Tuesday, April 7, 2015

'Reclaim Australia' Rallies Against Sharia Law, Halal 'Tax' - Meira Svirsky

by Meira Svirsky

"Most here are happy to have immigrants who want to come and fit in. We're protesting against immigrants who don't want to follow our laws."

Reclaim Australia protesters and counter-protesters clash over an Australian flag.
Reclaim Australia protesters and counter-protesters clash over an Australian flag.

“Reclaim Australia” rallies were held in 16 different locations across Australia Saturday. Billed as a call for “patriotic Australians” to “stand together to stop halal tax, sharia law and Islamisation,” the rallies provoked violent encounters with counter protesters who billed the events as racist and anti-Muslim.

Reclaim Australia, a community organization, denied the accusations.  "We're not against any particular race or any particular religion," John Oliver, an activist with the organization, said. "We're against the extremists of one particular religion.  I know in Sydney and Melbourne they've got Muslims already signed on to attend because they can see what's happening and they don't like what's happening."

Most Reclaim Australia protesters interviewed seemed to agree that the group was opposed to Islamic extremism and not Muslims who follow Australian law and whose intentions were not to change Australian culture.

Typical at the rallies were the sentiments of protester John Bolton who told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, "What I'm not against is ordinary Australian people who happen to be Muslims who follow their faith, they don't need anybody's permission, provided they comply with the Australian civil and criminal law and want to comply with our constitution."

Reclaim Australia protestersReclaim Australia protesters

"Most here are happy to have immigrants who want to come and fit in," Reclaim Australia protester Rhonda Cashmore said. "We're protesting against immigrants who don't want to follow our laws."

Reclaim Australia spokeswoman Catherine Brennan concurred. "We are pro-Australian values and anti-extreme Islam, but we're not anti-Muslim," she stated. “Since when is it being racist to love your country and to love the values and culture that you've been brought up with?"

Australia has been hit with a spate of Islamic extremist crime. Last September, Australian police embarked on a major counter-terrorism operation in response to intelligence reports that the Islamic State was planning an imminent attack. In the largest terror raid in Australia’s history, close to 800 federal and state police officers were dispatched to more than 12 locations across Sydney, with more raids coordinated in Brisbane and Logan as well.

Australian residents comprise the highest number of foreign fighters per capita to the ranks of the Islamic State.  A number of Australian citizens have made the news for joining the Islamic State as well as the vast majority of the estimated 200 fighters who remain anonymous.

However, it was clear from signs held at various rallies that the protests had been joined by those who clearly opposed Islam itself. Danny Nalliah, founder of the Rise Up Australia Party, spoke at the rally in Melbourne, saying he was "not against Muslim people, but ... opposed to the teachings of Islam."

Clashes at theprotestsClashes at the protests

Comments such as those prompted counter-protest organizers to declare that the rallies smacked of racism. "It's quite clearly an attack on Muslims and Muslim communities in this country," said Clare Fester, a counter-protest organizer in Sydney.

Proof of this, Fester argued was that, "It's all about halal food, sharia law, banning the burqa. [It's] something I think that's been encouraged by mainstream politicians as well, with Abbott attacking Muslim leaders and telling them they need to stamp out extremism that really doesn't exist, certainly not in Australia."

Fester was referring to a speech given by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott after a Sydney cafĂ© was attacked in December 2013 by an Islamic extremist, resulting in a siege that left hostages dead. At the time, Abbott said, “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace.’  I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.” Abbott also told the leaders to “get with the program” of countering Islamic extremism and began a nationwide crackdown on radical Muslims and mosques.

Throughout the country, counter-demonstrators from groups such as “No Room for Racism,” “Socialist Alliance” and “Socialist Alternative” shouted at and, in many locations, came to blows with Reclaim Australia protesters.

Clashes at the protestClashes at the protest

However, most speakers made a point to deny that they were racist. Rather they said that their intention was to preserve Australia’s Christian/Judeo-Christian culture, protest against the “halal tax” on meat. Most meat in Australia is certified as halal, which means it meets specific requirements of Islamic law. Muslims account for only three percent of Australia’s population.

Australia’s “conversation” about Islamic extremism follows the Pegida movement rallies in Germany, where thousands of German citizens took to the streets to protest the growing "Islamization" of Germany and the spread of sharia law.

Quick to call the movement racist and xenophobic, the German government and press spoke forcefully against the movement.

By January, Pegida appeared to be unravelling when five of its leaders resigned after its founder quit over a photo that showed him dressed as a joke” in a Hitler costume.

The “Reclaim” movement also appears to be vulnerable to xenophobes. Its rallies were promoted on neo-Nazi websites such as the Daily Stormer, which urged “White Australian men” to attend the protests, saying “the people that you’ll find at Reclaim Australia are very valuable to us in the long term. They’re on the right track and, with our guidance, they can be turned into hardcore Nazis.”

Many signs at the protests were clearly anti-Islam.

If Reclaim activists are sincere about not being “racists,” they must root out these elements.  Coalitions of anti-racist Westerners must be made with anti-Islamist/reformist Muslims to address the real issue of Islamic extremism. This is an impossible feat when xenophobes have joined the movement.

Instead of the conversation focusing on the human rights abuses of sharia law, gender inequality and abuse in Islamist societies, the cry becomes about racism, which plays into the hands of both the Islamists and their Western apologists. Witness the counterdemonstrators in Australia who called out Tony Abbott for “attacking” Muslim leaders when he asked them to do more to fight extremism in their communities.

These voices seek to silence those speaking against the reality of Islamic extremism as well as anti-Islamist/reformist Muslims. The conversation, which has been hijacked on both sides by extremists, must be reclaimed.   

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

Source: http://www.clarionproject.org/analysis/reclaim-australia-rallies-against-sharia-law-halal-tax

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Australia only one law is practicable: The Australian law. Immigrants not feeling comfortable with this fact, should pack and go back where they came from. Australia is a welcoming country for all the newcomers willing to adopt the local culture, and customs. Reclaim Australia and make her again the peaceful country, as it used to be.

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