By Mike Head:
Australian government revives book banning
26 October 2006
With the assistance of the state Labor governments, the federal Australian government is carrying out overt political censorship of books.
So far, two Islamic volumes have been banned and preparations are underfoot to tighten censorship laws by agreement with the states.
The current campaign began in February, when federal attorney-general Philip Ruddock moved to take more control over censorship rulings.
Ruddock announced that the two committees responsible for classifying books, films, TV programs, video games and other material—the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board—would be integrated into his department.
Previously, they were within the Office of Film and Literature Classification, a formally independent agency.
In June, Ruddock applied to the Review Board to outlaw eight Islamic texts and one film, even though the Classification Board had previously cleared them, on the advice of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
None of these agencies thought the books incited any crime, threatened public safety or contravened the expanded sedition laws passed late last year.
According to the AFP, the material was “descriptive rather than inciting any type of violence”.
Ruddock’s intervention followed a media witchhunt, led by the Murdoch newspaper stable.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph’s headline on May 15, for example, screamed, “Muslim ‘Books of Hate’ Get OK”.
The newspaper demanded the banning of the books for, among other things, encouraging hostility toward police among Muslim youth.
The seven government-appointed members of the Review Board proscribed two books, Defence of the Muslim Lands and Join the Caravan, but allowed six others. As well as a film of a speech by a lecturer at an American university.
People who display or sell the censored material can be jailed for up to two years.
The two outlawed books were written by Sheikh Abdullar Azzam, who was killed in Afghanistan in 1989.
Ironically, both sought to justify the Islamic fundamentalist war against the Soviet-backed regime that ruled at the time in Kabul.
There was no move to ban the books in the 1980s, because the US and its allies, including Australia, were backing the Islamic groups as “freedom fighters”.
In its decision on Defence of the Muslim Lands, the Review Board acknowledged that the book, including its preface by Osama bin Laden, was written in 1984 as a “call to arms” against the Soviet invasion, “which was condemned at the time by much of the Western world including Australia, the UK and the US”.
Australia: computer game censored.
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