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Anti-racist groups condemn politicians

Please share the following press release with your contacts and ask them to share using the hashtags #enoughdivision and #auspol

Divisive comments by politicians have been criticised by community, legal and academic organisations that work to challenge racism. Nine organisations today issued a statement condemning Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton’s recent commentary about Muslims.

Following the murder of Sisto Malaspina in Bourke St two weeks before the Victorian election, Morrison suggested ‘Muslim religious communities’ needed to do more to prevent such crimes, that they ‘look the other way’, ‘stick their head in the sand’ and ‘in many cases’ know who is promoting violence. Dutton also claimed ‘the Islamic community’ needs ‘to do more’.

Muslims are one of the most marginalised groups in Australia, with some surveys finding over 40 per cent of people hold negative views towards them. A survey carried out for the SBS documentary Is Australia Racist? found that 63% would be concerned if a relative married a Muslim.

‘In 2011, Scott Morrison suggested his party capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment in the community and it appears he is now implementing that strategy as Prime Minister,’ said Professor Linda Briskman, a co-founder of Voices against Bigotry. ‘When national leaders are prepared to scapegoat vulnerable communities for political purposes, we believe others need to stand up and speak out against it.’

As community, legal and academic organisations, we condemn recent comments by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton about Muslims.

We are disappointed with statements which imply that both ordinary Muslims and Muslim leaders are complicit in or responsible for preventing crimes, such as the tragic murder of Sisto Malaspina in Bourke Street Melbourne. In doing so, political leaders are increasing division and encouraging fear and hatred in the wider community.

It is unacceptable to attribute blame in this way for criminal acts of individuals, and we note that this does not occur when crimes are committed by people of other religious backgrounds.

Words have consequences. Such rhetoric encourages discrimination and verbal and physical attacks on marginalised community members. We call on politicians, organisations and people of influence to show principled leadership and stand against the use of tragedy to vilify people who are no more responsible for such acts than other Australians.

Challenging Racism Project, Western Sydney University
Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University
Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation
All Together Now
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
Federation of Community Legal Centres, Vic
Australian Jewish Democratic Society
Voices against Bigotry
Our Race


Surveillance of Muslim children

Voices against Bigotry is concerned about the federal government rolling out Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) training to teachers, social workers, psychologists, GPs, psychiatrists and other ‘caring professionals’. While the training is ostensibly ‘ideologically neutral’ and aimed at all forms of extremism, the reality is that it is funded to counter ‘Islamist’ terrorism. The social worker training we attended showed that those undertaking the training recognise who it is primarily aimed at. In a climate of unprecedented Islamophobia, we believe this training legitimises and will perpetuate anti-Muslim sentiment. In the UK, a similar program has been widely condemned. More information about the training and our concerns can be found in this article published by the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Voices against Bigotry intends to join Muslim community members in lobbying against this dangerous policy. If you know any more about this program or work in any of the above professions and would like to join us in visiting professional bodies, unions and politicians to voice our concerns, please contact


Melbourne Uni talk on Muslims in Australia

Muslims in Australia: A matter of trust, chaired by Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh

Speakers Mario Peucker on “Too much bonding, not enough bridging? Muslims intra-community volunteering” and Susie Latham on “When the “caring professionals” become citizen spies”, Thursday 28 June, 12 – 1.30pm, National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, 761 Swanston St, Building 158, Level 3, Room 321, The University of Melbourne. RSVP to for catering purposes. See attached flyer for further information.


Australian Islamophobia report and Mehdi Hasan Sydney talk

The co-founders of Voices against Bigotry are proud to have contributed to the report on Islamophobia in Australia 2014-2016 released this week. You can find an electronic copy of the report here.

UK-born US based journalist Mehdi Hasan is currently in Australia speaking on Defeating Extremism: The future of the West in the age of Trump and terror. Tickets for his Sydney talk on Thursday 13th July are available hereHe is an extremely engaging speaker and his talk is highly recommended. You can watch him in action at the Islam Is A Peaceful Religion Debate In Oxford University below:


Sign petition on White Australia citizenship English standards

Under the White Australia policy, non-European immigration was restricted by a fifty-word dictation test almost impossible to pass. The proposed increased English language requirement for Australian citizenship outlined by Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton echoes this and is grossly unfair. It mandates a higher than university level of writing, reading, speaking and understanding, and is a much higher standard than requirements in the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. It will disproportionately affect refugees and effectively bar a substantial number of permanent residents from ever becoming citizens, meaning they won’t be able to vote, get a passport or stand for public office. Please sign the petition protesting this and share it with your networks.

