SHAFAQNA – In a prime example of first-world problems, Australians took to their properly tarmacked streets on April 5, 2015, saying: “No to Sharia law.” This movement, dubbed “Reclaim Australia,” attracted thousands of protestors in 16 cities nationwide.
The Muslim community leaders, meanwhile, scratched their heads in bewilderment. After all, the nearest place where any manner of Sharia could surface was Indonesia, thousands of nautical miles away. Furthermore, with Muslims being only two percent of population, the emergence of Australian ayatollahs was extremely unlikely. Supporters of the movement insist they only stand for “Australian values.” Values, in turn, that have nothing to do with the original Australians: the trivialized Aborigines.
Beyond the abundance of free time and an anglocentric worldview, what Reclaim Australia really wants is unclear. At the protests, there were skinheads marching with Israeli flags, pretending the Holocaust never happened. The movement’s website lists nine goals, including the ban on Halal certification, removing Islam from public school education, and to “introduce pride” in the national flag and anthem. Ironically, its own supporters would burn the Australian flag twice over the protest weekend. Their placards didn’t make much sense either, and one read “Sharia Law = Pedophilia, Rape, Racism. God Save Us.” This sounds more like the Old Testament than any legit Sharia interpretation. Predictably, this bigotry has emerged with Prime Minister Tony Abbot in charge. Just last year, his “Stop The Boats” anti-immigration push was condemned as Islamophobic. The accompanying graphic novel, showing Afghan asylum seekers in detention camps, was derided for poor taste. Ghaith Krayem, president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, fumed that elected officials had not exemplified “what Australian values are really about.” The protests came at an unfortunate time for Abbot, who had recently criticized the Muslim community for “not doing enough to combat radicalism.” As Ghaith says, when blatant racism is “directed at us they have remained silent.”
Justifiably, the global war on terror is biased towards Islamic extremism, but the problem here is deeper. Greg Fealy, from the Australian National University, believes that though the movement wants “to protect an Australian way of life,” their vision of such a life very specifically “rejects the role of Muslims in Australia.”
The Australian obsession with “whiteness” is nothing new. A “White Australia” policy, officially known as the Immigration Restriction Act, was in play right until 1973. Some of the country’s jihadist fears are understandable, as 200 citizens have joined the Islamic State, and may become terrorist returnees. Anti-Muslim fear mongering, however, only fuels the myth of a large-scale western conspiracy against Islam. Unfortunately, the idea that a hateful ideology can be countered with more hate doesn’t work. If anything, it breeds the kind of disillusionment that extremists are hardwired to exploit.