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Reclaiming 'multicultural' Australia

By Alice Aslan - posted Monday, 27 July 2015


Reclaim Australia, an anti-Islamic movement by mostly Anglo-Christian Australians, held the second round of rallies around the country on 19 July following their first national mobilisation in April this year. And the group once again declared Islam as their current common enemy.

Some politicians also joined these rallies. For instance, in Mackay, Queensland Federal Coalition MP George Christensen told the crowd that Australia was at war with extreme Islam. He said, "Our voice says we will not surrender, we will not sit by and watch the Australian culture and the Australian lifestyle that we love, that is envied around the world…we are not going to see that surrendered and handed over to those who hate us for who we are and what we stand for."

Former far-right federal MP Pauline Hanson, who never misses such an opportunity, also made an appearance in Rockhampton, and said she was "against the spread of Islam". She warned that Australia was changing, and said she was not happy about it. She told the crowd that the other religions have never been a problem in Australia. She carefully highlighted that "she is not targeting Muslims but targeting the ideology what Islam stands for".

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Reclaim Australia basically wants Australia to stay as an Anglo-Christian country without Islam, and makes the following demands: prevent enforcing of Sharia law in Australia; retain traditional Australian values such as Christmas, Australia Day, Anzac Day and other beliefs; keep Australian rights and freedom of speech; make Halal certification illegal so that it isn't a moneymaking scheme for Islam; introduce pride in the Australian flag and anthem in schooling; ban the teaching of Islam in government schools; ban the burqa or any variant thereof; ban female genital mutilation and stop the government welfare agency Centrelink recognizing polygamy.

Following September 11 terror attacks in 2001, Islam has become the common enemy that unites those Australians who are unhappy with multiculturalism, migrants and refugees. And the fear of Muslim invasion has replaced the long-running fear of Asian invasion of Australia.

And the lack of an intelligent and compassionate national conversation about Muslims and Islam by the politicians and in the media has fueled Islamophobia and anti-Islamic movements like Reclaim Australia.

Although they have the right to protest in order to voice their different views, what essentially defines Reclaim Australia is their bigotry and ignorance. For instance, many scholars of Islam such as Tariq Ramadan and Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad note that "female genital mutilation has nothing to do with Islam. It is a local custom also practiced by Christians in some places."

Everybody should be able to criticize Islam, which is a religion like other religions with good and bad aspects. And there is no social progress without criticism. But only intelligent criticism can bring about positive change in a society rather than peddling misinformation and lies about Islam and Muslims.

Members of Reclaim Australia are very quick to dismiss any criticism of racism. Like Pauline Hanson they claim that they do not target Muslims but Islam. For example, one protester tells he is not "against Muslim people, but…opposed to the teachings of Islam." He says "we love the Germans, we oppose the Nazi philosophy. We oppose communist philosophy but we love the Russians and Chinese. Likewise, we oppose Islam but we love the Muslim people."

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Protesters often argue that since Islam is not a race but a religion, they can't be racists. This again proves their ignorance about Islamophobia. Scholars describe Islamophobiaas a cultural racism against Muslims. Within the context of Islamophobia, Muslims as a minority are usually considered to be too different to fit in the society, and Islam is usually viewed as an ideology rather than a religion.

Also the supporters of Reclaim Australia turn a blind eye to the real causes of Islamic terrorism. As Joseph Wakim explains "the West aids and abets mercenaries to emasculate a monster, until the mercenaries become the next monster that the West needs to degrade and ultimately destroy." And Muslims in the Middle East become the real victims of Islamic terrorism.

Although Reclaim Australia claims Islamic terrorism is an existential threat for Australian society, this does not reflect the reality. For example, according to a recent poll three-quarters of Australians believe domestic violence is as much or more of a threat than terrorism. And it is estimated that two Australian women are killed by domestic violence each week.

Australian of the Year Rosie Batty points out that "governments need to reassess their priorities and allocate more funding to preventing and responding to domestic violence." She says, "we're spending hundreds of millions extra on the war on terrorism, but women who fear for their safety are still being turned away from services because a lack of funds."

As Jennifer Conley highlights that the invasion of Australia by Asians is a fiction rather than fact. And the invasion of Australia by Islam or Muslims is as much fiction. And what we need in Australia is to start an intelligent and compassionate conversation about Islam that will prove this is the case.

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About the Author

Alice Aslan is a Turkish-Australian anthropologist, writer and activist based in Sydney. She is passionate about the arts, ideas and justice. She is the author of "Islamophobia in Australia". She can be contacted at alice.aslan@gmail.com

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