Other problems with the Turnbull Government’s proposal to make citizenship harder to obtain include longer waiting periods and a crude emphasis on values in the citizenship test. As Melbourne University Professor Ghassan Hage told SBS, Turnbull claiming that values such as “freedom, equality of men and women, mutual respect, the rule of law, democracy, a fair go” are uniquely Australian, has a racist subtext which insinuates Australians have superior moral standards lacking in foreigners. This differentiation is accentuated by the inclusion of questions about domestic violence, female genital mutilation and child marriage, issues which are often mistakenly associated with Islam, despite them occurring across a range of religions.

Turnbull’s emphasis on values is not new. In 1923, Myra Willard, defending the White Australia Policy, wrote, “The union of a people depends on common loyalty to common ideals … to preserve the unity of their national life, a people can admit emigrants from alien races only if within a reasonable time they show a willingness and a capacity to amalgamate ideally as well as racially with them.”


Hirsi Ali’s cancelled speaking tour is good news

Voices against Bigotry welcomes the news today that a planned Australian speaking tour by anti-Muslim extremist Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been cancelled. Along with other academic, faith and anti-racist groups concerned about rising anti-Muslim sentiment, Voices against Bigotry endorsed a media briefing pack that outlined key issues of concern: her conflation of Muslims with terrorism; her denigration of Muslim women; her advocacy of confronting Muslims about their faith and converting them to Christianity; her denial of Islamophobia; her problematic policy positions on Muslims; and her lack of expertise. Almost 400 Muslim women including prominent activists, writers and academics signed a petition protesting the tour, while others took part in a video that went viral with over  114,000 views in its first nine hours.

The company Hirsi Ali keeps says a lot about her politics. She was an MP for a right-wing Dutch political party before moving to the US to work for neo-conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute. Tony Abbott, Pauline Hanson and the far-right Q Society embrace her. In contast, the respected hate watch group the Southern Poverty Law Center has declared her an anti-Muslim extremist, and Brandeis University, founded by the Jewish community after the Holocaust, rescinded its offer of an honorary degree in social justice because of her Islamophobic comments.

Some will argue the citing of security concerns as one of “a number of reasons” for cancelling the tour is evidence that Hirsi Ali’s free speech is being impeded. But as long as Hirsi Ali uses the sorts of platforms ordinary people can only dream of to spread ideas of division and hatred, we will  continue to voice our opposition to them.


A new age of hate

As if the election of Donald Trump wasn’t worrying enough, some of his early appointments, people who support Muslim immigration bans, a register of Muslims and internment camps are cause for serious concern. His victory has emboldened right-wingers everywhere with hate crimes including anti-Semitism on the rise, showing that when bigotry against one group is tolerated, all minorites are affected. Victories for the far-right in Italy, Austria, The Netherlands and France now distinct possibilities. In Australia, Peter Dutton has tried to capitalise on this mood, calling the migration of Lebanese Muslims a mistake. Ruby Hamad’s brilliant article captures the impact of this discourse. In this atmosphere, critically assessing claims about Muslims by supposedly progressive voices is of the utmost importance, as outlined in this article by Voices against Bigotry co-founder Susie Latham. GetUp is organising a campaign against this hatred. You can contribute here.


Anti-Muslim hate: from extreme to mainstream

In December 2015, Donald Trump proposed in the wake of the San Bernadino shootings that Muslims should be banned from entering the US, including US citizens currently out of the country. At that time, his proposal was met with widespread condemnation.

Fast forward nine months – during which we’ve seen further terror attacks, Brexit, armed police ordering a Muslim woman to disrobe on a French beach and the election of four One Nation senators in Australia – and it is clear that the forces of division are growing. Reflecting this, a recent poll found that almost half of all Australians now support a ban on Muslim immigration in Australia.

