SYDNEY – Australian Muslim and multicultural leaders have vehemently criticized a recent poll on Muslim immigration as playing into the hands of anti-immigrant politicians, stressing that the members of the religious minority are a success story in the country.
A poll released on Tuesday revealing that nearly half of all Australians are in favor of a ban on Muslim immigration “proves our concerns that Pauline Hanson’s words are very dangerous,” Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Keysar Trad told SBS on Wednesday, September 21.
“Pauline Hanson is inciting Australians against other Australians,” he said.
Trad reinforced that Muslim Australians contribute “very positively to Australian society”, citing those who are doctors, lawyers, engineers and entrepreneurs.
Hanson’s anti-Muslim tirades continued in her last week’s speech in which she called for a ban on Muslims.
“Islam does not believe in democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of assembly,” she said.
He added that Hanson should unite people, rather than dividing them.
“She should be an Australian leader, not a leader for fear and paranoia,” he added.
Trad was referring to a poll conducted by Essential and published in The Guardian.
It found 49 per cent of 1,000 respondents believed Muslims should be banned from the country, while 40 per cent disagreed.
Sixty per cent of those supporting the ban were Liberal voters, 40 per cent Labor and 34 per cent Greens.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country’s second largest religion after Christianity.
In post 9/11 Australia, Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.
Peter Doukas, deputy chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, challenged the results of the poll, stressing that Australian Muslims’ contribution to society harked back to the Afghan cameleers who arrived in 1860, helping to develop Central Australia.
“While we are disappointed in this poll result, we are more vigilant than ever to engage with people who have chosen in this way,” he told SBS.
Doukas said the council’s challenge was to ensure multiculturalism was posed as a “success story”.
“We must separate defense and national security and personal security, from integration and multiculturalism.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten said Australians should remember they lived in an immigrant country.
“Other than our first Australians we all came from somewhere else,” he told reporters in Adelaide.
“Only crazies” wouldn’t support western Liberal democracy, he said.
“We would be playing into the hands of the crazies, of the fundamentalists, of those who hate the Australian way of life by somehow saying that that religion, Islam, is incompatible with western democracy.”
Hanson’s proposal to ban Muslims was widely rejected by senior government figures including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
On Tuesday, he told the United Nations that Australia’s success stems from its multicultural values.
He also announced on Wednesday that Australia would keep its refugee intake at nearly 19,000 a year as well as include Central Americans in a fresh intake program.
“At a time when global concern around immigration and border control is rising, the need to build community support for migration has never been clearer,” he said.