You don't have to be a clairvoyant to see what is to come in the aftermath of the so-called “Sydney riots” that occurred on September 15.
Media will show images of “Violent religious fundamentalist thugs” taking over streets. “Shocking images” of protesters holding up placards with slogans like “Behead all those who insult the Prophet”.
Shock jocks will immediately declare that “they all should be sent back” — meaning all Muslims. We didn't have to wait long for the first example — Andrew Bolt wrote a response almost straight away on his Herald Sun blog under the title “We let them in. Now they threaten”.
Conservative intellectuals will declare it is time to “rethink multiculturalism” — though it always appears it is that time with them.
Liberals will show concern, but say isn't it all a little bit of an overreaction. Evangelical Christians and Dawkinsite Atheists will unite to declare: “See what we've been saying about Islam.”
Politicians of all stripes will unite to congratulate the police on their restraint.
But a few things seem clear already that directly goes against these narratives.
The truth is, the police created the situation. They knew about the deep anger felt by some Muslims, fundamentalist or otherwise, about the film. The sensible thing to do in this situation is to not inflame things further. But that is precisely what they did.
More than 100 police were sent in against a protest reported as about 200 strong. Police kettled the protesters, they used pepper spray, they hit and knocked people to the ground. This was not in response to anything in particular, except for the fact that the protest was occurring.
People's democratic rights, though, aren't curtailed because just because they are religious fundamentalists.
People will discuss the irony of protesters complaining about their free speech being curtailed at a protest calling for a certain curtailing of free speech. But surely the question should be turned around to say, isn't there an “irony” in those celebrating a crackdown on free speech while at the same time complaining about those who are against free speech?
Democratic rights are just that. They aren't a tap to be turned on and off. Everyone should expect to be able to hold a protest and not be beaten up by the cops.
What you think of the rally should be irrelevant when it comes to the question of whether it is repressed or not. Those who celebrate the crackdown are willing to put faith in the police and the state in general to determine what is a legitimate protest or not. That is a very worrying precedent.
What we also know is that just about every Muslim will feel the racist backlash that has already begun (not just Muslims either, many other immigrants too).
Someone on twitter posted: “It's so hard not to be racist in Australia these days." But it is probably accurate to say it will be “harder” to be an anti-racist. Those who don't buy the mainstream bullshit will face “surely you condemn the violence, surely you condemn the beheading sign, surely you must say there is a particular problem with Islam”.
I am happy to condemn violence, but I propose we start by condemning the multiple invasions of countries under the guise of the war on terror that has led to millions dying, killed by our governments. I am also happy to condemn violence of the police force against protesters. Only when the media and politicians are prepared to do that, is the point where we can take their adherence to non-violence seriously.
The same hypocrisy is seen in the condemnation of a placard at the rally calling for “infidels” to be beheaded. Our government may not practise beheadings, but they lock-up innocent, desperate people in prison camps in conditions that lead to high rates of suicide and self-harm attempts. The government also sends the military to help occupy another (predominantly Muslim) nation, with one study estimating the 11-year-long war has caused more than five million deaths.
Our government and mainstream media are involved in inciting or carrying out violence all the time, yet they have the gall to show outrage when it has its reflections in other spheres of life.
It is precisely a context that they don't want to speak about, because it points to something much deeper. They want it to be seen as a violent religious overreaction to an amateur YouTube video.
Everything occurs in a context. This isn't just a YouTube video, it is a propaganda film directed and ran by the Christian right in the United States as part of their war against Islam.
We've just been through a decade where largely Muslim countries have been destroyed by Western nations, including Australia, who then lock up those who escape the warzones and direct racist abuse towards them.
It is no surprise, in that context, that there would be a strong identification among Muslim peoples with their religion — including, in some cases, to fundamentalist politics.
It is precisely in this context that this blatantly insulting film was produced. One of the associates of the film has said that the point of the film was to create violence to “expose Islam”.
Precisely because the next period will be harder for anti-racists due to the backlash that is sure to follow, it is crucial everyone who is against racism stands up stronger than ever right now. Regardless of your views on the actual protest in question, unless we do, the only outcome will be deeper and widespread racial hatred and violence.