Pauline Hanson’s ascension has been met with a profound silence from politicians in both major parties who know they need to rely on her vote (with the notable exception of Liberal John Alexander). Her 60 minutes profile was friendly and chatty. After the speech in which she targeted Muslims 45 times in 30 minutes the Minister for women Michaelia Cash rushed to hug her. Significant commentary has emphasised the need to “understand” and address the grievances of her supporters. While this is true to tackle bigotry long term, the immediate need is to for alternative voices to be raised so that Hanson’s ideas are at least contested in the public sphere.

Muslim Australians are now in the position of knowing one in every two people do not want people like them in Australia. Will Trump’s idea to create a register of Muslims be the next one to go mainstream? How about the suggestion printed in The Australian that Muslims should be interned?

Recognising the urgency to tackle this issue, GetUp, the progressive activist organisation that has been so effective it has inspired Cory Bernardi to establish a conservative equivalent, is launching a campaign to tackle racial and religious bigotry. We urge those who are able to support GetUp’s campaign financially to do so. We also ask everyone to speak out about this issue at every opportunity, public or private, they get. You can start by sharing this post.


New article by Sarah Ali

In the wake of the election of Pauline Hanson and three other One Nation senators, VAB network member Sarah Ali writes that a lack of media coverage of terror attacks with Muslim victims and of Muslims fighting Daesh misleads non-Muslims about the link between Islam and political terrorism. Read and share her excellent article here:


Normalising Islamophobia

The Federal election saw Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party win a probable three Senate seats. One Nation asserts that Islam is not a religion but a political ideology and one of its primary policies is for a Royal Commission to make a determination on this issue. It also advocates:

  • A ban on all Muslim Immigration
  • A ban on Islamic face veils
  • A ban on new mosques
  • A ban on halal certification
  • The installation of surveillance cameras in all existing mosques and Islamic schools

But as this excellent analysis by Michael Brull argues,  Hanson’s success would not have been possible without Tony Abbott’s demonisation of Muslims throughout 2015.

The day after the election, as Muslims prepared to celebrate the end of Ramadan, a massive terrorist attack in Iraq killed over 300 people and injured more than 200. Some Iraqi Australians lost loved ones in this attack although it barely rated a mention in our media. As Voices against Bigotry network member Sarah Ali argues in this article, “In countries which have majority Muslim populations, and in which Muslims are specifically targeted…these actions are called out for what they are: politically motivated terrorist activities. To those Muslims, as well as mainstream Australian Muslims, such individuals are using Islam as a scapegoat for their own interests, and any other justifications simply carry no weight.”

The Chilcot report into the Iraq War, in which 500,000 people are estimated to have died, was also released shortly after the election. It noted an insufficient justification for the invasion of Iraq by the UK and its coalition partners, including Australia. As Independent MP and former intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie has argued, this illegal war was responsible for the emergence of the so-called Islamic State. For Iraqi Australian Muslims who have lost loved ones as a result of an unjustified war or at the hands of the terrorist organisations that emerged from it, being labelled as terrorists here rubs salt into their wounds.

More heartbreaking terrorist attacks like the one in Nice seem impossible to stop. Yet every time they occur, the entire Muslim population is held responsible either for them or for stopping them, despite being just as likely to fall victim to them. Yesterday mainstream TV personality Sonia Kruger followed Donald Trump, Pauline Hanson and several European right-wing party leaders in declaring Muslims should be banned from entering Western countries. Netherlands politician Geert Wilders has said millions of Muslims may need to be deported. Islamophobic incidents have skyrocketed in the UK since the shock Brexit result largely seen as at least in part an endorsement of anti-immigration policies. The day before yesterday The Australian newpaper published a letter calling for Australian Muslims to be interned.

The more often calls for sanctions against Muslims are made, the more normalised they become. As New Jersey Rabbi Joshua Stanton noted after Donald Trump suggested registering American Muslims, “the alarm bells are ringing in ways they have not in my lifetime.” It’s more important than ever that as many people as possible stand together to publicly condemn the dangerous scapegoating of the entire Muslim population for the criminal actions of a few.

Please share this post and encourage your contacts to endorse our statement here.