Stephanie Banister: Australian Islam gaffe goes viral

An Australian election candidate has made the wrong kind of headlines after a gaffe-strewn interview in which she mistook Islam for a country.

Stephanie Banister, a candidate with the anti-immigration One Nation Party, clocked up multiple mistakes in a TV interview with Channel 7 News. The 27-year-old also confused the term “haram” (forbidden) with the Koran and suggested Jews worship Jesus Christ.

The interview, which aired early this week, has gone viral on social media. “I don’t oppose Islam as a country, umm, but I do feel that their laws should not be welcome here in Australia,” Ms Banister told Seven News reporter Erin Edwards.

Ms Banister, who is standing for the parliamentary seat of Rankin in Brisbane, also claimed that 2% of Australians “follow haram” when presumably she meant the Islamic text, the Koran. Haram is a Muslim term used for something that is forbidden or punishable.

Ms Banister then repeatedly used the word haram when she apparently meant to say “halal”. Halal in fact means the opposite and is commonly used to refer to the Islamic laws on food preparation.

When subsequently asked if she opposed the Jewish laws of kosher as well, the would-be MP replied: “Jews aren’t under haram. They have their own religion which follows Jesus Christ.”

During the interview Ms Banister was also asked to name the candidates from the two mainstream parties in her seat, but came up short and admitted: “I’m still learning all of the names of people in politics.”

Some commentators here are making comparisons with the former US Vice-Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin, who became infamous for her media slip-ups when running for office in 2008.

Even before this interview Ms Banister was regarded as a rank outsider to win her seat. The mother-of-two rose to prominence when she was arrested for going into a supermarket and putting stickers saying “halal food funds terrorism” on Nestle products. She was charged with “contaminating or interfering with goods”.

Ms Banister will be forbidden from standing in the 7 September election if she is convicted before polling day.

BBC News, 9 August 2013

Update:  See “One Nation’s Stephanie Banister withdraws from race after Islam comments”, AAP, 10 August 2013