On 4 April 2015, a series of right-wing 'Reclaim Australia' rallies were held across Australia with the aim of 'reclaiming Australia from Islam'. They were based on the premise that Islam is taking over Australia. Something that couldn't be further from the truth.
The rally organisers have neo-Nazi links (1) and issued requests to their followers not to display swastikas or other Nazi paraphernalia at the marches (2). They're message encourages hate through misrepresentation and stereotyping of Islam. It isn't hard to do this. After all, few non-Muslims understand Islam. It is easy to equate all Muslims with terrorism that is committed by someone claiming to be a Muslim. Yet, most Australians are unaware that far more people have been killed by the West than have been killed by terrorists. More than 1.3 million have been killed by Western military action since the year 2001 and more than 5 million displaced (3). Contrast this with 118,943 killed by terrorists between 2006 and 2013 (4). Not all of these attacks were by Muslims. In Europe, during the last five years less than two per cent of terrorist attacks were committed by Muslims. In the United States, since 1980, no more than six per cent of terrorist attacks were committed by Muslims. That leaves 94% of terrorist attacks being perpetrated by non-Muslims (5).
Of course, there are also Christian terrorist groups, such as the Lord's Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony. The LRA is responsible for the kidnapping, rape and murder of thousands of people. In the name of the Lord, they also engage in child sex slavery and child soldiers. In America, the Army of God has bombed abortion clinics and kidnapped or killed dozens of people (6).
By blaming all of Islam for the behaviour of a few is blatant bigotry. We may as well call all Christians pedophiles given the extent of pedophilia in Christian churches and institutions. Funnily enough, not all terrorist attacks are committed by Muslims.
People forget, or don't know, the role that the West played in the rise of modern terrorism. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are direct results of the USA funding the Mujaheddin during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s (7). The issues with Iraq were a direct result of the USA funding Saddam Hussein during this time. Not to mention the 2003 invasion of Iraq based on the lies around weapons of mass destruction and out of this, we saw significant sectarian violence, terrorism (8) and ultimately, the formation of ISIL. The issues with Palestine are a direct result of the USA and other Western nations funding and supporting Israel's war crimes and breaches of the Geneva Convention.
When was the last time a Muslim nation invaded a western one? Yet, for centuries the West has been invading Muslim nations, subjugating their populations and stealing their resources.
Most recently a documentary, Dirty Wars, has been released detailing American aggression against civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria, Indonesia, Somalia and a stack of other countries, with the USA even outsourcing its kills to local war-lords such as General Indha Adde and Mohamed Qanyare in Somalia.
Many of the people marching wrapped themselves in Australian flags and claimed that their forefathers fought for our freedoms, not Islam.
Sinclair Lewis published a novel in 1935 entitled 'It can't happen here', in which he depicted the rise of a Fascist president in the USA on the back of a 'populist platform, promising to restore the country to prosperity and greatness', playing the patriotism and 'traditional values' card.
In commenting on this book, journalist Harrison Salisbury wrote: 'Sinclair Lewis aptly predicted in It Can't Happen Here that if fascism came to America it would come wrapped in the flag and whistling 'The Star Spangled Banner' (9).
Sound familiar? Many of the people marching with Reclaim Australia claim they're patriots rescuing their country. They have the Aussie flags flying, the Southern Cross tattoos and sing 'Advance Australia Fair'. Their agenda is racist, bigoted and hateful.
Racist? Yes, I know they'll argue that Islam is not a race therefore you can't be racist by hating on Islam. This is a foolish argument. Racism stereotypes all members of a race. By stereotyping all Muslims is a form of racism. It has the same characteristics as racism. If you don't want to be called a racist, then don't act like one.
Albert Einstein summed up patriotism being used to justify violence and hate: 'Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism - how passionately I hate them!'.
Reclaim Australia claims that they are campaigning for nine major issues. Below are the nine points with a response to each:
1. To stop any enforcing of Sharia law throughout the whole of Australia. To make Sharia Law illegal in every State and Territory.
