringe. Social attitudes have come a long way since Mr Nile first protested at the Mardi Gras in Oxford Street. Gay marriage is becoming a mainstream issue across the Western world.

To fight gay marriage, Nile needs all the friends he can get. But after making calls to ban Muslim immigration for a decade, does he have much chance of securing Muslim allies? Is the Mufti Catholic?

More influential in the campaign against gay marriage is the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL). Yet even they cannot help but marginalise their potential allies. The whole basis for ACL's opposition to gay marriage (their slogan is man+wife4life!) is that ... wait for it ... it will open the doors to polygamy. So claiming that God created Adam and Steve may well lead to God also creating Adam and Eve and Fatima and Shakira and Yasmin and who-knows-who-else.

Or to put it another way, gay marriage might usher in sharia law.

So how does gay marriage lead to polygamy? ACL cites an article published by the Institute of Marriage & Family Canada. She writes that Canadian courts are considering whether a ban on polygamy is unconstitutional. She also mentions that polygamy is problematic because there are 'polygamous Muslim families living in Toronto, collecting multiple benefits'.

The common thread linking polygamy to same sex marriage is a fear of dole-bludging Muslims marrying multiple wives or husbands.

It's hard to resist poking fun at such an outlandish argument. Imagine if we had gay marriage AND polygamy. Then you'd have gay dole-bludging Muslims marrying multiple wives AND husbands. The queue at Centrelink would be even longer, and Centrelink staff would need special training to avoid both homophobia and Islamophobia.

In the broader community, the ACL has virtually no support. If they had strategic sense, they would harness support from socially conservative non-Christians on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Instead, ACL and the like go out of their way to play sectarian wedge politics.

The result is that even the most homophobic Muslims would rather stay silent on this issue than be seen to be supporting sectarian bigots.

In this respect, the biggest allies the gay lobby (if such a unitary lobby exists) has in helping them get support for gay marriage are groups like the ACL, who effectively split their own voter base thanks to their uncanny ability to offend a huge pool of potential supporters.

There's another thing ACL clearly don't understand. Anecdotal evidence suggests virtually no support for polygamy among Australians who feel inclined to tick the 'Islam' box on their census forms. I am not aware of Muslims writing letters to their local MPs calling for bigamy to be decriminalised.

Not all Western Muslims oppose gay marriage. In the United States, the first Muslim delegate to the Maryland Legislature, Saqib Ali has publicly declared his support of full marital rights for same sex couples. Ironically Ali went to high school in Saudi Arabia where homosexuality is a criminal offence.

However, a sizeable portion of Muslims is opposed to both polygamy and gay marriage. And if ACL's campaign against gay marriage continues to involve sectarian silliness, they might just find themselves in bed with Fred Nile.


Irfan YusufIrfan Yusuf is a lawyer and blogger

Topic tags: Irfan Yusuf, Fred Nile, Australian Christian Lobby, Christian Democratic Party, gay marriage, hail mary

 

 

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Existing comments

The ACL are right in one aspect - that being who do you change the Marriage Act for. In 2007 the Australian Lebanese community lobbied Kevin Rudd to change the Act to allow polygamy. The author either ignores or is ignorant of this fact. If the Marriage Act is changed for one group - where is the endstate? I support same sex marriages but remain concerned about many aspects of the ACL as a lobby group.
JM Buzan | 28 February 2011


Are you suggesting there's a non-silly way to oppose gay marriage? That if Fred Nile and the ACL got over their sectarianism they could unite with homophobic Muslims in a sensible anti-gay-marriage campaign? I think the antics of Nile and the ACL show that most people who oppose gay marriage do it out of fear and ignorance and should be ignored by the rest of civil society.
Avril | 28 February 2011


Irfan Yusuf's rubbishing of a link between polygamy and a strain on welfare flies in the face of reality. Consider the following. "According to the Ministry of the Interior in France, there are 20,000 African polygamous Muslim men living there. These Muslim immigrants know how to work the system. First, they come in with a tourist visa, apply for a residency card, and then go on social welfare. Even though it is an illegal practice, France will not deport them because of the children involved. And the more children they have, the wealthier they become. According to the statistics, there are 300,000 people living under such arrangements. A little math will tell you that this translates into an average of 15 people to a family and French taxpayers are on the hook for them, since they are occupying social housing–an expensive venture. In Ontario, Canada, a similar thing is happening: although polygamous marriages are illegal, these Muslims have found a loophole: When they simply marry several wives in another country, the existing arrangements are permitted into Ontario. A scandalous report came out in the Toronto Sun charging that hundreds of polygamous men are receiving welfare and social benefits for each of their spouses." http://www.newsrealblog.com/2010/06/10/western-taxpayers-bled-by-polygamous-muslims/
Tim Scully | 28 February 2011



Thank you for such a clearly and amusingly written article.

Faye Lawrence | 28 February 2011


I don’t agree with all of Nile’s positions but he is right. Polygamy is now being debated in Canada after gay marriage was introduced. While it’s easy to sniff, the fact is that conservative Christians were right.
Edward | 28 February 2011


Here we go again! If anybody tries to express an opinion, which does not mirror some trendy outlook on life, they will be called racists, homophobic, sexists or climate sceptics.

