Australians of all backgrounds should stand against bigotry

At a time when racism and religious bigotry in Australia is flourishing, the actions of a single courageous man, AFL footballer  Adam Goodes, have forced the nation to confront the ugly reality of how devastatingly bigotry impacts on individuals. By simply showing how much the racism has affected him, Goodes has done this country several favours.

First, he has exposed bigots who stepped forward to add insult to injury by claiming variously that Goodes was “playing the victim”, should apologise to a 13 year old girl who racially vilified him or, most ludicrously, should be deported.

He also shone a spotlight on the deafening silence on the issue from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Labor leader Bill Shorten, neither of whom made any public statement about racism until the voices of community leaders and ordinary people had been raised so loudly against it that they looked foolish.

Most importantly, Goodes’ stance prompted people of good will to speak out against racism. The breadth of support for him has the potential to be a watershed moment for Australian race relations. When political leadership has gone missing in action, grass roots action against bigotry from community leaders and ordinary people has never been more needed.

Already this year dozens of anti-Muslim rallies have been held across the country. Combined with parliamentary burqa bans, an inquiry into halal food certification, Tony Abbott’s determination to remind us that a death cult is out to get us at every possible opportunity and Coalition MP George Christensen’s address to a Reclaim Australia rally, many Muslims feel sentiment against them has never been stronger. Some Muslim women no longer feel safe to walk down the street or dress as they wish and Muslims minding their own business have been abused in their workplaces, homes and shopping centres.

As outlined in Michael Bachelard’s article, for which Voices against Bigotry was interviewed, this week the anti-Muslim Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA) was registered as a political party. It would be a serious mistake to underestimate the damage this organisation has the potential to inflict on our social fabric. While denouncing anti-Muslim violence, the ALA will benefit from the votes of those who support and perpetrate it, and violent bigots will in turn feel their views are legitimised by the mere existence of such a party and the public platform that will be afforded it.

More sophisticated than Reclaim Australia and One Nation, the ALA is well-organised, financed and connected to leading Islamophobes in Europe and the US. It’s hopes of eventually polling “in the 20 per cent bracket” are completely plausible and based on the success of parties it is modelled on and advised by.

The only way we can hope to restrict the influence of the ALA is by organising to publicly and loudly condemn the hatred and division they promote. Voices against Bigotry wants to work with other community, interfaith and welfare groups to promote social inclusion and encourage people to challenge the racism and bigotry affecting so many people. We are currently working towards holding community forums in the Darebin local government area and central Melbourne out of which will come proposals for taking action to address it.

We encourage anyone who wants to initiate action in their local area to contact to discuss how we can support you and connect you with others to do so. In the meantime, please consider writing to local or national newspapers and calling talkback radio to register your support for Adam Goodes and condemn anti-Muslim bigotry. Ask your  email, Facebook and Twitter contacts to endorse our statement against Islamophobia and to stay in touch with the Voices against Bigotry network by signing up to our newsletter.

Voices against Bigotry also encourages those supporters who can to attend the meeting against Islamophobia in Coburg, Melbourne next Sunday.

Coburg Islamophobia meeting