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White Australia Has A Black History

White Australia Has A Black History

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Bigotry, racism, exclusion and Islamophobia

 
Ten years ago the Cronulla riots shocked the nation. As someone who converted to Islam after marrying into a Muslim family and has children growing up Muslim in Australia, I'm more aware of this impending anniversary than most.
Watching news footage of the riots at the time, which included people being seriously assaulted by a drunken flag-waving crowd because they were of Arab or Muslim appearance, prompted my husband and I to seriously consider changing our oldest son's proudly chosen Arab Muslim name. We eventually decided against it, reasoning that we shouldn't capitulate to racism, the event was a one-off, and that by the time he grew up, Islamophobia would have receded.
More than 5500 people gathered at North Cronulla on December 11, 2005.
More than 5500 people gathered at North Cronulla on December 11, 2005.  
Photo: Andrew Meares
Ten years on, and anti-Muslim hate seems to have reached an all-time high; I think twice before saying my son's name out loud in a public place. Tens of thousands of people have liked anti-Muslim social media pages, anti-Muslim rallies are held regularly across the country, and several anti-Muslim political parties plan to contest the next election.
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These developments, which would have shocked many even a year ago, now seem a normal part of the Australian political landscape. My youngest son can identify the regular news coverage of anti-Muslim sentiment by looking at the images. If they're of men and Australian flags, it's about "the people who don't like us".
This has prompted me to question why the almost complete appropriation of Australia's national symbol by groups whose agenda is to exclude has been met with silence from those whose job it is to represent our flag and country.
Members of the Reclaim Australia rally in Melton on November 22.
Members of the Reclaim Australia rally in Melton on November 22. 
 Photo: Chris Hopkins
Despite general agreement on the need to unite against the terrorists who want to divide us, the need to unite against the right-wing extremists who want to do the same thing has not been a part of the national conversation. Where is the leadership on condemning increasing extremism targeting the Muslim community?
A failure to do so has fostered an environment in which physical and verbal attacks on people identifiably Muslim, particularly women, have increased to the point where community leader Saara Sabbagh recently told a forum against racism: "You can ask any Muslim woman with a headscarf and she'll tell you a story."
A friend told me recently that her year 4 son had come home from school asking her, "Are we killers, mum?"
Speakers at a Reclaim Australia rally in Canberra on November 22.
Speakers at a Reclaim Australia rally in Canberra on November 22.  
Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
One of the most frightening aspects of rising Islamophobia is that it is a worldwide trend. Anti-Muslim, anti-immigration political parties have made gains in the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Austria, France and Italy. United States presidential candidate Donald Trump recently proposed a national register for Muslims, a move New Jersey Rabbi Joshua Stanton said made him think about "fascist actions taken against Jews during the last century".
Some may argue that it's inappropriate or offensive to talk about Islamophobia when people have been killed in terrorist attacks carried out by criminals who say they are doing so in the name of Islam. Yet Muslims are more likely than others to be killed in terror attacks worldwide, and just as likely to be killed in Western attacks.
There have been Muslim victims in every major western terror attack, including in New York, Madrid, London and Paris.
In addition, each time criminals carry out terrorist attacks, the entire Muslim community faces a backlash increasingly encouraged not just by right-wing extremists, but also by authoritative public figures. Tony Abbott has a lot to answer for here. He has gone, but members of the current government – including Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg, Cory Bernardi​ and George Christensen – continue to actively exploit anti-Muslim sentiment for political advantage. More importantly, although every Muslim I have spoken to about this matter feels under siege as never before, the silence of political leaders on growing Islamophobia is profound.
What should politicians be saying? They could take a lead from other public figures and community leaders, such as the musicians who have dissociated themselves from racism by demanding anti-Muslim rally organisers stop playing their music, and the faith leaders who have condemned the rallies as damaging to our society.
It's not that hard, which suggests the failure of politicians to condemn Islamophobia is a matter of political will and a fear of losing the racist vote.
If politicians don't want to denounce anti-Muslim hatred because it's the right thing to do, they might think about doing it because the hate-filled leaders of Islamic State are exploiting attacks on Muslim women in Western countries to recruit Western men.
In an English-language video set to music, IS claims to be "Defending the pride of our sisters who have cried". Political leaders consistently making strong statements opposing anti-Muslim bigotry as it occurs would completely undercut that claim's potential to radicalise.
Politicians could start by condemning the use of the Australian flag at the anti-Muslim rallies that look set to become a permanent feature of Australian political life. They could follow up by pledging to put all anti-Muslim political parties last on their preference cards.
When my children see images of people waving the Australian flag to signify a hatred of Muslims, I'd like to be able to tell them that the people in charge of our country condemn this misuse of a symbol meant to represent us all.

Susie Latham​ is a PhD student at Curtin University and a co-founder of Voices against Bigotry. 
She will be presenting at a Deakin University conference on Citizenship and Racism in Australia in December.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/ten-years-after-cronulla-riots-why-is-our-government-silent-on-antimuslim-prejudice-20151204-glfmv2.html#ixzz3tfAYAuFv 
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The Muslim Question. Citizenship in Australia

14 Dec
This two day conference will address the 'Muslim question' currently circulating in citizenship debates in the West and also reflect upon the decade that has passed since the Cronulla riots.

Day one hopes to address a dearth of research evidence, prompt new conversations and directions for policy through an objective examination of the relationship between Islamic belief, ritual and practice and civic attitudes and expressions of social responsibility toward the western political community. The gap in research contributes to reductionist characterisations of Islam as a persistent threat to western societies, fuelling Islamophobic and "extreme" nationalist responses.

Day two will address just how significant the Cronulla Riots were, then and now, and whether – in a world preoccupied with the War on Terror – the Riots remain a useful reference point for discussions of intercultural relations and multiculturalism in Australia. This discussion is particularly relevant in a world where Islam's compatibility with western liberal values continues to be questioned at global, national and local scales.

Deakin City Centre, Level 3, 550 Bourke Street, Melbourne
More information

Event information

Date
14th December 2015 - 15th December 2015
Time
08:30 am - 06:00 pm
Location
550 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Register your interest