One of the lies being spread about Islam is that Muslims want to establish Sharia law in Australia. Most bigots don't even know what Sharia law is. They only know of the punishments under the most extreme elements of Sharia, such as amputating hands. This extreme version of Sharia doesn't exist in most of the world. There are only a few countries that practice it. So why would Muslims be intent on replacing Australia's legal system with an extreme version of Sharia, when it isn't even in place in most Muslim countries. There are very few Muslim countries which employ Sharia law to its fullest. Most have secular legal systems which engage elements of Sharia for personal relationship issues, such as marriage and divorce (10).
Besides, it would be unconstitutional to force Sharia law on all of Australia as Section 116 of the Australian Constitution prohibits the Commonwealth from making any law for 'imposing any religious observance ...'.
2. Keep our traditional values ie. Christmas, Easter, Australia Day, Anzac Day and other beliefs a large number of Australians have grown up with.
No-one is campaigning to end these. Muslims in Islamic countries are happy for Christians to celebrate Christmas and Easter. Here in Australia, Muslims participate in Australia Day and Anzac Day. We're seeing some of the largest turn-outs for Anzac Day and Australia Day events across the nation.
Many Muslims have fought and died for Australia, yet a lot of the bigots seem to think that it is unAustralian to be Muslim or that Muslims are not Australian. Our forefathers fought AGAINST Fascism, so it is somewhat disturbing that Fascists have hijacked the memory of the Anzacs and all who've served in the military in order to further their racist agenda.
If people want to maintain traditional values such as Christmas and Easter, then campaign against the commercialisation of them. Maintain the true message of Christmas and Easter, rather than the capitalist exploitation of them. What is the true message of Christmas and Easter? Love. Christ came to us out of love. He was crucified out of love.
The date of the rallies is ironic. It falls on Easter Saturday. The time when Christians across the globe are celebrating Jesus Christ sacrificing himself out of love for his enemies. It's ironic because a number of Christian extremists are marching in these rallies. Maybe they missed the bits in the bible about 'love your neighbour', 'love your enemies', 'turn the other cheek', 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. They obviously missed the bit in the bible about 'preach the gospel', because instead they preach hate. Christians are called to love unconditionally, not to be selective in their love.
Failing all that, couldn't Reclaim Australia just have a traditional Easter Egg hunt instead of flying the flag of hate and bigotry?
3. Keep our rights and freedom of speech.
Oh, the irony. Reclaim Australia is trying to shut down the rights and freedoms of Muslim Australians. They protest against Mosques and anything to do with Islam. While they're campaigning to ban mosques, where do they think 500,000 Muslims, most born in Australia, will worship? They aren't just going to disappear.
While they march to 'keep our rights', then it is prudent to remind them of Section 116 of the Australian Constitution which provides a constitutional right to freedom of religion; any religion:
'The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth'.
Our ancestors fought for our Constitution and Section 116 of the Australian Constitution protects these very freedoms that they fought for, including the freedom of religion.
4. Halal certification should be banned and made illegal. (if not banned, then control should be handed over to the government so it isn't a moneymaking scheme for Islam).
They campaign against Halal because they claim it increases prices and funds terrorism. Based on this logic, why don't they campaign against Kosher for increasing prices. Or for that matter, suggesting it finds its ways to the Israeli military to commit war crimes in Palestine. Which interestingly enough, is one of the sources of anger against the West. Apparently it's okay for the West to unleash pre-emptive strikes against innocent people, but not okay for the people of Palestine to defend themselves against the violent theft of their land and attacks on their people.
If people are so concerned about their money funding terrorism, then perhaps they should stop buying oil.
Additionally, by investing in Halal certification, businesses are more likely to generate international trade, increasing their sales and enabling them to offer lower prices. It's a fallacy that Halal increases prices or funds terrorism.
|Peter Broelman (broelman.com.au)|
5. Introduce pride in the Australian flag and Anthem at all levels of schooling.
Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I see a lot of adults and school kids flying the Aussie flag on Australia Day and Anzac Day in particular, and often throughout the year. No-one is trying to undermine the Australian flag or the national anthem.