In a true democratic society people are able to defend their own point of view but will respect the views of others. During the middle ages, anybody not copying the “proper” outlook on life as dictated by church and state was a heretic. It seems little has changed. People with a different opinion to the political mainstream have little fear of being burnt on a stake. Maybe burning people on stakes is now considered as a breach of the EPA by causing air pollution. On the other hand the chest beating self-righteous self appointed upholders of political correctness do everything possible to “burn” people like Fred Nile with their acid hateful comments.

A good democracy has enough space to accommodate people of many
Different points of views, may it from the ultra left or ultra right, may it be dogmatic or anarchistic, may it be agreeable or sceptic.

Beat Odermatt | 28 February 2011


Irfan Yusuf understates, to the point of deception, the antipathy that Islam has for homosexuality. Whatever Fred Nile's opposition has been toward gay marriage and homosexuality, he has never mandated death for homosexuals and lesbians, at least to the best of my knowledge. The same cannot be said for Islam.

The following three clips, readily found on youtube, show various Muslim scholars all calling for homosexuals and lesbians to be killed. These scholars preach that this as Allah's law.

Surely this issue was more pressing and deserving of Irfan Yusuf's time and energy than what Fred Nile does. As I said before, for gays in Muslim lands, it is a matter of life and death.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA7YjIskWDc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkugB4cbkAw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OvVd3VH3f4&feature=related

John Ryan | 28 February 2011


Congratulations, Irfan . . . you really have turned the issue of marriage (and who . . . and how many . . . )into a reductio ad absurdum. I really enjoyed your humourous take on this. The mind absolutely boggles at the thought of the queues at Centrelink . . . !!! And the new anti-discrimination legislation that might/will become necessary . . . And all the extremists (both Christians and Muslims) still think that THEY KNOW what God wants. I am sure that God, whatever you may think that that word refers to, must have a marvellous sense of humour . . . how else would God put up with all these puny human beings who keep telling him/her what he/she thinks????? Like . . . they'd know???
Robert Rennick | 28 February 2011


Bravo!
Annabel | 28 February 2011


Irfan Yusuf understates, to the point of deception, the antipathy that Islam has for homosexuality. Whatever Fred Nile's opposition has been toward gay marriage and homosexuality, he has never mandated death for homosexuals and lesbians, at least to the best of my knowledge. The same cannot be said for Islam. The following three clips, readily found on youtube, show various Muslim scholars all calling for homosexuals and lesbians to be killed. These scholars preach that this as Allah's law. Surely this issue was more pressing and deserving of Irfan Yusuf's time and energy than what Fred Nile does. As I said before, for gays in Muslim lands, it is a matter of life and death. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA7YjIskWDc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkugB4cbkAw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OvVd3VH3f4&feature=related
John Ryan | 28 February 2011


To BEAT ODORMAT: Being homosexual is far from a "trendy outlook" but a downright difficult orientation with which to live in a society that politically polarises such a sacred and sensitive aspect of our humanity. Equal rights for homosexuals should not be a debatable topic in a just and democratic society. It should be a given.
DORIAN GRAY | 28 February 2011


The ACL are right in one aspect - that being who do you change the Marriage Act for.

In 2007 the Australian Lebanese community lobbied Kevin Rudd to change the Act to allow polygamy. The author either ignores or is ignorant of this fact.

If the Marriage Act is changed for one group - where is the endstate? I support same sex marriages but remain concerned about many aspects of the ACL as a lobby group.
JM Buzan | 28 February 2011


Thanks for the article Irfan but I disagree with your assumption about the basis of the ACL campaign against same sex marraige. I have some issues with the ACL campaign myself but as a supporter of traditional marriage (no I am not homophobic, a bigot or silly) there's not much else out there if you want to get involved. Sure polygamy has been raised and for valid reasons in my view.

Once we amend the definition of marriage for reasons which may include one groups right to have their loving and committed relationship treated equally and fairly to marriage, how can one argue that other relationships are also not entitled to the same level of recognition. This has been acknowledged as a distinct possibility by academics in the US. What is so important about the number 2 to a relationship when it's all about love and commitment?

I think it is a bit rich to link questions like this to Islamophobia and sharia law, especially given your reference to anecdotal evidence of support for polygamy among Muslims. Sadly the treatment of this issue in the mainstream press lacks depth. While acknowledging the right of people in same sex relationships to have their relationships publicly recognised, in my view marriage is a uniquely heterosexual union which does not solely rely on statute or religious tradition to derive its meaning.

If anyone is interested here is a link to a well argued paper on the topic published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155


It's a pity that the points raised by this paper are not covered more by some of the commentators on this issue.
Patrice Daly | 28 February 2011


To Dorian Gray!
If you made an attempt to read what I wrote then you know that I am for greater acceptance and tolerance. This includes tolerance towards people who differ in their outlook from yours and it does include respect for the views of people like Fred Nile. Many religions also ban eating of meat, but I haven’t seen butchers trying to convert vegetarians.

