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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ed Husic, first Muslim frontbencher

Edham "Ed" Husic is a Labor MP who has represented the seat of Chifley in western Sydney since 2010.  He was the National President of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) and the divisional secretary of the AWU prior to being elected to federal parliament.  His family came from Bosnia and he went to school and grew up in Blacktown, a working-class suburb of Sydney.

Yesterday, he became the topic of conversation after Kevin Rudd elevated him to his new front bench as Parliamentary Secretary.  His swearing in by the Governor General wouldn't have rated a mention except for the fact that he chose the Koran, instead of the Bible, to swear his oath of office.

Ed Husic describes himself as a non-practicing Muslim.  He's married to Bridget Tilley and they have an 11 month old son Sam Haris Husic. Sam's middle name Haris is an Arabic word meaning "vigilant guardian."

On his Facebook page yesterday there were some very angry comments.  "You have created history of the worst order, to swear on a Koran!!!! This is Australia with Australian laws."  And another "Swore to serve Australia using the same book terrorists do to serve al-Qaeda......disgusting!"  But Mr Husic said "I couldn't obviously take my oath on a Bible, I am who I am."

But Ed Husic has handled the fallout pretty well.  He acknowledged there were people within his faith who were extreme and that it was right for the electorate to express their concerns about his religion, that's what democracy is all about.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said "I respect his choice and I think the Australian people should as well."  Liberal backbencher and Jewish MP Josh Frydenberg spoke to Mr Husic last night and tweeted "Criticism of Ed Husic is a disgrace - we live in a democracy where we must respect freedom of religion."

Governor-General Quentin Bryce told Mr Husic yesterday "This is a wonderful day for multiculturalism and everything it stands for in our country."