6. Ban the teaching of Islam in government schools.
If this is the case, then ban the teaching of all religions in government schools. Religion is part of society. Some people believe in a god of one sort of another, whether it be in the form of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or something else. Teaching the basics of each religion will help in breaking down ignorance and stereotypes.
7. Ban the Burqa or any variant thereof.
Why? Is this because of genuine concern for Muslim women? Of course not. In Australia, people can chose what they wear. This is just another attack on freedoms being waged in the name of freedom. The anti-burqa mob may argue that crimes could be committed by people wearing burqas to hide their identity. If that's the case, ban fancy dress. Anyone could dress up as Humphrey B. Bear and stage a hold up.
In terms of identity, all people have to show their face for passports and licences. Go into any post office and look at the passport photo guide.
The attack on the burqa is purely out of hate and fear. We've seen this manifested by cowards attacking women wearing burqas. Attacking an innocent person because of their choice of dress is the sort of thing that extremist groups such as the Taliban and neo-Nazis do. These behaviours are not acceptable in a free and fair country. How can anyone support violence against others, whether it is being done in the name of misrepresented Islam or in the name of misrepresented patriotism. It is unacceptable.
Another argument is that the Qu'ran doesn't require women to wear burqas. Interesting that suddenly everybody's an expert on the Qu'ran. If people are so hung up on holy scripture then why aren't Christian women wearing head coverings as required in the bible? 1 Corinthians 11:5 says 'But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.
8. Ban FGM and introduce mandatory 10 year jail terms for perpetrators and organisers. This includes those who send girls overseas to have FGM carried out outside Australia. Once their jail term has been completed, their citizenship should be cancelled and they be immediately deported back to the country they originated from.
Female Genital Mutilation is already illegal. It also isn't just done by Muslims. FGM predates Islam and is predominantly practiced in parts of Central and Northern Africa, where even Christian women are subject to it (11).
Yes, it's a grotesque practice which people should stand up against, however it isn't wide-spread and those who blame Islam for it, may as well also blame Christianity.
9. Stop Centrelink recognising polygamy and only recognise the first marriage for benefits.
Polygamy is illegal in Australia. However, Centrelink has stated that there are instances of welfare being paid to people in polygamous relationships. President of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, Keyser Trad says that there are only about 50 Islamic families in polygamous relationships in Australia. Not all of those are on welfare. Centrelink stated that they'd only investigated around 20 cases involving polygamy. Trad also states that Islam only allows polygamy if the husband can afford it, so going on welfare for a polygamous relationship is unIslamic (12). Most Muslim husbands only have one wife.
There are very few Muslims in polygamous relationships. There are likely far more non-Muslims who are exploiting Centrelink by claiming one or more partners in defacto relationships or other rorts. Targeting Muslims, who in the vast majority are not rorting the system is simply bigotry.
Bigotry and Fascism are not the answer to hate and fear. Social unity, love and understanding are far more effective. Driving further disunity and hate against Islam will only serve to alienate the half a million Muslims in Australia. If people are genuinely concerned about stopping the radicalisation of Muslims, then they should be working on inclusion not exclusion. It is the alienated who are at most risk of radicalisation. We should be embracing our Muslim brothers and sisters, not vilifying them, not trying to exile them.
Pauline Hanson claimed in the Brisbane rally that 'criticism is not racism' (13). Well, funnily enough it is when that criticism is stereotyping people of a particular race or religion as mentioned earlier. Sadly, a number of Australians feel empowered by these 'criticisms' of Islam and have taken it upon themselves to attack mosques and Muslims, thinking this is the Australian way. Attacking innocent people is not Australian, it's criminal.
