Moira Rayner (Opinion, 6/1) proposes a sound alternative to the legislative and juridical approach to villification now so beloved of governments. I would like to add another in some sense related to hers, and in so doing make an observation.
Letters and public statements in the wake of the recent Catch the Fire Ministries finding reflect a wide but untested assumption that an effect of the seminar in question was to incite hatred or disdain for Muslims. But no one to my notice has asked whether this was in fact the outcome. Subsequent commentary has also acknowledged little if any distinction between statements made in the public hearing of the wider community and those spoken in a defined context to a specific audience. Something is very wrong here.
It is absurd to assume that the provision of any information about another party, appealing or otherwise, regardless of context, will lead inexorably to an incitement of hatred. If that were so, our state parliament would by now be meeting in Port Philip Prison. What if those who attended the seminar with Pastors Scott and Nahlia came away with a greater concern and love for Muslim people, and a desire to build bridges with them? If they weren’t asked, we’ll never know.
Ms Rayner recommends the distribution of information presenting an alternative perspective to, in this case, the seminar attenders. On a similar basis, why not an anonymous survey of attenders’ thoughts and feelings towards the people in focus as a consequence of what they heard? The results may quell much angst. If the seminar’s real impact has not been gauged, has justice been served and has good sense prevailed? And if not, has someone else in fact been misrepresented?