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Overseas Medical Graduates demand apology from Jewish Australian Treasurer

MELBOURNE, 1 MARCH. Indian Voice has been informed by the Overseas Medical Graduates Association (OMGA) about its disbelief that Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer of Australia, made a speech in Parliament last week making light of issues surrounding individual well-being. It was construed that a person’s mental well-being was some sort of laughing matter that tough grown men (and women) ridicule and scoff at, as per OMGA press release.

This comes at a time when brave men and women such as former MP Andrew Robb, Glenn Maxwell and Nathan Thompson have openly spoken about mental health issues.

Worse still, Mr Frydenberg who is from a Jewish background, went on to ridicule the practices of Yoga, meditation and Ashrams, all of which originate and are embedded in the cultural landscape of the Indian sub-continent. This was greeted by loud, almost child-like, laughter by members of parliament.

"This is most unparliamentary and inconsiderate. This was not an isolated off the cuff remark, rather a well prepared speech, made under parliamentary privilege, with a strategy based on scoring political points and getting a cheap laugh at the expense of a particular community," said Dr Raj Khillan on behalf of OMGA.

"Whilst many commentators have called the speech racist, we, as a non-political medical organisation, prefer to see it as culturally insensitive."

Dr Khillan said, "That it happened in the country’s parliament that gives a licence and encouragement to unsavoury sections of our society to peddle their hate and ridicule on Australians of Indian origin."

"It also sets a bad example for our impressionable children and youth," Dr Raj Khillan, MBBS, MD, MIAP, FRCPCH (UK), FRACP (Consultant Paediatrician, the Director of Western Specialist Centre, said.

"We call on Josh Frydenberg to reflect on his words and correct the record. A formal statement in Parliament would be most welcome."

Dr Khillan added, "We also call on the Treasurer to meet with our representatives, many of whom are his constituents in Kooyong, to discuss our concerns."

"We also call upon the Prime Minister to deride such behaviour, in an out of parliament, Dr Khillan said.

The Overseas Medical Graduates Association (OMGA) represents over 300 medical and dental practitioners in Victoria. An overwhelming majority of its members are of Indian ethnic origin. OMGA seeks to represent and advocate its members but also their patients, and on health-related matters for the wider Australian community that it serves.

Indian Voice has also been informed about the concerns on Treasurer Frydenberg's hollowness by various Hindu organisations, including Hindu Council of Australia; and Universal Society of Hinduism (USH) which states, "Hindus worldwide are urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to censure Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for mocking deeply revered Hindu practices in the Parliament on Thursday, which was highly inappropriate."

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken frivolously. Concepts/symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that this belittling of the entire Hindu community appeared to have an official sanction as no action had yet been taken against Frydenberg. Parliament of a great country like Australia should not be in the business of denigrating a minority religion for no reason.

Rajan Zed further said that it was heartbreaking for the hardworking, harmonious and peaceful Australian Hindu community; which had made lot of contributions to the nation and society and continued to do so; to watch being belittled and laughed at in the Parliament.

Yoga, ashram, string of beads and incense burning were serious and sacred practices/ concepts/objects in Hinduism and seeing these derided in Australian Parliament by nation’s treasurer in presence of Prime Minister and others was painful for the community, Zed noted.

If minority religions were demeaned, mocked-at, insulted like this in the Australian Parliament; what message would it send to the streets? Rajan Zed wondered and asked: Was this the standard of debate in Parliament? As an interfaith gesture; Zed urged Australian Roman Catholic Bishops Conference President Mark Coleridge, Anglican Church of Australia Primate Philip Freier, Uniting Church in Australia President Deidre Palmer, and leaders of other religions in Australia to strongly condemn this ridiculing of Hinduism in Parliament to show their solidarity with the dismayed Hindus.

Rajan Zed explains that yoga is considered Union with God and is a mean for transforming consciousness and attaining liberation. Ashram (spiritual hermitage/monastery) is a center for religious study and meditation. Mala (string of beads), regarded as auspicious and protective, is used in spiritual practice. Incense burning is an integral part of any auspicious Hindu ritual and had spiritual significance.

Hinduism is one of the fastest growing religions in Australia, and according to 2016 census, formed 1.9% of the country’s population numbering at 440,300.

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