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Binging on racism

By Alice Aslan - posted Monday, 28 August 2017


Like many things in this country, Australian Islamophobia is an import from Europe and America.

For more than a decade some of the racist members of our parliament and media have followed the international news very closely, copying all the recent racist trends in from overseas. For instance, when in France some politicians demanded "ban the burqa", or when Trump declared a ban on Muslim immigration in America, they chanted these same racist slogans word by word to the Australian public.

Our leaders are basically plagiarising racism.

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But recently, Pauline Hanson has done something unique; she donned the burqa in Parliament to promote its ban, combining racism with performance art. Even French politicians, a strictly secular country with popular Islamophobia, or a clownish Trump administration has never imagined such a publicity stunt to mock Muslims. So we should all give Hanson credit for it: she is very unique, not just a plain racist, but a "creative performance racist".

Hanson got little support with her parliamentary stunt, but plenty of attention. Maybe she is quietly hoping to start a new trend - performance art plus racism inspiring many copycats or to become an internet star and revive her popularity. Fortunately, the wind of change is blowing.

Following the murder of anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer at a recent savage Neo-Nazi white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, even some of the most fervent supporters of Trump are coming to realise the destructive force of racism in America.

Hopefully Hanson and her ilk will soon find themselves on the wrong side of history, just like Trump. After all, the emperor has no clothes.

Racist, charlatan politicians have nothing to offer society. They only want to maintain their own power and boost their egos by playing the politics of resentment, and exploiting that resentment among ordinary white people, which is caused largely by inhumane neoliberal policies.

By constantly promoting racism and prejudice, they divide society and communities; they revitalize Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups and cause violent, racist terror. They waste valuable time and resources that should be focussed on essential issues, such as housing, employment, education, health, social cohesion and climate change.

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Unfortunately, Islamophobia and other bigotries are likely to stay around for a long time. Some commentators claim that geographically isolated white Australians with less formal education and limited job opportunities are more gullible and inclined to take racist views expressed by some politicians and some media personalities at face value.

But Islamophobic views seem widespread among some Australians from different walks of life as well. My recent conversations with some friends and acquaintances from multicultural backgrounds (mostly professionals with advanced degrees) and a working class refugee, show that people usually adopt the same stereotypical views about Islam and Muslims, such as female segregation and oppression, terrorism, the Muslim community's self-imposed social isolation, and higher birth rates among Muslims.

These people are intelligent, well-educated, have comfortable lives with mostly secure jobs and are from migrant backgrounds. They don't need to fear globalisation or migration. And they already know some Muslims. But they lack critical thinking skills to question such stereotypes.

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This article was first published in New Matilda.



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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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