The Sydney Morning Herald is today reporting on a change.org petition by Muslim leaders calling on the ABC to apologise for airing “racist, Islamophobic and crude” comments by Senator Jackie Lambie on its Q&A program this week. Not since Tony Abbott banning frontbenchers from appearing on the program has their been a more pathetic dummy spit over the program.
On Q&A’s website the ABC says the program “focuses mostly on politics but ranges across all of the big issues that set Australians thinking, talking and debating” and “The program is designed to bring together a range of views on the panel and in the audience and we rely on the panellists and audiences to argue the case for their different points of view as well as providing an opportunity for others to comment and respond in social and mainstream media. Q&A isn’t endorsing the opinions expressed; it’s providing a safe place for Australians to discuss their differences.”
The episode on Monday night fit well with Q&A’s purpose – there was a discussion of big issues and there was an argument between different points of view. The ABC also did well to show those opposing points of view so viewers can make up their minds about the position of the Senator and of a well-respected muslim woman – Yassmin Abdel-Magied.The Senator said that she believed that anyone who supports Sharia law should be deported. Abdel-Magied countered by asking Senator Lambie if she knew what it was and attempted to educate the Senator on Sharia (to little avail). Abdel-Magied made the point that “people talk about Islam without knowing anything about it.”What the program showed was we have a Senator who supports immigration policy which follows that of US President Donald Trump without fully being informed of the issues. Abdel-Magied came across as someone intelligent and articulate whereas Senator Lambie came across as a raving lunatic. Abdel-Magied’s did an amazing job of advocating her faith in a mainstream medium.Abdel-Magied’s debate with Lambie is likely to resonate with more people than Muslim clerics and academics demanding an apology from a program that aims to present differing views on controversial topics. On this issue the program did well and it was the muslim woman who made the better argument.Instead of claiming the program is a deterrence to Muslim youth to engage public platforms, Muslim leaders should be citing Abdel-Magied’s performance as an example of a woman who is empowered to go forward and advocate her religious beliefs in the face of criticism from others.The ABC owes no apology for doing exactly what the program is meant to do – provide a platform for the big issues to be explored from both sides of the argument and for that we should all be grateful.