Word Association

Last week, in what has variously been described as a “great day for multiculturalism in Australia” and an “absolutely sickening” “disregard [for] Australia’s constitution”, Ed Husic, federal Labor MP for Chifley, was sworn in to two parliamentary positions using a Koran. Whilst some of the commentary on this event was appropriately respectful and even congratulatory for a first-generation migrant achieving such high office, also making the news was the volume of vitriol poured in Mr Husic’s direction. The reason: that he swore in on a Koran, rather than a Christian Bible.

Of course, the entire purpose for swearing in on a Bible is not in endorsement of the values and beliefs espoused by Christianity, but rather is akin to swearing “on my honour” or “on the lives of my children” – a commitment on something that the swearer values. The whole idea of “swearing in” is a bit of an antiquated principle in itself, something that became amply clear with commenters mentioning that sworn-in witnesses to a criminal trial lied through their teeth, whilst a Muslim, having sworn on a Koran, told the unblemished truth. In a country where well under ten per cent of the population are regular church attendees (church attendance¬†may be an unrealistic signifier of Christian attitudes, but good enough to go on), the reverence with which the other 90% of the population hold the Bible has to be open to question.

So swearing in a devout Muslim on a Koran has got to be at least as fit-for-purpose as swearing in an agnostic, atheist or non-practicing lapsed-catholic on a Bible. You might as well ask whether the specific bible in question is a King James or The Message. But let’s put that aside for now.

Continue reading