“Or perhaps he should have said the pseudo-intellectuals,” Brandis said.
Devout Australians, particularly Catholics, are the victims of an “alarming emergence of intolerance of religious faith”, the federal attorney general George Brandis has told a roundtable of faith leaders in Sydney.
He cited “incessant, smearing ridicule” of Tony Abbott’s faith as an example of “bigotry at its most shameless”.
“[It was] made worse, if possible, by the added hypocrisy of the fact that many of those who engaged in that sneering were the very same people who like to pose as the enemies of bigotry,” Brandis said on Thursday.
Speaking at the Human Rights Commission’s inaugural roundtable on religious freedom, the senator raised intolerance towards Muslim Australians as proof of the country’s “somewhat inconsistent attitudes” towards religious tolerance.
“Members of the Islamic community are sometimes the victims of suspicion and hostility directed against them by those ignorantly seeking to blame terrorist violence upon Koranic teaching,” he said.
Members of Christian faiths, especially Catholics, were “routinely the subject of mockery and insult by prominent writers and commentators”.
Brandis said sneering towards Catholics had prompted former high court justice Dyson Heydon to observe anti-Catholicism in Australia now might be called “the racism of the intellectuals”.
The senator challenged the gathering – which included representatives of the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, Anglican, Baha’i, Russian Orthodox and Buddhist faiths, as well as atheists and Scientologists – to develop strategies to counter this budding intolerance and promote mutual respect.
Australian human rights commissioner Tim Wilson told delegates submissions had shown significant and clashing concerns over religious freedom.
Some devout Australians “felt increasingly unable to express their opinions or faith in the public square”, or the law increasingly did not square with their conscience.