In Australia, a society created on the basis of racial division and superiority, the ugly face of prejudice and discrimination is, unsurprisingly, still very evident today.
Regardless of the often mentioned idea of a “multicultural” Australia, there seems to be a strong campaign to stigmatise, reject and isolate Muslims from mainstream values and norms.
Through recent comments and initiatives taken by several Liberal and Labor party politicians, the overt nature of anti-Islamic discrimination in Australia is as obvious as it is disgraceful.
Shadow cabinet discussions recently leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald have revealed that Liberal immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison argued that the Liberal Party should try to capitalise on the electorate’s apprehensions about Muslim immigration and Muslims’ supposed inability to integrate into Australian society.
These leaks followed Morrison’s February 17 statement that the government should not have paid the $300,000 bill to fly surviving family members to the funerals of asylum seekers killed in last year’s shipwreck tragedy at Christmas Island.
His statement seems to clash with his comments at the time of the disaster, which he called “a terrible tragedy, a realisation of our worst fears”.
It appears that in the face of a disastrous event, Morrison, like many of our other right-wing political leaders, was quick to release his two-cents of despair and grief.
However, when push came to shove and a small portion of Australia’s budget was spent on restoring a degree of compassion — after a tragedy that should have never taken place — Morrison made his true thoughts and political aspirations clear.
Alongside this, on February 15 ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries tabled a petition in federal parliament that called for a moratorium on Muslim immigration. The petition had only three signatures.
Humphries said he disagreed with the petition, but felt he had “an obligation to fulfill or place before the parliament points of view of citizens if they're on matters that affect the powers and the role of the federal parliament”, ABC Online reported.
Freedom of speech is vital and necessary for any society. However, when these sorts of Islamophobic opinions are given the opportunity to help shape absurdly discriminatory laws, it should not be acceptable.
Federal Attorney General Robert McClelland announced a $1 million program towards “tackling Muslim extremism” on February 22. Under the program, a group of 16 young Muslim people will undergo “training” to act as “leaders in the community”.
Ironically, this initiative in itself is a clear display of “extreme” discrimination towards Australian Muslims.
Alongside this, alarm bells should begin to ring when we notice that Islam is increasingly the only religion portrayed as possessing “extremist” ideals.
Have we forgotten about the infamous Ku Klux Klan organisation? For about 150 years, this Christian “extremist” group has carried out countless inhumane acts.
Of course, the argument in response is that this group included only a small fraction of Christian believers and, in fact, went against the teachings of Christianity altogether. Well guess what; the same argument applies to Islam.
Rather than falling for the conditioned belief that Islam and Muslims should be kept at a distance from the rest of Western society, it is vital to recognise the hypocrisy, discrimination and unfairness our politicians present us with.
We should take it upon ourselves to stand in solidarity against this injustice and move towards greater understanding and acceptance.