I was working out of a coffee shop in Cairns overlooking Trinity Inlet when my Twitter feed went nuts with the news of the Christchurch shootings.
I had been on the road in North Queensland for days campaigning and fundraising and had stolen a few precious hours to catch up on the endless grind of administration that goes with a shoe-string campaign.
Pausing to read the coverage on my iPhone, I was stunned by the scale and barbarous nature of the attacks.
At that time, the death toll was already 40.
Within minutes Conservative Party Leader Cory Bernardi released this statement: “There is never any justification nor excuse for such reprehensible attacks. That they happen in a place of worship and target people on the basis of their religious beliefs makes this crime even more heinous.”
Now I am no apologist for Islam.
I have grave concerns with the way it is practised in supposedly moderate Islamic countries like our cricketing friends Pakistan, and in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
I wrote about this for The Australian back in 2015 in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.
None of the abovementioned countries are ISIS caliphates but few Australians would disagree that their brand of “moderate” Islam is distasteful enough and is the last thing any of us would want here.
Their Sharia blasphemy laws do not allow freedom and tolerance for non-Muslims and punishment of gays and Christians can be brutal.
This brings me to Queensland Senator Fraser Anning. (Disclosure: I am seeking to replace preferably Greens Senator Larissa Waters or failing that, Senator Anning, at the May election).
His media statement issued in the aftermath of the killings effectively said the Christchurch mosques worshippers had it coming.
It is worth quoting the last two paragraphs of his statement because the import of what he said has been lost in the controversy, with many conservatives even believing Anning is simply the victim of political correctness.
“The truth is that Islam is not like any other faith. It is the religious equivalent of fascism. And just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless.
“As we read in Matthew 26:52, ‘all that take the sword, shall perish by the sword’ and those who follow a violent religion that calls on them to murder us, cannot be too surprised when someone takes them at their word and responds in kind.”
It is often said that deception is served in large dollops of truth.
Yes, there are many extremists in Islam who ‘live by the sword’ and clearly there are those who want to ‘murder us’.
But that was not the men kneeling at Friday prayers when Brenton Tarrant walked in and started landing rapid-fire headshots like he was playing a macabre video game.
As a Christian who vehemently disagrees with Islam, I did not at all like Anning’s misrepresentation of Jesus’ words.
If they were ISIS fighters laying slain on the battlefield in Syria, this reference may have been warranted.
But the New Zealand mosque-goers were non-combatants.
The Bible Anning quotes teaches that it is never okay to respond to violence “in kind”.
I am and remain a critic of global Islam. I get that Islamists continue to wage bloody Jihad and that this is an on-going threat, even here in Australia.
I get that the left, in its typically hypocritical and hyperbolic fashion, is milking this tragedy to label any critic of Islam and immigration policy an enabler of mass murder.
Stupidly, Anning just gave them their biggest leg up.
Greens leader Richard di Natalie piously tweeted that “hate speech” on the right needed to be constrained.
He didn’t seem to mind when his party’s elected representatives engaged in what I call hate speech from the left.
Former Greens Senator Robert Simms and current Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt labelled me and my then organisation, Australian Christian Lobby, “bigots” and a “hate group” during the marriage debate.
Lost on Di Natalie was that this false and inflammatory rhetoric may have contributed to the 2016 fire-bombing of the ACL office in Deakin, causing $100,000 worth of damage in what was arguably Australia’s first modern act of politically-motivated terrorism.
But in spite of all this, if being a political conservative means I have to side with Anning then conservativism is not for me.
Whether on the left or right, no one deserves to die in retaliation for the actions of extremists who claim to be of them.
Yes, political correctness is a big problem.
But in this instance, Senator Anning is not its victim.
The victims are those whose blood is on the carpet of the two Christchurch mosques.
And they are blameless.
Lyle Shelton is federal communications director for the Australian Conservatives and their Queensland Senate candidate.
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