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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Islamophobia: Australia's Newest National Sport |

Islamophobia: Australia's Newest National Sport |

Islamophobia: Australia's Newest National Sport

By Amy McQuire

only Australians who should be feeling under threat right now are
Muslims, the targets of hateful abuse and morally bankrupt politics. Amy
McQuire explains.

is one of the safest countries in the world. Until last week we didn’t
particularly fear “terrorism” or war on home soil, because these
horrible events are far removed from our daily reality, encased in
30-second soundbites we ignore over our dinners.

We’re more likely to fear bushfires and the holiday road death tolls
along with our world-beating killer spiders, snakes, sharks and
occasionally, crocodiles.

But we don’t fear these things regularly. We’re unlikely to come into
contact with them on a daily basis. We do, however, come into contact
with people. And if you live in western and north-western Sydney, where
the majority of the “anti-terror” raids occurred last week, you are
likely to run into *shock horror* a Muslim.

Last week, Australia woke to the front pages and shrill cries of
breakfast radio and TV anchors acting as a government mouthpiece, trying
to convince Australians that the war against the Islamic State, the
militant Sunni group which has taken over large swathes of Iraq and
Syria, had arrived on our shores.

And not just on our shores, like the “hordes of boat people” who
apparently threaten the freedoms we enjoy, but also flourishing in our
suburbs – near hospitals and schools and shopping centres.

Every day places so far from the dusty battle fields in the Middle East.

For most Australians, the information on IS, also known as ISIS or
ISIL has been limited, filtered through sexed-up stories of “Jihadi war
brides”, shocking images of beheadings and crucifixions and the
sensationalist executions of three westerners – two journalists and an
aid worker – filmed with all the suspense of a Hollywood drama.

The reality that nearly 60 Australians are estimated to have left the
country to fight with IS forces has been abused constantly by the
Abbott government to try and draw Australians into believing IS is a
threat to the freedoms Australia has built off Aboriginal suffering and
poverty for the past 200 years.

These events are undoubtedly shocking, but if your main source of
information is the mainstream media, you’ve been sorely let down. There
has been very little analysis on whether these threats are valid, and
certainly no explanation of how it justifies an estimated $500 million a
year “humanitarian” military intervention into a foreign country, and
far-reaching, invasive laws which target one section of the Australian

Today, renowned American journalist Glenn Greenwald condemned the
Australian political class’ “unhinged, fear mongering orgy over

On the Abbott government’s concerning anti-terror laws he wrote:

“The Australian government wasted no time at all exploiting this
event to demand ‘broad new security powers to combat what it says is a
rising threat from militant Islamists.”

Even by the warped standards of the west’s 9/11 era liberty
abridgments, these powers are extreme, including making it ‘a crime for
an Australian citizen to travel to any area overseas once the government
has declared it off limits’.

“Already pending in that country is a proposal by the Attorney
General to make it a criminal offense ‘punishable by five years in jail
for ‘any person who disclosed information relating to ‘special
intelligence operations’; the bill is clearly intended to outright
criminalise WikiLeaks-and Snowden-type reporting and the government thus
expressly refuses to exempt journalists.”

Greenwald criticises Abbott’s recent speech to Parliament as a
“shameless” exploitation of terrorism fears to “seize greater power”.

“Abbott assumed the grave demeanor and resolute tone that politicians
in these situations don to convince others that they’re the modern
incarnation of Winston Churchill: purposeful, unyielding, and
courageously ready for the fight. He depicted his fight as one of Pure
Good v. Pure Evil, and vehemently denied that his nation’s 10-year
support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq plays any role
whatsoever in animosity toward his country in that region (perish the
thought! – ‘It’s our acceptance that people can live and worship in the
way they choose that bothers them, not our foreign policy’). And, most
impressively, he just came right out and candidly acknowledged his real
purpose: to exploit the emotions surrounding the terrorist arrests to
erode liberty and increase state power, telling citizens that they will
die if they do not meekly acquiesce.”

Sadly, just as all over the world, the greatest victims of
“terrorism" have been Muslims themselves. How you define “terrorism” is
up to you, but I would suggest the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi
civilians killed by western forces would count as victims as well, just
as the innocent children of Gaza who are still recovering from a
murderous assault by Israel earlier this year.

And the people who are most likely affected by Abbott’s response to
this purported IS threat are Muslim Australians, who represent diverse
ethnic groups across the country and yet are being targeted as one
homogenous mass.

I attended the Lakemba rally held on the day of the shocking raids
last week. The anger was clear, but the mood was solemn. A 12-year-old
boy whose home was the subject of one of the raids spoke of his
experience and was so obviously traumatised it raised the question of
how the Abbott government can expect to placate a community who are so
used to being targeted and ostracised by mainstream society, and whose
hurt only continues to compound.

Since the raids, a torrent of hate has been unleashed towards Muslims
across the country. Last week, a Muslim woman in Auburn awoke to find
her car spray-painted with anti-Muslim slogans.

A rally on the Sunshine Coast against a planned mosque descended into outright hate with 500 people turning up.

One man, quoted by the Sunshine Coast Daily said, “It’s a disgusting
religion. I’m in the Catholic Church over the road and I’d hate to think
it was opposite. It’s evil and I’m totally against it.”

The waves of abuse on social media has also highlighted how open
bigotry has become, as if the disgust around the Islamic State has given
a free pass to intolerance.

Secretary of Salam Care, Rebecca Kay told the Sydney Morning Herald
earlier this week that she had received a number of reports of
intimidation across western Sydney.

“We had some Aussie ladies standing making gun movements with their
fingers towards some Muslim ladies,” Ms Kay told the newspaper.

“It’s trivial… but it does affect people…. They seem to be more upset
at first rather than scared. But then they do get scared that it might
happen again, and they start worrying about whether they need to protect
their children.”

While anti-semitic remarks and other racial attacks regularly attract
condemnation in Australia - in fact can be used as justification to
fire a popular newspaper columnist - the widespread vitriol against
Muslims in the wake of these terror raids has been sadly underplayed.

Why is this so?

The biggest victims of this “terror threat” are not the suburban
keyboard warriors afraid of random alleged beheadings, but Muslims, who
should have the right to practice their religion free from persecution.

Sure, it's easier to fear them than more immediate threats. It's
easier to take out our fears from a position of power, backed by a media
that has been actively promoting Islamophobia. You can't abuse a shark
or crocodile or a holiday road death toll.

But that doesn't make it ok. And it doesn't smooth over the fact that
this government is trying to exploit a foreign fear of terrorism to
pass severely invasive powers over a targeted community just because you
don’t feel safe. 


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