Most cultures and religions have some taboos and these taboos will influence their outlook on life. I believe as long we have religions, freedom of association and some freedom of speech, humans will differ in their outlook.

Most people display a great tolerance towards others and only a minority tries to quell any different outlook on their own.
It seems very sad that groups who suffered from intolerance in the past display the same intolerance to others.

Beat Odermatt | 28 February 2011


Thanks Irfan, for putting a bit of levity into this debate. Most of us take it way too seriously.

Patrice Daly: "It's a pity that the points raised by this paper are not covered more by some of the commentators on this issue." That could be because there are serious problems with the argument - it starts with a conclusion and works backwards. See the comprehensive and (like Irfan's article) good-humoured rebuttal here: http://wakingupnow.com/blog/category/robert-george/what-is-marriage
woulfe | 28 February 2011


Is it not ironic that Beat Odermatt's interpretation of democratic free speech includes the kind that incite people to be afraid of others who don't behave or (even) look like us. It's Berlin in the 20s all over again. I'd bet that Odermatt would defend the right of a budding corporal in the German army to spout hatred against the Jews.
Alex Njoo | 28 February 2011


To Alex Njoo I defend the right of anybody to express his or her opinion. In a well-educated tolerant society the merchants of hatred have little chance of success. Hitler and Stalin became to power because too many people kept quit and supported the “polical correctness” at the time in Germany and Russia. I find any suggestion that I would ever support any discrimination of any kind based on religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, and cultural background or polical believes as very insulting. It seems far too easy for many to avoid real discussions of any kind by using a small number of insults and slogans.
Beat Odermatt | 28 February 2011


I believe that "Eureka St." is supposed to be a Catholic publication. Yet many of the articles on this site seem to take a negative view of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Our Lord, Jesus Christ defined Marriage: "And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore, they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." - Matthew 19:4-6
Trent | 01 March 2011


It seem that my professor was right: "The only thing you learn from history is that no one learns anything from history". Where public morality gravitates to the lowest common denominator; where politics becomes entwined with aggressive belief systems (or strong nationalism); where Jesus is mocked and ordinary Christians are persecuted... it's just a matter of time before things get out of control... again.
Dash | 02 March 2011


Homosexuality and apostasy are crimes which attract the death penalty in Islamist theocracies.

What does the author imply when he writes "Is the mufti Catholic?".

Claude Rigney | 02 March 2011


I don't care what the state allows by way of civil marriage. Civil marriage is already not real sacramental marriage. It is not permanent.There is no reason why the state can not also pretend that gays can marry, or that people can marry their pets, or a stone can marry a motorbike, or that a woman can have four husbands.

The availability of divorce long ago destroyed any similarity between civil marriage and real marriage.
Boris | 04 March 2011


"Anecdotal evidence suggests virtually no support for polygamy among Australians who feel inclined to tick the 'Islam' box on their census forms."

Yet polygamy is embedded in Islam: Mohammed allowed a man to marry more than one wife (while not allowing a woman to marry more than one husband).
And Mohammed himself married several wives, including a nine year old child.
Gordon Rowland | 04 March 2011


At least Fred Nile stood up against the sickening spectacle of the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras which is in progress at this very moment.The participants can ridicule and slur any organization or religion with immunity.But dare any person take the same action towards the Gay community and see what happens.
John Tobin | 05 March 2011


Fear of the "other" is a universal human trait. Only it seems well educated enlightened people with resources, namely education, financial security, stable upbringing and the like can afford the luxury of being able to transcend this limitation of xenophobia. It is therefore an issue of tolerance on the part of those who have for those who have not. In this case its tolerance and acceptance of the "other". Be patient. Softly speak your truth and wait.
graham patison | 20 March 2011


Fred is right on the gay marriage issue(just my opinion, by the way),however, I take issue with his view of Muslims. For some time now, we've been doing a study on "Christianity and Islam-So Much In Common, So Far Apart", of course a book released earlier in the year(or late last year?) by Ronn Kerr, and from the material we've covered so far, we've found both faiths, when practised responsibly, can lead to harmony and reconcilliation, both with one another, and, equally as important, the earth. After all, there is only one true religion, and that is compassion. "All relgions are human creations", from our collective unconscious, as a means by which people in various times,(and even today!), have journeyed,(and continue to journey) "into that which is ultimately holy, and wholly other.Until that simple lesson is realised, people will continue to destroy one another, in the name of the "One True God"(bits in inverted commas taken from 'The Sins of Scripture-Uncovering the Texts of Terror and Hated to reveal the God of Love" by John Shelby Spong).
Phillip | 13 August 2012


It would be good to have proper follow up on the Canadian court case on polygamy. As I understand it, the laws against polygamy were upheld, except in as much as young people who were involved in polygamous relationships can't be charged with a criminal offence. (Mostly Mormons, I think.). Which is fair enough.

I liked the light touch of this article. Even though it was dealing with the important issue of gay rights to marriage. And the hideous spin of some groups of, um, hideous spinners.
Penelope | 18 August 2012


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