While agreeing with the thrust of Richard Egan's article, "Social Justice Statements: in whose name should they be published?" (November AD2000), there are two points with which I must reluctantly take issue.
1. Mr Egan cites the Statement's claim (made in reference to Australia's history of race relations), that "in many parts of Australia there were massacres and incidents of a kind that are more common in civil war than in peace". He takes issue with these words, arguing that "the extent, nature and causes or these 'incidents' are presently the subject of a major debate between historians."
This is technically true, but tendentious. The academic debate is over genocidal intent, the dimensions of particular atrocities and massacres, whether or not Aborigines were waging a war of resistance against white settlement, and the honesty and competence of some leading historians.
It seems to me that the Statement has carefully and reasonably sidestepped this debate and used words with which both sides of the academic divide could agree. I believe that even Keith Windschuttle would agree that the Black Line in Tasmania and the activities of the Queensland Native Mounted Police are phenomena reminiscent of a civil war rather than a peaceful settlement.
2. In disputing the Statement's unsustainable claim that there is no connection at all between Islam and terrorism, Mr Egan goes to the other extreme, arguing that the roots of Islamic terrorism are found in the Quran and the life of Mohammad. This assessment is as misleading and tendentious as the statement he is criticising.
It is unfortunately true that the Quran, the Sunna and the history of the Muslim umma contain elements that can be construed as endorsing the use of force against unbelievers, but it is unfair to single out Islam for this fault. The Bible contains passages that can be read in a similar way and the history of the Catholic Church is vulnerable to similar criticism.
Violence against unbelievers is a corruption of both the Muslim and the Christian faiths, and is rejected by the overwhelming majority of both creeds. Only when religion is linked to ethnic, economic and political issues does it find itself being drafted into the service of violence - and this applies to all religions, not just Islam.
AD2000 is performing an invaluable service as a defender of religious orthodoxy. Please do not make yourself vulnerable to criticism by engaging in thoughtless reaction.
MICHAEL BARR (DR)
The University of Queensland