Christchurch massacre has brought attention to the ubiquitous Islamophobic discourse in Australia where more than 300 Muslim journalists, academics and activists issued a statement urging the government to take steps against Islamophobic bigotry, TRT World reported on March 25.
“For years, we’ve warned against the use of racist and discriminatory language in media and politics. We warned that this creates a culture of fear and hysteria that would inevitably result in exactly this type of attack,” the signed statement of the Muslim civil activists said.
“While our political leaders have expressed sympathy over the deaths of our brothers and sisters, there has been little responsibility taken for their own role in creating a political climate that has demonized the Muslim community for decades,” the statement continued.
The signatories warned that the 28-year-old terrorist Brenton Tarrant was a product of the hostile Islamophobic environment that has been allowed to fester in the Pacific country of Australia.
Lawyer Zaahir Edries, a community advocate and one of the signatories of the statement, said: “Institutional Islamophobia, bigotry and racism is expressed frequently in Australian politics both overtly by parties like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and by other Conservative politicians like Cory Bernadi and Fraser Anning, who called for a ‘final solution’ with respect to Muslims in his maiden speech to the Senate.”
Another participant was Yassir Morsi, a politics and philosophy lecturer and author of the book ‘Radical Skin, Moderate Masks,’ said, “Far too many figures, including the country’s PM, have made use of and profited from anti-Muslim sentiments.”
The polling company Essential Report has been monitoring Australian sentiment towards Muslims and it makes for sobering reading.
In 2017, the polling firm found that 41% of Australians would support a ban on Muslims entering Australia, in a similar way to that instituted by Donald Trump in the US, and more than 53% of Australians were very or somewhat concerned about the number of Muslims in Australia.
According to the latest Census, the Muslim population in Australia stands at 2.6%, but that hasn’t stopped more than 51% of Australians believing that the number of Muslims in Australia is anywhere from 3% to more than 10%.
Islamophobia in Australia is often facilitated and perpetuated in the media through the stereotyping of Muslims as violent and uncivilized.
Various Australian politicians and political commentators have capitalized on these negative stereotypes and this has contributed to the marginalization, discrimination, and exclusion of the Muslim community.
Islamophobia and intolerance towards Muslims have existed well prior to the September 11 attacks on the US. For example, Muslim immigration to Australia was restricted under the White Australia Policy (1901-1975).