A model citizen

Can’t for the life of me think why we’re so reluctant to import these people by the plane-load:

Refugee Aladdin Sisalem: Islam story will make war

A refugee who was the last person detained on Manus Island in 2004 has told a tribunal a newspaper article quoting MPs talking about Islam could “create a civil war”.

The article, entitled “Islam must change”, was published last November and quoted Coalition MPs Andrew Hastie, Michael Sukkar and Josh Frydenberg questioning the need for reform within modern Islam.

In his application before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, former Palestinian Aladdin Sisalem, 37, alleges the Herald Sun article vilified Islam by claiming it was involved in “serious crimes without any proof and calling for my religion to change”.

Mr Sisalem represented himself.

This is the third court case he has been involved in since 2004, including an anti-discrimination case against his university, RMIT, where he was studying ­engineering.

In the other case, he protested against the cancellation of his Disability Support Pension.

The cancellation of his pension was linked to his level of impairment and it was noted in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision that he had travelled overseas 16 times in five years and had no difficulty in lifting 13kg of luggage into the overhead compartment on a flight.

Mr Sisalem alleged yesterday that the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, which publishes the Herald Sun, breached three subsections of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 by publishing the article.

Haroon Hassan for HWT ­argued yesterday that VCAT did not have jurisdiction to hear part of the case relating to serious vilification offences.

Tribunal member Julia Grainger accepted Mr Hassan’s submission and allowed the case to continue in relation to alle­gations of unlawful vilification.

Mr Sisalem said he did not think the article was in the public interest. “This article will turn people against people, against each other, and create a civil war,” he said. “How could (the author) find this in the public interest? I ­believe harm has been done.”

He expressed further frus­tration with the politicians’ ­apparent agreement on the issue.

Ms Grainger said it was not the appropriate venue or forum for Mr Sisalem to express his dissatisfaction with the content of the ­article, except to the extent that it may have breached race hate law.

Mr Hassan said a balance must be struck between freedom of expression and extreme acts, saying “the article was no more than a robust piece of political reporting”. “It’s an example of the free speech which the act seeks to preserve,” he said.

Ms Grainger has reserved her decision.

Mr Sisalem is a Palestinian refugee who was held in detention on Manus Island in 2003 and 2004 after attempting to arrive in Australia by boat from Papua New Guinea.

He was the sole detainee on Manus Island for several months, costing taxpayers more than $1 million. In June 2004, he was granted a humanitarian visa and arrived in Melbourne.

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About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
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