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Bigotry that once shocked is now mainstream

Last Monday an article by ‘progressive’ Liberal Amanda Vanstone echoed Trump, Hanson and Kruger in arguing it’s reasonable to be afraid of Muslim immigration in an era of terrorism. Her statements were met with virtual silence just weeks after Christchurch, demonstrating how mainstreamed Islamophobia now is. Fraser Anning’s despicable comments have moved the benchmark of what is shocking, so that ideas like Vanstone’s now pass as middle of the road. In response, Voices against Bigotry co-founder Susie Latham wrote this article, published in New Matilda today.



The slaughter of 49 Muslims in Christchurch mosques by a non-Muslim Australian has been widely condemned. But hundreds of thousands of Australians subscribe to the Islamophobic ideas the killer used to justify his massacre. People like him have been encouraged, as the Australian National Imams Council pointed out, because in Australia ‘Islamophobic views are tolerated and, on occasions, supported and promoted, whether directly or indirectly, by public speakers, politicians and media agencies.’

Journalist Mehdi Hasan and Waleed Aly have given examples of politicians and other public figures, not only from the traditional right, both overseas and in Australia inciting anti-Muslim sentiment for personal gain. Voices against Bigotry has documented the consistent exploitation and promotion of Islamophobia by Australia’s Coalition government. One Path Network exposed a relentless anti-Muslim campaign by Newscorp media. With so many powerful voices framing Muslims as a problem, and posing solutions from immigration bans to deportations and internments, this massacre is a logical extension. Those of us trying to counter this narrative have struggled to be heard.

This tragedy is already being spun, as Asim Qureshi argues, to minimise recognition of Muslims as its victims, assert that it is separate from the pervasive, everyday anti-Muslim sentiment in Western countries and to equate it with the terrorism committed by Muslims in the West, when such acts do not enjoy any significant ideological support from either Muslims or non-Muslims.

Neither will non-Muslim ordinary Australians and New Zealanders be made to feel guilty or responsible for these actions. They will not be told to ‘do more’, that they ‘look the other way’, ‘stick their head in the sand’ or should have known the ‘shady character … at the periphery’ was about to commit such an atrocity.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families, friends and the broader Muslim community.


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 RaceFacebooktwitter

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 info@voicesagainstbigotry.orgFacebooktwitter

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.Facebooktwitter

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.”Facebooktwitter

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.Facebooktwitter

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.Facebooktwitter