Malcolm Fraser claimed late last year that the next federal election would be about Muslims. And if Pauline Hanson has her way, the Queensland Senate ballot will certainly place Muslims in the box seat. Not bad for a group who make up around 0.175% of the Sunshine State’s population.
At 7:10am on 17 August 2007, Karl Stefanovic from Channel 9’s Today Show apologised to viewers for the manner in which he conducted an interview yesterday with Pauline Hanson.
His interview also sparked plenty of adverse comment on NineMSN’s website. Stefanovic’s co-host also suggested he had also copped flack from Channel 9 management over the interview.
So what did Hanson say that raised such emotion?
She said she felt "very discriminated against in my own country". She also spoke about how we can no longer sing Christmas carols in schools or play them in shopping centres. She called for a "moratorium" on Muslim immigration, and suggested that people who want to carry out female genital mutilation should "go back to Muslim countries."
Given that FGM is banned in many Muslim countries, I’m not sure where she expects people to go. Further, the practice is also common amongst sub-Saharan Africans of other faiths, including Christians and Jews. 1 in 4 Muslims are from the Indian sub-Continent, where the practise is unheard of. But who gives a cr-p about the facts?
I could go on and taking issue with Hanson’s claims. But is there any point? 21st century Australia seems to be programmed to dislike anyone with even the slightest relationship to Islam. Hanson’s new adviser, John Pasquarelli, put it more bluntly:
I think it's better than what it was before, with 9/11, Cronulla, Hilaly. Mainstream Australians are terrified that we're going down the European track, with problems with Muslims.Hanson isn’t the first person to use such language. Fred Nile used similar language in the NSW State Election. His party will play host to Tony Abbott at its annual convention in Sydney tomorrow. So is she part of some sort of public movement, or is this candidacy just another attempt by Hanson to make money out of the electoral system?
The Herald Sun notes Hanson will make $2.05 per vote should she make the Senate quota of 4% of the Queensland vote. Whatever the real story, the fact remains that these days you can say anything you like about any group deemed Muslim and get away with it.
And if any Muslim dares ask even the slightest question, you can rabbit on about how they are trying to silence you and discriminate against you in your own country (which presumably isn’t theirs). Anti-Semitism has turned into anti-Muslimism. Same sh-t, different smell.
Jonathan Freedland wrote in The Guardian last year:
It seems making a tiny group feel very marginalised isn’t too high a price to pay for $2.05 a vote.
I've been trying to imagine what it must be like to be a Muslim in Britain. I guess there's a sense of dread about switching on the radio or television, even about walking into a newsagents. What will they be saying about us today? Will we be under assault for the way we dress? Or the schools we go to, or the mosques we build? Who will be on the front page: a terror suspect, a woman in a veil or, the best of both worlds, a veiled terror suspect ...
... Except other things are not equal. Each one of these perfectly rational subjects, taken together, has created a perfectly irrational mood: a kind of drumbeat of hysteria in which both politicians and media have turned again and again on a single, small minority, first prodding them, then pounding them as if they represented the single biggest problem in national life.
The result is turning ugly and has, predictably, spilled on to the streets. Muslim organisations report a surge in physical and verbal attacks on Muslims; women have had their head coverings removed by force.
I try to imagine how I would feel if this rainstorm of headlines substituted the word 'Jew' for 'Muslim': Jews creating apartheid, Jews whose strange customs and costume should be banned. I wouldn't just feel frightened. I would be looking for my passport.
(First published on the Crikey daily alert for Friday 17 August 2007.)
Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf
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