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The facets of Australian fascism: the Abbott Government experiment (Part 21)

By Dr George Venturini*

Testing the thesis . . . Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause (continued)

One of the most common tools of Fascist propaganda is scapegoating of people from minorities. In Europe, even before the events of 11 September 2001, Muslims were identified as enemies, accused of ‘taking-over’ Europe. Those events offered an opportunity to justify attacking the scapegoats, Islam and Muslims. Following the bad examples coming from Europe, but also from the United States, and Australia, Muslims are often unfairly portrayed in Australia – by radio talk-show hosts who feature material which is deliberately offensive, vulgar, and sufficiently suggestive of racist views – as terrorists, anti-women and violent in order to justify social discrimination and to sustain injustices.

Yet, do not talk about Islamophobia. It simply does not exist in Australia. “Really?” wondered Roswell on 18 October 2014, about the time of the Bernardi’s crusade.

“Has anyone else noticed the ever increasing drift from reality those famous bed-partners – the Coalition and the Murdoch media – have settled comfortably into?” Roswell asked.

“Not only have they drifted into a land that resembles nothing like the one where we others dwell, they also have some absurd idea that this new, fabulous paradise is all that exists.

But alas, unbeknown to them it renders them ignorant, and oh so hypocritical.

Take Joe Hockey [the Treasurer at the time] for example. He repeatedly bellowed that the age of entitlement was over, and followed up with a budget that showed us that the age of entitlement is of course over, except for those who are entitled to it. It’s a strange world he lives in. It’s not in this universe.

Miranda Devine [an Australian columnist and writer noted for her conservative stance on a range of social and political issues] lives there too. Her blog piece, ‘The Left’s race to call us all bigots‘ was the inspiration for [Roswell’s] satirical response in calling this piece ‘The Right’s right to be wrong’. I didn’t have to read all the article to see how wrong, hypocritical, and off the planet Ms. Devine must be. I got as far as the first two sentences:

‘The self-appointed tolerance tsars of Australia are having such a hard time proving Australia is a land of bigots they are now jumping at shadows.

They see racism where most people see patriotism. They cry Islamophobia where there is none to be found. They hear dog whistles that never sounded. They are obviously losing their collective minds.

There is much in those claims to dispute, but I want to focus on Islamophobia where there is none to be found.’

“Maybe – Roswell continued – Ms. Devine hasn’t been reading the very paper she writes for, which over the last month has been belting us with the news that does nothing more than highlight that we live in a country where Islamophobia has become a part of the national psyche.

Let’s take a random look at what her newspaper – and other media outlets – have been saying:

Young filmmaker Kamal Saleh is optimistic for the future of Australia after his social experiment on Islamophobia but says discrimination remains an issue in the community.

Five threatening letters delivered to Muslim businesses and ­groups in Lakemba are being investigated by police, with more incidents believed to be going unreported. Campsie crime manager detective Inspector Paul ­Albury said the material was offensive and would be to anybody in the community. “It’s degrading, disgusting and derogatory to people and their religion,” he said.

Last week, after Bernardi’s comments, I was interviewed by the ABC for an explanatory article on the burqa, the niqab, and my choice of garment, the hijab, which covers only a woman’s hair, neck and shoulders. Bizarrely, when posted by the ABC on Facebook, the article received more comments than the ABC’s reports on the anti-terror raids themselves. The comments section is sobering reading for anyone with any doubts about the perniciousness of Islamophobia in Australia.

Australia has emerged as a fertile environment for Islamophobia. Stereotypical representations of Muslims in the early years of the ‘War on terror’ – which linked terrorism, violence and Islam – gained wide currency by the mid-2000s. Sections of the news media, politicians and social media have re-activated these stereotypes. Muslim Australians are made to feel they are targets – for everything from the everyday racism encountered in schools and on the streets, to draconian counter-terrorism legislation that restricts civil liberties, to war and the preparations for war.

In the contemporary socio-political context of Australia, Islamophobia continues to be haunted by the cycle of moral panics around the Muslim ‘Other.’

Tony Abbott has been urged to speak out more strongly against Islamophobia in Australia following reports of mosques being defaced, women verbally abused on the street and death threats issued to Muslim figures. Community leaders have said they are deeply worried that Australia’s mission against Islamic State (Isis) and recent anti-terrorism raids are fuelling attacks against Muslims in Australia.

The waves of abuse on social media has also highlighted how open bigotry has become, as if the disgust around the Islamic State has given a free pass to intolerance.

Many Muslim women, say Ms. Kay and other community members, are fearful of going out and many won’t venture far beyond their homes. Ahmed Kilani, editor of website muslimvillage.com, says some are now questioning whether Australia is still a safe and tolerant society. “My own mother rang me yesterday,” Mr. Kilani told SBS, “with concern about what’s going, she said, ‘I don’t feel safe and secure.’ She made the comment to me that despite living here for 40 years which is a lot longer than she lived in Egypt. She said perhaps I need to consider moving back there and questioned whether I should go and get myself a dual citizenship in case things get really bad.” Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane has called for calm, saying, “Muslim Australians are entitled to a fair go and to be treated with respect and there is simply no place for this kind of bigotry and this kind of criminal behaviour.”

Roswell was sure by now that the reader was getting the point. “And to top it off The Daily Telegraph – the very paper Ms Devine works for – even published an article titled ‘Incidents of Islamophobia‘.

I’m baffled that Ms. Devine finds it necessary not only to blame the Left for Islamophobia in this country – then announces that it doesn’t exist here anyway – yet works in an industry (and a newspaper) that keeps telling us how rampant it is.”

‘The drift from reality is almost complete, concluded Roswell. [Ms. Devine] is quickly catching up to Joe Hockey.”

Tomorrow: Testing the thesis . . . Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause (continued)

GeorgeVenturini* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.

⬅️ Part 20

➡️ Part 22

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