Australian Muslims avoid same-sex marriage debate for fear of backlash

Muslims in Australia who are against same-sex marriage choose to keep quiet over the issue for fear of being labeled as extremist despite their religious council's affirmation of Islam's teaching on traditional marriage, according to a Muslim community leader.

(AAP / David Crosling / via REUTERS)People carry banners and signs as they participate in a marriage equality march in Melbourne, Australia, August 26, 2017.

Speaking to The Guardian Australia, Islamic Council of Queensland spokesman Ali Kadri said imams and other Muslim community leaders are skipping the postal survey debate on same-sex marriage law because they are afraid of being called extremists or terrorists. He said the Muslim conservatives are afraid of the Christian conservatives who support the "no" side of the debate.

"In the Muslim community, like any other, there is a difference of opinions: some have said they will support the yes side, others don't," Kadri told the Guardian. "It's not those that support the yes side that conservative Muslims are afraid of – ironically they are afraid of Christian conservatives who themselves support the no side."

In a statement, Council of Imams Queensland president Yusuf Peer and the Australian National Imams Council affirmed Islam's teaching that marriage should only be "permissible" between a man and a woman. The statement also acknowledged that this view is aligned with the Judeo-Christian belief on marriage.

Meanwhile, an advertisement by Coalition for Marriage that called on Australians to vote "no" on the upcoming same-sex marriage plebiscite has come under fire for linking the issue to school education programs. The said ad showed three women voicing out their concern about sex education and cross-dressing in schools, BBC News reported.

However, prominent figures including government minister Josh Frydenberg defended the ad and said there was no problem with it. Nevertheless, he asked all sides of the same-sex marriage debate to make sure that they remain "respectful."

Sen. Zed Seselja, on the other hand, said the advertisement represented freedom of speech. He said the mothers in the ad were just picturing how difficult it would be for them to object to methods of sex education once the Marriage Act was redefined.

The postal survey on same-sex marriage in Australia is set to begin on Sept. 12 and will run until Oct. 27. The results of the poll will be announced on Nov. 15.