August 30, 2013 – 12:01AM
State political reporter
A federal election candidate in western Queensland has accused Muslims of paying Aborigines to convert to Islam.
Speaking to ABC Western Queensland, Rise Up Australia candidate Pam Hecht said the biggest issue facing people in the electorate of Kennedy, which Bob Katter holds by 18.3 per cent, was the conversion of Indigenous people to Islam.
“I don’t know whether people are aware, but many of the Aboriginal people in northern Australia are being targeted by Muslims and in some cases are being paid to convert to Islam,” she said, describing herself and the electorate as “farmers … just ordinary everyday people”, who “want to be free to go about our business”.
“Our concern with that is, the Muslim belief, that converting the first peoples of the land to Islam means that the land belongs to Allah, and Islam should be the only religion.
“There is an Aboriginal lady who works with the people up in northern Australia and she has spoken directly with the leader of our party, Daniel Nalliah [and told him about the practice].”
Of the 340,393 Australians who identified as Muslims in the 2006 Census, just 1011 were Indigenous.
Comparatively, 290,630 Indigenous people identified as Christian.
Academics believe Aborigines came into contact with those who practised the Islamic faith even before they came into contact with Christianity, first through trade links with Indonesia and later through cameleers.
Mr Nalliah, the leader of Rise Up Australia, states in his Catch the Fire Ministries biography, that he first knew “the Lord had called him” after an Australian missionary visited his Sri Lankan town in 1976.
He made national headlines in 2002 when anti-Muslim comments he made became the subject of the first case heard under Victoria’s newly-created Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. Mediation ended the case five years later.
Ms Hecht, who says she is a “fifth generation Australian on her mother’s side” in her biography, said the growth of Islam was “an important issue for the whole of Australia and definitely Kennedy”. She denied the party wanted to restrict religionist choice and said the core issue was a matter of law.
“What we don’t support is their hijacking of our laws and our system,” she said.
“It really is many races, but one law and that’s Australian law.”
Earlier this month, the One Nation Party dropped their candidate for the seat of Rankin, Stephanie Banister, after a gaffe-filled interview with the 27-year-old aired on Channel Seven, showed Ms Banister mistaking Islam for a country.
Ms Banister said she had been misrepresented.
Fairfax Media attempted to contact both Ms Hecht and Mr Nalliah for comment.