If there’s one person who won’t be surprised at senior Liberal Party figures being caught red-handed distributing allegedly Islamic material in a marginal Western Sydney seat, it is former ALP candidate for Greenway Ed Husic.
The nominally Bosnian Muslim background of this Australian-born ALP staffer was used as a wedge by various people on the conservative side. In a speech to the Sydney Institute on 19 October, 2005 (the full text of which can be read here), Husic told his audience of this experience:
Just before election-day, I learned about the distribution of another pamphlet, this one claiming that I was a devout Muslim fighting for a better deal for Islam in Greenway.Husic doesn’t openly blame his Liberal opponents for this ugly incident. He couldn’t see members of the NSW Liberal Party State Executive or spouses of retiring Liberal MP’s distributing this material.
The sheet was a dummied version of one of my campaign ads, designed to mislead a reader into believing it was put out by me.
I was also told there was a phone banking campaign that repeatedly rang voters with identified strong religious beliefs to let them know that I was Muslim ...
These events just reaffirmed in my mind a thought that had travelled with me through the campaign – the way that continual, sometimes supposedly neutral, references to religion were conveniently helping to underscore what people believed to be my big negative.
The Daily Telegraph described the pamphlet as
... clumsily worded and ended with 'Ala Akba', a dismal attempt at the traditional Islamic salute of 'God is Great' - 'Allah Akbar'.Perhaps pamphlet authors had taken Arabic lessons from Tele columnist Piers Akerman, who himself has used similarly clumsy wording in the past.
This incident shows just how marginalised Muslims have become in Australia. Both major parties happily court fringe Christian groups, yet neither party answered the survey of one (albeit tiny) Muslim political action group. In the popular mindset, building mosques and suicide terrorist attacks are all linked.
Returning to Ed Husic:
[On] election-day, I heard voters being told they should support my opponent because she is a "good Christian". Obviously there was a big, organised effort to keep this issue alive. Was Ed a real dinkum Aussie? Could he be relied on? Would he be fighting for you or for Islam?
First published in the Crikey! daily alert for Thursday 23 November 2007.
Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf