Activist reporter Lauren Southern who is currently touring Australia with popular alt-media philosopher Stefan Molyneux, was warned by police not to visit a mosque in Lakemba, a predominantly Muslim area in Sydney’s western suburbs. Her plan was to observe the “culture” in Lakemba and to interview people outside of the mosque.
But before she could get there, she was apprehended by a senior police officer, who warned her that if she continued, her actions may incite a serious breach of the peace. His first line of questioning included asking her where she planned to walk next. In a video of the exchange, the flatfoot is seen to tell her that he has “grave concerns” that she will cause an “imminent breach of the peace” if she continues on towards the mosque and asks her not to go there.
Obviously Australia is not quite the free country that we think it is.
When she asks him why his reply is that “it is highly religious down there.” He further adds that her presence may cause people to be offensive, and in that one sentence he removes the agency of all the Muslims who attend the Lakemba Mosque and places the blame for any potential reaction to Lauren on her. All she would be doing is walking through the street, and asking people questions about Islam if they are willing to answer them. She is not planning to commit any crimes, attack anyone physically, steal anything, vandalise property or even disturb any religious ceremony that may be going on inside the mosque.
In New South Wales, Section 197 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 gives a police officer the power to direct a person to move on from a public place if they are obstructing somebody or harassing and intimidating them. But clearly Lauren Southern has not done any of those things – if she had, then the police would be acting within their powers by asking her to move on.
Because this police officer has “grave concerns” it is clear that he expects a violent, troublesome reaction to Lauren Southern’s presence. He then makes the call that a law-abiding visitor to this country will not be permitted to walk the streets and interview people. He couches this imperative as a request – that he is “asking her” not to – and yet as a high ranking officer he has behind him the full armed power of the state and could apprehend her and violently hold her against her will if she was to refuse it. His “request” amounts to nothing more than a threat.
But do the authorities expect a violent reaction to provocation from any other sections of society? In the UK Southern was banned from entering the country after her last visit when she distributed flyers in Luton proclaiming that “Allah is a gay God” and “Allah is trans”. The justification for the ban was that her previous actions were offensive and racist. And yet the mainstream press publishes pieces like “Jesus: the first transgender man” and “Was Jesus gay? Probably” – both pieces likely to be offensive to some Christians – with no backlash whatsoever.
About a year ago pro-Safe Schools activists gathered outside of St Barnabas Anglican church to protest an Australian Christian Lobby event, which of course is their right. They weren’t warned away from the protest by the police, even though their presence may likely have offended or upset the event attendees, especially when they were accused by the protesters of being child abusers.
The difference between this scenario and that of Southern’s attempt to question people on the street outside of a mosque is that the authorities recognise that the targets of the pro-Safe Schools event were unlikely to react in a violent way to the provocation of the protesters. Christians, as a rule, turn the other cheek.
What we are seeing here is a double standard. The role Southern is playing is that of an activist journalist shining a spotlight on all the wrong places, the places that the establishment and the globalists, the multiculturalists and the sharia apologists don’t want us to see. Perhaps she is wrong about many things, but to prevent her from playing her part because of the fear that others may respond angrily or violently towards her is to deny the agency of the people from whom the violent reaction is expected.
Likely the police reaction is a result of the prevailing orthodoxy. As noted by George Orwell, the mainstream media and society indulge in a form of self-censorship wherein current popular opinion is supported and maintained. Anyone who challenges it, as does Southern, finds that they never receive a fair hearing in the popular press. The prevailing orthodoxy of the day seems to be that it is OK to ridicule and criticise anything that emanates from the dominant western culture in Australia – including Christianity – but we may not critique non-western cultures, minority groups, indigenous culture and Islam.
But in a free society, it is important that we are free to criticise all philosophies and all religions freely without fear of violent backlash. Instead of restricting the actions of people like Lauren Southern just in case she provokes a violent reaction, the police would do well to instead apprehend and charge those people who actually break the law, no matter their ethnicity or religion.
Nicola Wright is managing editor at LibertyWorks.
James Fox Higgins is editor-in-chief of The Rational Rise.
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