This week in Melbourne two pentecostal pastors were punished for defaming Islam. It's a bit confusing as to what they actually said which contravened the law; they mostly based their criticisms of Islam on passages from the Koran, but the judge found that they did not make clear that their reading of the Koran was "literalist" and the judge also complained that some of their comments had drawn laughter from the 250 strong audience.
Their punishment for such "hate" speech? They have to spend $70,000 on large apologies in both of Melbourne's daily papers, and put an apology on their website for a year. They have also been ordered by the judge to never even imply what they'd said about the Koran.
The Islamic Council of Victoria claimed that this was a "light remedy" and "appropriate", but the pastors have appealed and say they would rather go to jail than apologise for "for standing for the truth". (As columnist Andrew Bolt has pointed out it seems very strange that the pastors should have to apologise to 2.5 million people, when their original comments were made to 250 people. It's like a kind of ritual public humiliation for a political thought crime - it has the flavour of Soviet Russia during the show trials even if the outcomes aren't as severe.)
Unhappily for the thought police other events in Melbourne this week make the judgement seem very ill-advised. On Thursday came the news that ASIO had raided the homes of several Melbourne Muslims in order to break up a terror cell which had conducted training camps in the countryside and which had cased the Melbourne stock exchange and Flinders Street railway station.
Then yesterday came the Herald Sun report "Muslim books of hate sold". It seems that a bookshop attached to a Melbourne mosque has been selling literature which tells Muslims that they should "hate and take as enemies" non-Muslims, that they should learn to hate in order to properly love Allah, that they should learn military tactics and that if a person speaks ill of Islam it's acceptable to kill them.
(Note also that on Thursday came the news that Islamic terror suspects had been arrested in Amsterdam and Paris.)
So this is the odd situation. Two pastors criticise the Koran, in part because of passages condoning deception and violence against non-Muslims. For warning against the possibility of "hate" inspired by the Koran they themselves are found guilty of a hate crime - for supposedly taking the Koran too literally.
But reality proves almost immediately that their warnings are not out of order and that a suburban mosque is selling literature encouraging violence against non-believers and that some of the mosque's worshippers have taken up the call to jihad by preparing for acts of terrorist violence against the peaceful residents of Melbourne.
Has it not been shown that there are indeed Muslims, even in Melbourne, who take the Koran literally? Is it not the case the the judge has been proved wrong in his decision and that it is the court which now owes the two pastors an apology?