Former soldier and military strategist, David Kilcullen has stated that the answer to domestic radicalisation (of Muslims) is more freedom, not less. He states, 'We need to treat Australian Muslims like Australian Catholics, Australian Hindus or any other Australian - with all the rights, freedoms, expectations and responsibilities that come from free membership in a free society'. Kilcullen goes on to state, 'We can't afford to be tolerant of intolerance, or to allow the implied threat of terrorism to let a minority (any minority) hold the rest of us to ransom' (14).
The anti-Islamic rallies, the anti-Mosque and anti-Halal protests serve to restrict the freedom of Muslims and potentially encourage a siege mentality among them which will only result in greater possibility of increased radicalisation.
Interestingly, the rallies were held on 4 April, which is the anniversary of the assassination of civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, and the birth date of Maya Angelou, American author, poet and civil rights activist, who once said:
'Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet'.
Note: updated on 11 April 2015 to add reference (3) in relation to the 1.3 million killed and millions displaced by Western military action since 2001.
1. Reclaim What, 'Neo-Nazism in the ADL/PDLA/The Gap/Reclaim Australia', http://www.reclaimwhat.net/neo-nazism-in-the-adl-pdla-the-gap-.html. Accessed 30 March 2015.
2. The Guardian, Michael Safi, 'Anti-Islamic group Reclaim Australia plans 16 rallies across the country', 3 April 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/apr/03/anti-islamic-group-reclaim-australia-plans-16-rallies-across-the-country. Accessed 4 April 2015.
3. Al Jazeera, America, Lauren Carasik, 'Americans have yet to grasp the horrific magnitude of the ‘war on terror’', 10 April 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/4/americans-have-yet-to-grasp-the-horrific-magnitude-of-the-war-on-terror.html. Accessed 11 April 2015.
4. Statista, 'Number of fatalities due to terrorist attacks worldwide between 2006 and 2013', http://www.statista.com/statistics/202871/number-of-fatalities-by-terrorist-attacks-worldwide. Accessed 30 March 2015.
5. The Daily Beast, Dean Obeidallah, Are All Terrorists Muslims? It’s Not Even Close, 14 January 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/14/are-all-terrorists-muslims-it-s-not-even-close.html. Accessed 30 March 2015.
6. AlterNet, Alex Henderson, 'Army of God? 6 Modern-Day Christian Terrorist Groups You Never Hear About', 1 April 2015, http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/army-god-6-modern-day-christian-terrorist-groups-you-never-hear-about. Accessed 3 April 2015.
7. Cooley John K, 'Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism', 3rd edition, Pluto Press.
8. John Pilger, Breaking the Silence, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-30086435. Accessed 30 March 2015.
9. Stephen Wylder, Sinclair Lewis never said it; the rules of misquotation, accessed 9 November 2013, http://www.examiner.com/article/sinclair-lewis-never-said-it-the-rules-of-misquotation. Accessed 30 March 2015.
10. Council on Foreign Relations, Toni Johnson and Mohammed Aly Sergei, 25 July 2014, 'Islam: Governing Under Sharia', http://www.cfr.org/religion/islam-governing-under-sharia/p8034. Accessed 30 March 2015.
11. Science Direct, I. El-Damanhoury, 'The Jewish and Christian view on female genital mutilation', 27 June 2013, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1110570413000258. Accessed 30 March 2015.
12. Herald Sun, Mark Dunn, 'Growing number of Muslim men and multiple wives exploiting loophoole for taxpayer handouts, 5 March 2010, http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/growing-number-of-muslim-men-and-multiple-wives-exploiting-loophoole-for-taxpayer-handouts/story-e6frf7jo-1225837150560. Accessed 30 March 2015.
13. The Guardian, Michael Safi, Reclaim Australia rallies: protesters clash in Melbourne and Sydney, 4 April 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/apr/04/pauline-hanson-tells-reclaim-australia-groups-rally-criticism-is-not-racism. Accessed 4 April 2015.
14. Defence Today, David Kilcullen, 'ISIS and the threat worldwide', December 2014.