Anti-racist groups condemn politicians

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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